Supporters of Councilman Carl DeMaio’s mayoral campaign were greeted Wednesday by a fundraising letter that also broke some news: former San Diego Mayor and California Gov. Pete Wilson now supports DeMaio, too.
Wilson’s primary endorsement of Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher was perhaps the biggest of the spring (other possibilities: Mayor Jerry Sanders’ support of District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis or Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsome’s support of Congressman Bob Filner).
Throughout the campaign, Fletcher touted Wilson’s support as evidence of his qualifications, and it gave him a comfortable base to request Republican support after the San Diego County Republican Party opted to endorse DeMaio.
But when Wilson finally decided to choose a candidate in the general election, there was no announcement. No press conference, no photo shoot, nothing that would bring the news to the general population.
Instead, it was revealed through a fundraising request to DeMaio supporters signed by Wilson.
Here’s the letter:
One of the most important elections San Diego has seen in decades will take place this November. If you love this city as much as I do, you'll join me to help ensure that Carl DeMaio is elected as our next Mayor.
Even if you supported a different candidate in the primary or sat out the race altogether, I hope you agree that to truly move our great city forward, we must elect Carl.
Carl is energetically building a team that welcomes all who share his hopes and his vision for San Diego. He is determined to achieve the fiscally responsible city government that is essential to attract the thriving private sector needed for jobs and paychecks and well-managed, high quality and affordable city services.
DeMaio communications director K.B. Forbes said the campaign didn’t make a bigger deal out of the endorsement because it wanted to focus on fundraising.
“We’re happy about his support.” Forbes said. “We’re pleased he’s on board. It shows we can attract support from everyone. We’ll be doing more events and rolling out more things in the coming weeks.”
Wilson said he decided immediately after the primary that he would be supporting DeMaio.
"A choice between someone with a history like (DeMaio's) and some with a history like (Filner's) is an easy choice," he said.
Wilson praised DeMaio's leadership on both pension and fiscal reform.
Asked why there wasn't more of an announcement made of his support, given Wilson's popularity, he said "It's not going to be any secret. We'll have plenty of joint appearances and the time hasn't passed for that."
Filner softens demeanor
Bob Filner’s political identity is in many ways tied to his theatrical personality. In interviews, the former Civil Rights protester has connected his political antics to lessons learned from Martin Luther King Jr. and his time as a Freedom Rider: Force those who disagree with you to confront their own opinions.
But Filner, in an interview and email exchange with Voice of San Diego, is now admitting that such behavior might not be appealing for a candidate seeking an executive position.
“Running for an executive position is much different than running for a legislative position,” he said. “I hadn’t internalized that to the extent that I should have.”
He apologized for his behavior at a recent City Council vote on the Balboa Park expansion, during which Filner asked what might happen to city finances if the expansion’s benefactor Irwin Jacobs suddenly died. He also brought out a Kate Sessions impersonator to make his case against the plan.
Now, Filner says if elected he’ll fully implement the Balboa Park renovation, since it was approved by the City Council.
"I think I would have done it differently on Balboa Park, by the way… " Filner told reporter Liam Dillon. "That is, I can be against the issue without, say, taking on Irwin. I’ve learned that.”
DeMaio continues reaching for new issues
DeMaio has spent most of his time in San Diego politics fighting for pension reform and against (most) tax increases. But since advancing through June’s mayoral primary, he has increasingly signaled his concern for other issues too.
This week, he held a press conference announcing his “Clean Coasts 2020” plan, an 11-page policy proposal promising “clean coasts, bays and drinking water for San Diego.”
The plan includes an element of his previously released plan to restructure City Hall by putting all departments underneath four deputy mayors who would report directly to DeMaio. The Infrastructure and Utilities deputy mayor would oversee a new “environment and stormwater” department.
His plan would also implement four pilot programs directed at reducing stormwater runoff.
Earlier this month, DeMaio held a press conference announcing his support for dedicating 10,000 acres of canyonlands so they can be more effectively preserved by the city. That plan, too, has been rolled into his Clean Coasts 2020 document.
DeMaio’s opponents with the Filner campaign and the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council were quick to point out that his newfound commitment to the environment isn’t consistent with his legislative history.
Each year the League of Conservation Voters San Diego produces an Environmental Quality Report Card that grades San Diego’s mayor and councilmembers on environmental issues. In 2011, the councilmembers were graded based on their votes on the 21 most environmentally significant pieces of legislation, according to the LCVSD.
DeMaio received an F on the report card in 2011, voting with the LCVSD 58 percent of the time. In 2010 he received a D+, voting with the group 68.8 percent of the time. In 2009 he received an F, voting 58.8 percent of the time the way LCVSD approved.
"While the policy goals outlined by Carl DeMaio are welcome, they unfortunately still fail to reflect any serious engagement with the environmental challenges facing San Diego,” said Livia Borak, president of the LCVSD in a statement put out by Evan McLaughlin of the labor council.
The disagreement over the sincerity of DeMaio’s pivot to environmental issues echoes a similar display last week over affordable housing.
The DeMaio campaign announced an endorsement from the San Diego County Apartment Association as evidence of his commitment to providing affordable housing in the city. McLaughlin quickly responded with comments from affordable housing advocates saying the SDCAA was a group of landlords, and that their endorsement demonstrated that he cared not for affordable housing.