Daly City race off to salty start

The race for three seats on the Daly City Council has gotten off to a rocky start with the arrest of one candidate in connection with an ongoing marital dispute.

Leah Berlanga, 43, a financial investigator for the City of San Francisco, and her former husband, Frank Berlanga, 53, a co-founder of the citizens group Neighbors for Responsible Development, are among seven candidates vying for seats on the council in what promises to be contentious race.

Frank Berlanga, however, was arrested Friday by the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office, and was still being held as of Monday for a probation violation, according to officials with the District Attorney’s Office and Sheriff’s Office.

Leah Berlanga responded by holding a press conference Monday on the steps of City Hall denouncing him and seeking to separate her campaign from his.

“This will be the rockiest race probably ever witnessed,” she said, surrounded by a handful of supporters.

Voted “Daly City Citizens of the Year” in 2000, the Berlangas have been embroiled in legal battles over the failure of their 16-year marriage, which resulted in Leah Berlanga being awarded a 2004 restraining order against Frank Berlanga. The order stated he “must not harass or have any contact with” her and stay at least 100 yards away from her at all times.

A jury convicted Frank Berlanga in January 2006 of violating the restraining order when he left notes at her home in March 2005 and placed him on two years’ supervised probation, according to court documents.

Other candidates in November’s race include incumbents Carol Klatt and Maggie Gomez and Jefferson Elementary School District Board Member Annette Hipona, challenger Ademan Angeles and Mayor Mike Guingona. Leah Berlanga touts the support of Guingona, Klatt and fellow councilmember Sal Torres.

Frank Berlanga’s nomination papers show that Councilmember Judith Christensen was one of 34 people who signed in support of his nomination.

“I would’ve signed anybody’s petition,” Christensen said. “The one thing I do know is that Frank is a really good parent, and he does get to see his kids in unsupervised visits.”

“I encourage anybody who wants to run for office to do so,” Hipona said of Frank Berlanga’s candidacy. “[Frank] has definite ideas of what good government is.”

Frank Berlanga co-founded Neighbors for Responsible Development, an anti-eminent domain citizens group, with Tom Roop, who said he’s known Frank Berlanga for at least 10 years.

“As far as I could tell, he was a good family man and he went to church all the time,” Roop said.

dsmith@examiner.com

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