The candidate next door irritates La Jolla neighbors

SAN DIEGO -- On Dunemere Drive, it seems as if just about everyone has a gripe against the owners of No. 311.

The elderly woman next door complains that her car is constantly boxed into her driveway. A few houses over, a gay couple grumbles that their beloved ocean views are in jeopardy. And down the street, a widow grouses that her children’s favorite dog-walking route has been disrupted.

Bellyaching over the arrival of an irritating new neighbor is a suburban cliché, as elemental to the life on America’s Wisteria Lanes as fastidiously edged lawns and Sunday afternoon barbecues.

But here in La Jolla, a wealthy coast-hugging enclave of San Diego, the ordinary resident at the end of the block is no ordinary neighbor.

He is Mitt Romney.

Four years ago, when he was just a well-heeled civilian in search of a quiet beach house, Mr. Romney paid $12 million for a three-bedroom Spanish-style villa with unobstructed views of the Pacific and a rich history: Maureen O’Connor, the former mayor of San Diego, once lived there, and Richard Gere had used it as a vacation rental.

Little did Mr. Romney know that his efforts to quadruple the size of his house would collide with a bid for the White House, foisting the unpredictable dramas of home renovation and presidential politics onto a community that prides itself on low-key California neighborliness.

So now, after overcoming the distrust of social conservatives and evangelical voters to clinch the Republican nomination, Mr. Romney must win over another constituency, one that his campaign team never anticipated, polled or targeted: disaffected neighbors.

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