Amy Lepine is an underdog in the five-way city attorney race with less than two weeks to go before the June 3 primary.
So why toss her hat into such a crowded political ring?
“People reach public service in a variety of ways,” explained Lepine, an athlete and marathon runner who frequently rides her bike to her downtown San Diego law office. “Mine was just I really didn’t have anybody to vote for. I can do a better job by virtue of the fact I don’t have conflicts, don’t have any personal bias, animus, special interests or anything like that.
“I don’t have the problems that the other candidates have in this race, the votes underfunding the pension, the Kroll Report pointing the finger at me, or running (like Goldsmith) with the entire Republican party handpicking me and putting me in office.”
Lepine finds the incumbent city attorney’s leadership style to be too politicized and too polarizing.
Referring to her former boss, Lepine said: “The emperor has no clothes, and who’s going to say it?”
Lepine felt she was wasting taxpayer time and money sitting in too many meetings for too long being a live audience while the incumbent city attorney held forth with whatever the issue du jour was. “We were filing these lawsuits not to get money back into the coffers: It was really politically motivated, grandstanding,” she said. “Mike’s overzealous, aggressive idea of independence, I don’t want people to turn off to that.
“That’s why I want to present them with an alternative. People call me the sane Aguirre. I’m fine with that. That’s the key message: Don’t get turned off by the (Aguirre) independence. It doesn’t have to be like that.”
Lepine said Aguirre may have been the right candidate for the post four years ago, but his time has come - and gone. She said: “When he was elected we were in dire straits. We needed desperate measures. We needed someone to get in there and be a pit bull and go after it. He’s served his purpose and it’s served, thank you.”
Politically, Lepine considers herself to be a centrist, though she’s not afraid to take matters in hand when necessary. “I have proven I’m not afraid to take a hard position, take the unpopular cases,” she said. “I certainly did not make a lot of friends filing some of the lawsuits that others would not sign off on.”
Why vote for Lepine rather than her four better-known challengers?
“Any one of us is qualified legally,” she pointed out. “You have to have a sharp legal mind, but it’s really more management, and being able to work with people, the Council, the Mayor and other players at City Hall. I’m good at that.”
Lepine concurred with other challengers in the race that the city attorney has spent way too much time and money on hiring outside council to represent the city on key issues. “Hiring outside attorneys has been excessive,” said Lepine. “He (Aguirre) takes the position that, ‘If I don’t believe personally in what you did, it’s a conflict.’ But that’s his (Aguirre’s) own personal conflict. There has been too much outsourcing for conflicts reasons. A lot of it is because we have lost so much institutional knowledge (attorneys who’ve quit) that there aren’t the seasoned attorneys who would normally be able to handle the cases.”
Lepine describes herself as a fun person who loves her work and is someone for whom complacency is a foreign word. “I prefer to stay challenged and driven in some way,” she said, “training for my next marathon or next political race or next trial. I thrive on the challenge. It helps keep me focused.”
If she doesn’t survive the June 3 primary for city attorney, Lepine said she honestly doesn’t know who she’ll vote for in the October runoff.
“I’m just hopeful that, whoever wins, that we will unseat the developers in this race,” she said. “I hope we have a change in the mayor’s office. The mayor’s reform plan came just in time for re-election. It’s just a little too little, a little too late. I hope we’ll have the right people in the city attorney’s office, and City Council and the mayor’s office, so we won’t be giving away our city to the big developers in the next few years with the waterfront and the convention center and big things coming down.”
The underdog city attorney challenger believes she has the answer to solve the riddle which she believes the city attorney’s office has become.
“Stay true to independence,” Lepine counseled. “Stay with transparency. The only cure for our current problems is more of that, not less.”