Political Divide Widens Considerably at Candidate Forum

The Menifee election campaign, which has been simmering for weeks through contentious city council m...

The Menifee election campaign, which has been simmering for weeks through contentious city council meetings, may be reaching the boiling point.

First, there was a report earlier this week about the citywide distribution of unsigned, derogatory fliers targeting incumbents Darcy Kuenzi and Sue Kristjansson. Then Wednesday, during an otherwise tame candidates forum sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, District 3 candidate Bill Zimmerman took a shot at opponent Wallace Edgerton -- seated right next to him -- comparing him to an "old, worn spark plug."

But the flame was really turned up Thursday night during another candidates forum, this one sponsored by the Menifee/Perris Valley Democratic Club. If there was any doubt whether the battle lines had been drawn between factions both on the current council and among candidates, there certainly isn't now.

Edgerton, taking advantage of the fact only five of the nine candidates were invited to speak at this monthly meeting of the club, took verbal jabs all night at Zimmerman, who was seated in the audience. Zimmerman, who spoke at last month's meeting of the Democratic Club, was joined in the audience by mayoral candidate Scott Mann and District 1 candidate Kristjansson -- both of whom also spoke to the group last month.

Edgerton, a 78-year-old veteran of decades of public service, wasted no time going after Zimmerman.

"Yesterday, I was called an old spark plug who ought to be removed," Edgerton said. "That didn't particularly bother me, but the fact some of my signs were taken down did.

"Now I must say that I like Bill Zimmerman as a person, but as far as experience in this race goes, there's no comparison. He has no formal education; I have multiple degrees."

Moments later, Edgerton accused Zimmerman of reversing his position on city development.

"Bill said he would never go to the developers," Edgerton asserted. "Bill, after you lose the election, you'll be sorry you flip-flopped on that issue."

Edgerton later stated he was the only candidate to receive an endorsement from the Riverside County Sheriffs Department -- a point Zimmerman disputed after the meeting, saying he received that endorsement earlier Thursday. Edgerton also took another shot at Zimmerman's stance on land development, referring to Zimmerman's comments a day earlier about Carmen Cave, Menifee's community development director.

Responding to a statement by mayoral candidate John F. Smith that Cave should be "terminated," Edgerton said, "Mr. Smith, you said Carmen Cave should be terminated. Let me quote Bill Zimmerman from yesterday. He said, 'I love Carmen Cave.' And you're going to terminate her? You'd better get your people to vote for me, Mr. Smith."

(Zimmerman's actual quote the day before was, "I would give the city staff a B+, because there's always room for improvement. But I'm impressed with the city manager, Bill Rawlings, who's a very intelligent man. And I really like Carmen Cave. She knows how to get things done.")

Edgerton urged voters to elect him to a District 3 council seat, Greg August in District 1 and Mann -- a former council member -- as mayor. He verbally attacked a council member and candidate not running in his district -- Kristjansson -- claiming that the mother of deceased council member Fred Twyman "begs you all to vote for anybody but Sue Kristjansson."


Saying he had seen on the campaign donation forms of Kristjansson and mayoral candidate Kuenzi "money coming from Laguna Nigel, Newport Beach, places all over," Edgerton continued to attack Kristjansson, Kuenzi and Zimmerman, saying, "They'll pave you over with asphalt. Vote for Greg August, Scott Mann and Wally Edgerton."

The tone of those comments overshadowed the appearance of the four other candidates at the table -- District 1 candidates August, Carol Sullivan and Nick Martin and mayoral candidate Smith.

At one point, Martin -- a soft-spoken newcomer to politics -- said, "I thought this was not supposed to be a lynching. I think it's regrettable that people who can't even defend themselves are being raked over the coals."

Chuck Reutter, president of the Democratic Club and the event organizer, said afterward he was not concerned about a format that allowed only half of the candidates to speak at each of his group's forums over the last two months.

"No, I don't think it's a concern," Reutter said. "The place isn't big enough for all of them. We've done this in the past, but before we didn't have this many candidates."

The event, held in a meeting room in back of Provident Bank in the Sun City area (District 1), was filled to capacity, with more than 50 people sitting and standing in the aisles.

Smith, the lone mayoral candidate at the event and a self-proclaimed "unknown" in the race, took note of Edgerton's attempt to pit himself, August and Mann against Zimmerman, Kristjansson and Kuenzi -- the latter representing a faction that often wins 3-2 votes (with Kristjansson, Kuenzi and current mayor John Denver) over Edgerton and Tom Fuhrman.

"Regarding speakers such as Mr. Edgerton, I say ... we know there's a divide," Smith said. "If his predictions come to be and he, Mr. August and Mr. Mann are elected, they will just be the new majority and do everything their way. That's not what this is about. We all need to work together. Everyone on council should be elected at large."

Smith re-emphasized his platform statement that he accepts no campaign contributions and will serve the common man. He favors a moratorium on development after current projects are completed until the public's desires can be determined.

Sullivan again campaigned for the rights of senior citizens in her district, mentioning the need for improved transportation and the revitalization of the Sun City Shopping Center.

August repeated his vow from a day earlier to stand up first and foremost for the residents of his district. He said he favors bringing white collar jobs such as technical, medical and management firms to town.

Martin said he believes the city doesn't derive enough tax revenue as a result of an influx of white collar jobs.

"White collar jobs are not the panacea we're being told they are," he said. "Retail is what drives the economy."

There is no truth to the rumor that boxing gloves will be issued to the participants at the Menifee 24/7-sponsored candidates forum on Sept. 26, when all nine candidates will be seated together on stage in the Paloma Valley High School auditorium.

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  1. Way to go Wally! He tells it like it is and speaks the truth. We do not want Menifee to be overrun with business and slum housing as some other candidates continue to try and pursue.

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    1. Yes, you're probably right about one thing. If Wally is elected, NOTHING will get built, no bridges, no businesses, no road improvements, no new housing, just nothing. And nothing will get done. And nothing will ever change. Wally has made it clear that he sides with the Sun City crowd who want no change, no growth, no improvements. They want everything to stay the same, forever, and fight all change. Any time a council member brings anything to the city that involves growth, Wally is against it.
      I guess when you're a senior citizen and you've seen so much change in your life, it makes sense that you just want to have something stay the same.

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    2. After watching and listening to the candidates last night our minds were made up as to who and why we want them on the council. Two of the candidates seemed lost in what goes on here and how the city business works. But Edgerton put the facts out here and also joked with Zimmerman about a spark plug remark he made...which showed humor in this evening. August spoke great and explained how he would work for the whole Disrrict One. He seems to be very dedicated to this district and wants us to be represented by someone that is not swayed by developers.

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  2. Bravo to Edgerton and August! It comes downtown...dowe want another Orange County or do we want to do it the right way!. After listening to the others speak it sounds like Sullivan has enough other places she needs to stay concerned with and could not give the many hours that is needed to be on the council. Nick and Jim need to learn what is going on here and attend council meeting for a year so they see what it takes to be on this council. They seem like wasted votes at this time. We will continue to go where they are all speaking.....but don't think we will change our minds.

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    1. Sullivan is retired and had devoted herself to serving the citizens in this Community to make it a better plsce to live.
      A leader in a Community does become involved with organizations that provide the opportunity to work with the public otherwise how would they know what is happening in the city. She has shown her leadership in the Community.
      As for as August, aside from being upset with the
      City, the council and the City in general for the last 3.5 years, what has he done for the community? He is going to be another Edgerton and vote for very slow growth especially in the Sun city area of Menifee. The backbone of this country has been the "blue collar" workers. We need retail, commerical and Jobs for our residens.