AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE‘Mame,’ ‘Hello, Dolly!’ composer Jerry Herman dies at 88 Murphy sees his inexperience as an advantage. He hopes his ideas – opening a retail center on the east side that rivals the Valencia Marketplace big-box center as a way to cut down on crosstown traffic and creating a winter homeless shelter on city-donated land with a long-term lease and year-round case management – would improve on the status quo. He rejects public donations and has spent an estimated $938 of his own money on 250 yard signs, a dozen T-shirts and 2,000 business cards. Someone stole one of the $85 magnetic signs he bought for his car, but Murphy hopes the $200 he spent on a Web site will make up for that. “I was seeing an average of about six (hits) a day but now I’m up to about 11 a day,” he said. Dwight McDonald, a California Highway Patrol officer, joked that he feared losing a vote after handing a speeder a ticket for driving 98 mph and the man recognized his name. “Oh, you’re the guy running for City Council,” the motorist said. SANTA CLARITA – The chance of unseating any of the three incumbents in April’s Santa Clarita City Council race was likened by one challenger to prevailing in a game of king of the hill – on a sand pile. The staple children’s game could be an apt comparison. The aim of the game is to run the king off the hill and take his place. In the nine councils elected since the city incorporated in 1987, incumbents have been ousted just a few times. “As an unknown entity who’s never run before, I have no political experience whatever,” said candidate and businessman Jack Murphy. McDonald responded: “I guess this is one vote I’m not going to get.” McDonald, who was elected to the board of the California Association of Highway Patrolmen for five terms and works 12- to 14-hour days about six days a week, plans to retire in May and says he would devote himself to the council post. Shunning donations, he spends his time talking to clubs and homeowner association groups about tacking tough issues like explosive growth, traffic control and traffic mitigation. “I moved here to have Mayberry RFD in the metropolitan area,” he said. “I’m not looking to go somewhere (politically); this is my somewhere.” Retired trial attorney Jo Ann Smith Curtis said this is the worst time to try to unseat an incumbent. “They are known in the community, they have the exposure, many people don’t know anything about the election or who’s running, they just vote for the incumbent,” she said. She focuses on her strengths, and like Murphy wears the outsider badge proudly. “I’m not a politician; I just want to serve this community,” she said. She takes no public money, and instead spends her time walking door-to-door in Santa Clarita, where she has lived for a year-and-a-half. Smith Curtis sees herself in a win-win situation because people tell her what needs to be done and she believes she has the tools to do it. She was the first female deputy district attorney in Riverside County, as a federal public defender and as an attorney for the appellate court. She says more could be done for needy senior citizens, such as providing free lunches and low-income housing. Ken Dean said it is not tough to run against incumbents if you have name recognition, which he says he does. Dean has taught interior design at Valencia High School for seven years, has been a substitute teacher at College of the Canyons, has served on the boards of local organizations and was one of the city’s founding fathers, he said. He has raised less than $1,000 in campaign funds, and spends his time knocking on doors and attending events as an alternative to the “big money candidates.” “When we’re trying to have controlled development, with developers giving money to incumbents for projects that add density to our city, that should throw up a red flag,” he said. His card never fails to elicit comments. “It says roads and congestion and synchronizing our lights,” he said. “They ask and I give answers. They agree.” Michael Cruz works as a paralegal for the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office. His knuckles have rapped on more than 800 doors and with his 10 volunteers he hopes to visit 5,000 potential voters. One Canyon Country man told Cruz his visit was the first in 30 years by a candidate. Cruz, who studied the city’s Big Picture survey to make sure he was up on the top issues, said the roughest part of campaigning is asking family and friends for contributions. He has raised about $4,000, including $1,500 of his own money, and plans to add another $4,000 at least. He says the east side of town deserves more amenities: a hospital, sheriff’s station, constituent center, sidewalks on Sierra Highway and nicer medians. “I don’t think the city is planning for the future,” he said, adding officials should stop waiting for a new hospital to land on the east side. “We tried to recruit a Macy’s, a Cheesecake Factory, why not a hospital?” Sheriff’s Sgt. Mark Hershey said Santa Clarita City Councilman Bob Kellar’s endorsement has transformed him from a grass-roots hopeful with little chance to someone who is “in the mix.” Though Hershey talks fast about issues and answers, he also is quick to admit he has made some mistakes on the campaign trail. “My signs went up a little late and my yard sign has too much information on it,” he said. “I’m a little behind the curve because I’m new.” Hershey, who reported contributions of about $13,000 on his last campaign finance report, commissioned a glossy flier but also has connections made over the years from church, the sheriff’s department and his children’s sports programs. “The hard part about (running against) incumbents is, I have had several people tell me ‘you’re a nice guy doing it at the wrong time,”‘ he said. `We need to support the incumbents because we don’t want the two environmentalists to win.’ They don’t want me to pull votes from anybody.” The environmentalists are Lynne Plambeck and Henry Schultz. Both were targets of a recent mass mailing by a political action committee that opposes their bids for the council. Plambeck is a small-business owner who serves as president of the Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment and has served for years on local water boards. Her name recognition comes from involvement with conservation issues over the last 20 years, she said. “The only way a challenger can compete against well-funded incumbents is to have volunteered in the community over a long period of time,” she said. She has raised about $3,100, mostly from friends and people who support her causes. Plambeck was heartened by a comment she heard last weekend after the opposition mailers had been sent. One woman told her: “I’m tired of these shenanigans, I’m going to vote for you.” Schultz, a retired scientist, served for nine years as the chair of the local Sierra Club, 3 years on the city’s Citizens Transportation Advisory Committee and four years as a parks and recreation commissioner. Twice he ran unsuccessfully for the Castaic Lake Water Agency board, and in 2004 he ran against current City Council members Cameron Smyth and Bob Kellar, coming within 600 votes of Kellar. He says overcoming the “money difference” is a challenge. Volunteers help spread his message, which centers on the need to reduce overall density of new development. “We’re constrained geographically; there are certain pinch points traffic has to get through,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons things won’t get better just building new roads.” Schultz, who has raised more than $5,000, has spent the last two months knocking on doors and handing out his fliers. “Big money is the problem,” he said. “Because the council members roll over for developers and developers get what they want we don’t get what we want.” The challengers have a little more than two weeks to gain ground against the three incumbents seeking a return to City Hall. Councilman Frank Ferry has raised more than $108,000, Mayor Laurene Weste raised about $58,000 and Councilwoman Marsha McLean has raised about $32,000, according to their latest campaign filings. Judy O’Rourke, (661) 257-5255 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. 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