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Q&A: San Diego City Council candidate Lorie Zapf says her views have evolved on gays and lesbians

SAN DIEGO – City Council candidate Lorie Zapf, who is seeking the District 6 seat, has raised a few eyebrows in the LGBT community while running a campaign that stresses financial reform of city government.

Zapf, a Republican, is running against Howard Wayne, a Democrat.

The incumbent Donna Frye is termed out in District 6, which includes the neighborhoods of Bay Ho, Bay Park, Villa Marina, Birdland, De Anza, Clairemont, Kearny Mesa, Linda Vista, Mission Bay Park, Mission Valley, Mission Village, Morena and Serra Mesa.

Zapf angered many folks in the LGBT community in 2006 when she wrote an e-mail to local anti-gay activist James Hartline and suggested that gays and lesbians are not fit for public office.

In an exclusive interview with San Diego Gay & Lesbian News, Zapf said her opinion of gays and lesbians has evolved in the years that have passed. But questions remain about whether her comments are politically correct, so it will be up to Zapf to prove to the LGBT community how committed she is toward equality.

Zapf also has come under fire from San Diego CityBeat for her silence about her occupation and why her small business was dissolved months ago.

According to her website www.lorizapf.com, this is Zapf’s biography:

An active leader in our community, Lorie Zapf served as a Co- Chair of the San Diegans for City Hall Reform Citizens Steering Committee and works as the regional director for Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, where she has been an advocate for common sense legal reforms to protect consumers and small business from frivolous and abusive lawsuits.

Lorie and her husband founded and managed a natural food company from their offices in Clairemont. They were successful in placing their product in health food stores across the nation. She also spent several years as a radio and television journalist and award winning video producer.

A volunteer in our neighborhoods, Lorie devotes time to organizations that help abused and neglected children, military families, Girls Scouts, and her children’s school. She has also been a Neighborhood Watch Block Captain and active in the Clairemont Town Council.

An outdoor enthusiast, Lorie has contributed many volunteer hours working on conservation projects, including helping to construct hiking trails and building wheelchair accessible campsites/picnic areas.

Lorie holds Master's and Bachelor's degrees in marketing communications and journalism. She has been married to her husband, Eric, for 15 years. They live in Clairemont where they are raising two school-age children.

Tom Blair, a columnist with the San Diego Union-Tribune, noticed an irony about Zapf’s boast that she is against frivolous lawsuits:

Lorie Zapf, in a tough campaign for San Diego City Council, cites her experience as local director of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, which aims to stop frivolous lawsuits. Now, her opponent’s backers are citing her experience with lawsuits, too. According to Howard Wayne’s camp, Zapf and her husband filed nine lawsuits between 1992 and 2002 — including two against her in-laws. Says Zapf, conceding the nine suits, “We’ve never filed a frivolous or abusive lawsuit. These were business disputes, and that’s what courts are for.” The suits against her in-laws? “They were disputes over the value of shares in our company. And they were very painful to the family.”

What follows is a Q&A with Zapf.

SDGLN: Let’s start with the fundamental question. Why are you running for San Diego City Council?

Lorie Zapf: I decided to take on the challenge of running for City Council because like many San Diegans I'm concerned about the direction our city is taking.

We need to address the city’s financial problems first and foremost. We must also put our neighborhood services as our top priority. I’m also very concerned about our local economy and finding ways to help create and retain quality jobs in San Diego.

These three issues – financial reform, neighborhood services, and the economy – will be my top priorities if I am elected to the City Council in the November election.

SDGLN: The city’s financial problems are significant. What specifically do you propose to fix them?

Lorie Zapf: Well first we need to address wasteful and inefficient spending. The city’s pension system should be at the top of the list for fiscal reform.

As I walk my district I am hearing from residents who are pretty outraged by the pension benefits given to city employees over the years. The city has a real problem when city employees we have a system where some can make more money in retirement than they did actually working for the taxpayers.

We also need to implement competitive bidding in each city department so we know we are getting the most efficient price and the best quality service. Voters overwhelmingly the concept of competitive bidding with Prop. C in 2006 but it has been four years and nothing has been done to implement this proven reform.

SDGLN: So are you against Prop. D, the proposed sales tax increase?

Lorie Zapf: Yes, very much so. We should not be raising taxes on working families, many of whom are already struggling to survive in this tough economy. I am finding the vast majority of the voters I talk to in District 6 are also against Prop. D.

SDGLN: Let’s talk about a topic of concern to the gay community. A lot of members of the gay community are outraged by comments you made in a 2006 e-mail to anti-gay activist James Hartline where you suggested gays are not fit for public office. You have since suggested that these are no longer your views. Can you explain these comments?

Lorie Zapf: I really regret those comments. They were made in haste and when I saw the email again I was embarrassed by what I wrote.

I’ll be quite candid: like many people my views on the gay community have changed over the years. My views today on the gay community are different than they were just five or ten years ago – primarily due to some great friendships and working relationships with members of the LGBT community.

Bottom line, I firmly believe that candidates and elected officials should be judged on their positions on the issues and their ability to do the job, not their sexual orientation.

That’s why I have been proud to support several gay candidates for office.

SDGLN: In light of your comments, and your past association with James Hartline, you can understand some in the gay community do not trust you.

Lorie Zapf: First let me be clear – there is no association between myself and James Hartline. I responded to an e-mail in 2006 in the context of my work for another candidate for office. I do not support nor associate myself with his message of hate and intolerance.

Second, I know I have to rebuild trust with the LGBT community. We have wonderful diversity in San Diego. I pledge to work to serve the best interests of all San Diego’s diverse communities – including the LGBT community.

SDGLN: Will you make social issues, such as marriage equality or ending the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, a priority while in office?

Lorie Zapf: My priorities will be in the areas where city government has a big role and lead responsibility, such as police and fire services, road repairs, and so on, where we are now failing. I will, however, be mindful of the social issues facing our residents and where appropriate be there for support and encouragement.

SDGLN: If you are elected, how do you intend to work with the LGBT community here in San Diego?

Lorie Zapf: Mayor [Jerry] Sanders has done a good job reaching out and building relationships in the LGBT community. I’d rely on him for advice.

I’d also reach out to LGBT elected officials to guide and advise me. [City Councilmember] Carl DeMaio and I are already working together on fiscal reform. Although I disagree with [City Councilmember] Todd Gloria on fiscal issues, he has been a champion of LGBT issues. There’s also [District Attorney] Bonnie Dumanis, [Solana Beach City Councilmember] David Roberts and a host of others in the county I can turn to.

Most of all I will have an open-door policy. My obligation and commitment is to address the needs of all San Diegans.