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."