David Canepa, left, and Mike Guingona will face off in a race to represent District 5 on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors. (Courtesy photo)

Politicians’ petulant past points to bellicose race for county supervisor

Two Daly City elected officials are poised to go head to head in the race to represent District 5 on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors following Tuesday’s primary election.

While both Daly City Vice Mayor David Canepa and Councilmember Mike Guingona have pledged to run clean, positive campaigns, their frequent disagreements while serving on the council over the last few years could foreshadow a contentious race.

“I think the relationship got a little complex when we both expressed an interest in running,” Canepa said, in what some might call an understatement.

Guingona and Canepa have been on opposite sides of several votes, including hot-button issues like Recology’s failed 2014 bid to win Daly City’s sanitation contract, and last year’s battle over whether to allow a gun store to open on Mission Street.

Canepa sided with existing concession-holder Allied Waste, while Guingona felt Recology offered the city a better deal.

And Canepa’s refusal to allow gunsmith Todd Settergren to open his proposed Daly City store was widely supported by residents. But Settergren is now suing the city, an outcome Guingona predicted when he voted in favor of approval, claiming the council had no legal basis for denying the application.

Guingona has frequently expressed annoyance with Canepa during council meetings, while Canepa has generally sought to remain above the fray, and not responded directly to Guingona’s criticisms. Some Canepa defenders have, however, accused Guingona of failing to build consensus among his fellow council members.

District 5 includes Brisbane, Colma, Daly City, and parts of San Bruno and South San Francisco. The district’s supervisor seat is up for grabs in the coming November election because its current holder, Supervisor Adrienne Tissier, is termed out.

Brisbane Mayor Cliff Lentz and Colma Vice Mayor Helen Fisicaro were also vying for the seat in Tuesday’s primary. They received 17.8 and 14.7 percent of the votes, respectively. Guingona garnered 21.7 percent, and Canepa led with 45.7 percent.

If Canepa had received more than 50 percent of the votes, he would have won the seat. But because no candidate reached that level, November’s election will be a run-off between the two top vote getters, Canepa and Guingona.

Asked whether Tuesday’s results bode poorly for his chances in November, Guingona said just 23 percent of registered voters in District 5 had voted. The November presidential election will likely see a stronger turnout, Guingona noted, adding November’s two-person race would have a different dynamic from the four-person race that just concluded.

“Right now, it’s zero-to-zero,” Guingona said, but he acknowledged he might face an uphill battle moving forward.

“By no means is it going to be an easy feat, but we still have 145 days to get our message out,” Guingona said.

Canepa said the primary race was the hardest he’s experienced in local politics.

“This four-person race was probably the most difficult one I’ve ever faced,” Canepa noted. “Helen Fisicaro, Cliff Lentz, and Mike Guingona should be commended for the campaigns they ran.”

The two councilmembers have been on opposite sides of numerous heated debates and contentious votes in recent years, but Canepa claimed they agree on most issues.

Guingona agreed that because the race does not represent a choice between two radically different political ideologies, the contest might be decided by voters’ impressions of each candidate’s character, experience, and qualifications.

Addressing San Mateo County’s ongoing housing crisis is a priority for both candidates, but they differ on the details. While Canepa would like to introduce a housing bond that he says could add thousands of homes to the county, Guingona said earmarking more Measure A funds for housing would be a better strategy. Measure A is a half-cent sales tax increase approved by voters in 2012 to fund a variety of needs in the county.

Both candidates also lament the closure of county offices that used to serve the North County region.

Canepa noted Tissier used to have a district office in Daly City, and said it should be reopened so North County residents can access county services without traveling to Redwood City, where the county government is based.

Guingona, on the other hand, is more concerned about the virtual closure of the county courthouse in South San Francisco, which used to offer a variety of services to the general public, but is now used only for select court hearings.

Obtaining justice, or fulfilling one’s obligations to the court, can be much harder if residents are forced to travel to the county courthouse in Redwood City, Guingona said.

One area where the candidates might be viewed as ideologically different is their relationships with labor unions.

Canepa has been endorsed by the California Nurses Association, the San Mateo County Firefighters’ Association and the San Mateo County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, while Guingona does not currently have any labor endorsements.

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