A Latino-Jewish dialogue group in San Diego, facing the prospect of a contentious 2006 Democratic primary election between U.S. Rep.
Bob Filner and Assemblyman Juan Vargas in the
51st congressional district straddling California's border with Mexico, will
be asked to consider ways to insure that the contest is between two politicians and not between the Jewish and Latino communities.
Sam Sokolove, regional director of the American Jewish Committee which initiated the dialogue group, said
the request is likely to be honored because participants recognize that whomever
of the two rival officeholders win the congressional seat, the two communities need to be able to stay unified on a host of issues of common concern.
"This coalition could play a role in monitoring the situation — a pro-active role in making sure that this political battle does not become a battle between two
communities," Sokolove said. He said he will ask the coalition to consider exactly what role it can play at a "closed door meeting" sometime at the end of this month.
Sokolove said the Jewish and Latino communities still remember a bruising Los
Angeles-area campaign for a state Senate seat in 1998 between then Assemblyman Richard Katz and
then-Councilman Richard Alarcon. The latter won by less than 30 votes and both communities felt they had been subjected to unwarranted and hurtful attacks.
From its onset San Diego's Jewish-Latino Dialogue has included leaders who have records of working closely with people from other ethnic communities. Among the Jewish members are
Murray Galinson, chairman of the trustees of the California State Colleges; Marty
Block, president of the San Diego Community College Board, U.S. Rep. Susan
Davis, San Diego School Superintendent Alan Bersin, Sheriff Bill Kolender, former state Assemblyman
Wayne, and Joan Dean, regional president of the AJC.
Among the Latino members are San Diego City Councilmember Ralph Inzunza, former Chula Vista City Councilmember Mary Salas, Community College Board Trustee Maria Nieto Senour, former San Diego Community College Chancellor Augie
Gallego, and David Valladolid, former executive director of the Chicano Federation.
Another member is Fay Crevoshay, who is both Jewish and a Latina.
Filner, a former San Diego City Councilman, was elected to Congress in 1992 after defeating Vargas, then a private attorney, in the primary. The two squared off again in 1996, in the middle of Vargas' term as a San Diego City
Councilmember. Their rivalry was put on hold in 2000, when Vargas was elected to the state Assembly. But under California's "term-limit" law, Vargas
now is serving his last two-year term. Although he hasn't formally announced his candidacy for Congress, Vargas has let it be known that he will oppose Filner.