Carol Gamble said she expects the race for City Council in Rancho Santa Margarita to get unpleasant, and if her comments at her campaign kickoff were any indication, she's fully capable of playing hardball.
Naming names, Gamble began her campaign in earnest last week by telling supporters gathered at Rancho Santa Margarita Ford that it was time to "Stand up for Rancho." That will be her rallying cry over the next few months as the city's second-ever mayor described this election as an opportunity to show that mudslinging politics that happens in other cities won't be tolerated in the city she helped found.
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"It's not about issues in the community, safety in our schools, crime in our streets," Gamble said. "We have a beautiful community. We have a community with $19 million in the bank, last year we finished with $1.2 million in reserves in our budget. It's not about those kinds of things. What it's about this year is the defining moment where we're going to say to candidates who run for office, 'You need to bring truth to the community, you need to bring your qualifications, you need to treat us with dignity, you need to treat us with respect, and we're not going to tolerate mudslinging politics in Rancho Santa Margarita.'
"Look, everyone knows I'm qualified to do this job. I have done it. I actually worked to form this city. We wouldn't be here if not for some of the experiences that I gained. It's not about whether Carol Gamble can do the job. The reason I'm running for this office is to make sure that all that we worked to build in this community ... is not decimated by this campaign by people that want us to pretend or believe that the community is in terrible straits but for their candidacy for city council. I'm not going to tolerate that."
Gamble said such mudslinging appeared in a city council election for the first time in 2010, when two fresh faces were selected, Jesse Petrilla and Steve Baric. She said she anticipates Kenney Hrabik—vying along with Mayor Tony Beall for one of two four-year seats on the council—will attempt to deceive and mislead the community.
Gamble revealed publicly to about 60 supporters for the first time that she hadn't intended on running. She thought she would serve the two-year appointed term that she won over 20 other candidates last year, then resign herself to "locate that all elusive thing called 'spare time.' "
But when Hrabik and Peter Whittingham created the "RSM voters bill of rights," which Gamble called "a piece of fiction" that was sent to residents earlier this year, she decided she would run for council again. She won once already, being elected to the city's first council when it incorporated on Jan. 1, 2000; she was the city's second mayor.
Among other things, Gamble said, the bill of rights cited "a national organization" that determined RSM's business climate "was worse than El Centro, Bakersfield, Philadelphia and New Orleans," she told her audience. "There was no national study that involved Rancho Santa Margarita," she said. "The entire campaign was a huge deception designed ot make the voters—you—think our beloved city was being mismanaged and in jeopardy."
She also cited a couple of other claims made by Hrabik that she says are false: That city council members received paid pensions from the city, and that city employees have a more generous public pension system than San Francisco.
"RSM was one of the first cities to adop pension reform," Gamble said. "We have no unfunded pension liabilities. The lies just keep coming. When will it stop? That's why I'm running for city council in this election."
Also speaking on behalf of Gamble at the event were Beall and Brad McGirr, who is vying for the two-year seat along with Glenn Acosta and Larry McCook.
Afterward in an interview, Gamble was told that it was clear that she, Beall and McGirr were campaigning as a three-headed monster.
"No," she answered, "we're the three-headed solution."