Friday, March 26, 2010

It's Mormon Vs. Mormon In The Poway, California Mayoral Race; Don Higginson Squares Off Against Merrilee Boyack

A Mormon vs. Mormon political race may be an ordinary occurrence in Utah and southern Idaho, but out in what's still referred to by some Mormons as "the mission field", it's still as rare as dinosaur eggs. So the fact that two members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are squaring off against each other in a mayoral race in Poway, California is a sign of how much the LDS Church has grown outside of Utah.

The "gory" details are set forth in the San Diego Union-Tribune on March 24th and on March 25th. The competitors are incumbent Mayor Don Higginson and City Councilwoman Merrilee Boyack. The March 25th story discloses both are LDS. Higginson, who was elected to the Poway City Council in 1986 and previously served as mayor, was appointed mayor in April 2009 after the death of longtime Mayor Mickey Cafagna. He was appointed to complete the remaining 18 months of the mayor’s term by a 3-1 city council vote. Guess who cast the No vote...Merrilee Boyack.

Higginson has the support of much of the city's elite, or what they call the "Old Guard". Councilmen Jim Cunningham and Carl Kruse and former City Manager Jim Bowersox were among the supporters who turned out for Higginson’s March 24th announcement in front of Poway City Hall. That in itself generated a bit of controversy, because when Higginson was first appointed to the mayor's position, he said he would retire at the end of the current term but changed his mind because of what he termed "extraordinary" events. The definition of "extraordinary" appears murky in this case. Nevertheless, those who know him well say Higginson is not a mere politician, but a public servant. More information about Higginson HERE.

Merrilee Boyack announced her intent to run for mayor a while back. She's made no secret of her ardent desire to be Poway’s next mayor. In May 2009, Boyack tried to get herself appointed mayor following Cafagna’s death, but to many, she appeared to show an unseemly “lust for the job". Boyack, described as a tireless community organizer, offsets Higginson's Old Guard ties with an ability to communicate with large pools of voters with just a few keystrokes. More information about her is available on her holdover campaign website from her previous city council campaign, and her personal website is HERE. The election doesn't take place until November.

This race may politically divide the local LDS community, but the impact should be minimal, since they're said to number less than 1,000. Poway, a city of 48,858 (2008 estimate), lies along I-15 about halfway between San Diego and Escondido. It's not exactly a ghetto; the median household income is $96,022, and the median house value is $621,392.

Update November 14th: Don Higginson won the general election with 54.1 percent of the vote; Merrilee Boyack remains on the city council after voluntarily bowing out of the mayor's race.

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