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Election 2014: Susan Guinn vows to defeat anti-gay County Clerk

SAN DIEGO -- Susan Guinn is determined to unseat Ernest Dronenburg as San Diego County Assessor/Recorder/County Clerk. As early voting begins today, Guinn speaks with San Diego Gay & Lesbian News about why she thinks she is the best choice for the job.

Guinn, Jonathan Gordon and George Mantor are vying to send Dronenburg, a Republican, into retirement. And for Guinn, the consumer attorney not only believes that she can do a better job serving taxpayers, but she also says that Dronenburg’s political blunders and missteps show voters that “the incumbent is doing a terrible job. He is bad for business, bad for families and has abused his elected position to promote his own ideology, rather than following the law.”

SDGLN: Why did you decide to run for San Diego County Assessor/Recorder/County Clerk?

Susan Guinn: I realize the election for San Diego County Assessor/Recorder/Clerk is not one that is normally in the headlines. Most people do not realize it is a critical office. It is responsible for setting the taxable value for close to four billion dollars in business and residential property throughout San Diego County as well as managing most of our important documents and licenses, including marriage licenses.

The current Assessor/County Clerk made news last summer following the U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing for same-sex marriages in California, when he filed a frivolous lawsuit to stop marriage equality statewide. No one should use their elected position to promote a personal agenda. It is a waste of taxpayer money and erodes the integrity of the office.

I decided to run for the office because the incumbent is doing a terrible job. He is bad for business, bad for families and has abused his elected position to promote his own ideology, rather than following the law.

SDGLN: Why do you believe you are the best candidate for the office, and how will your experience as lawyer come in handy if elected?

Susan Guinn: I have been a consumer attorney for over 20 years. I am a two time past president of Western Trial Lawyers and served on the board of the Consumer Attorneys of California. I am passionate about consumer rights and have a proven track record of results. I have protected businesses from fraudulent taxes and fees, and fought for hundreds of families and businesses to collect from insurance companies after catastrophic losses. My firm obtained a $3.3 billion settlement from Big Tobacco to benefit county government. I am well versed in property valuations and have the skills necessary to serve as Assessor/Recorder/County Clerk.

I’m not a career politician or a partisan extremist. I’ve worked in the private sector my entire life, so I know how government decisions affect real people. As a consumer advocate in this position, I will be an independent watchdog to ensure no one pays more than their fair share.

SDGLN: You are calling yourself as “taxpayer advocate” on your campaign page on Facebook. What do you mean by that?

Susan Guinn: No one should pay more than their fair share of taxes. We are all tired of special-interest groups gaming the system, causing the rest of us to pick-up the bill. I have a history of successfully fighting for businesses and families to make sure they are treated fairly, including cases protecting consumers from fraudulent fees and taxes. I will use this experience to advocate for the taxpayers of San Diego County and ensure that everyone is getting a fair deal.

SDGLN: Why should voters throw the incumbent out of office?

Susan Guinn: As Assessor, he has raised fees on families and small businesses. He then used their money to increase his own budget by almost $10 million and gave himself generous pay and perks such as a free car and gas, according to County of San Diego documents.

He also served as a director of a savings and loan that lost $21 million in an illegal trading operation. Federal investigators said Dronenburg “didn’t have a clue” what was going on at the company he directed, according to reports in the Los Angeles Times in 1986 and 1988.

Unfortunately, this seems to be a pattern. For example, he claims he did not have a clue the lawyer he hired to file the lawsuit to stop marriage equality was the same lawyer who put Prop 8 on the ballot and represented the Prop 8 proponents.

San Diego County also ranks worst in the state for assessment mistakes and required corrections according to the California Board of Equalization. That means we are ranked 58 out of 58 counties in terms of accuracy.

SDGLN: What are your goals to reform the office?

Susan Guinn: I will end the era of bloated budgets, excessive fees and over-taxation. I will eliminate the property assessment appeal backlog, currently second worst in the state, and the practice of issuing backdated tax bills.

I will also modernize the office by updating systems and practices. Millions of our documents are still only accessed by visiting the office and searching on a microfiche, a machine invented in 1906. It is impractical and costly to require businesses and consumers to drive to the office and spend hours trying to find a recorded document, only to receive an illegible document at the end of the search. This is wasteful on so many levels.
As the fifth most populated county in the United States and the eighth largest city, we can and should do better.

SDGLN: Since this is your first run at public office, what will it take to get elected?

Susan Guinn: We have to shine a light on the incumbent’s poor performance and abuse of his office. It’s no mystery that getting my message out requires money. It is ridiculous how expensive these races get, but it is reality.

With the election on a few weeks away, I am asking everyone for four things: 1) Visit susanguinn.com and contribute any amount; 2) Volunteer and recruit three friends; 3) Send a postcard to 10 friends with a personal note asking them to vote June 3rd for me; and, 4) VOTE.

SDGLN: Hasn’t the incumbent got a huge infusion of cash from anti-gay activists? So how are you funding your campaign?

Susan Guinn: I have heard this. I can’t say I’m surprised.

As for my campaign, it is being funded one donation at a time. I’ve received the support of many in the community, from small business owners, to nurses, to single parents, homeowners, open government advocates, and many others who understand that trust in local government is important and needs to be upheld.

SDGLN: As an openly gay woman who has a wife and a family and a successful practice, do you think San Diego County voters will consider this an issue, or do you believe that are long past judging candidates by their sexual orientation?

Susan Guinn: San Diego County voters want someone competent at their job. When elected, I will represent all of San Diego County voters. We would not have great leaders like Assembly Speaker-Elect Toni Atkins, San Diego City Council president Todd Gloria, County Supervisor Dave Roberts and San Diego school board president Kevin Beiser if voters considered sexual orientation a detriment.

SDGLN: What causes do you support, and why?

Susan Guinn: Outside of fighting for consumer rights, by biggest passions are education and the environment and the protection of children.

I am chair of the Environmental and Sustainability Committee for San Diego Unified School District. It allows me to combine these passions. We are tasked with making recommendations to the school board on policies regarding school nutrition, energy, facilities, water conservation, student environmental literacy and other issues. I am very excited about efforts to locally source all produce for our school meals. It would create a tremendous number of jobs and help our local farmers compete.

When my son was 9, we founded a nonprofit called KidsEcoClub. It was selected as the “gold standard” of non-profits working with SDUSD last year. Its mission is to support Healthy People, Healthy Communities and a Healthy Planet.

I’m also on the boards of the St. Paul’s Foundation and Equality California.

SDGLN: How can SDGLN readers help your campaign?

Susan Guinn: Spread the word. Volunteer. Donate today - any amount you can afford and then pledge to get ten more people to donate the same amount. We are almost out of time. Every day matters. Our website is susanguinn.com and more information can be found there. Please VOTE on June 3.

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Susan Guinn kicked off her election campaign on April 2 with a fundraiser at Urbn Coal Fired Pizza in North Park, attending by local Democratic and LGBT leaders. SDGLN covered the kickoff.

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Ken Williams is Editor in Chief of SDGLN. He can be reached at ken@sdgln.com, @KenSanDiego on Twitter, or by calling toll-free to 888-442-9639, ext. 713.