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Campaign notebook: Port takes center stage

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Democratic mayoral candidate Rep. Bob Filner has made expanding the San Diego Port District the centerpiece of his economic platform, but the Port took center stage in the campaign last week for a different reason.

A KPBS investigative report uncovered an email from U-T San Diego CEO John Lynch to congressional candidate and Port Commissioner Scott Peters in which Lynch claims to have made “significant progress” selling to “one of the mayoral candidates” the paper’s plan to build a football stadium, arena and beach at the current site of the 10th Avenue Marine Terminal.

Both Filner and his opponent, Republican Councilman Carl DeMaio, who was endorsed by the U-T ahead of the June primary, have said they oppose the paper’s development plan, and reiterated those positions to KPBS.

Filner, however, staged a press conference during which he accused DeMaio of lying to the public about his position on the U-T’s proposal.

“I think he has to say that after these revelations have come up,” he said. “Clearly, there’s a deal.”

Lynch and the U-T’s owner, Doug Manchester, have a history of financially supporting DeMaio, even before they endorsed him with a front-page editorial in the spring (only Lynch has directly donated to DeMaio’s mayoral campaign).

Filner said Manchester and Lynch wouldn’t support DeMaio if he didn’t tacitly support their vision.

A spokesperson for DeMaio’s campaign issued a statement dismissing Filner’s challenge to release all correspondence he had with Lynch regarding the Port.

“Instead of focusing on ideas to create jobs, Congressman Filner chooses to issue yet another wild conspiracy theory,” a spokesperson read. “As the congressman knows, Carl DeMaio has never supported the waterfront stadium proposal.”

KPBS has since reported DeMaio’s campaign, responding to a Freedom of Information Act request, said there has been no such correspondence between DeMaio and Lynch.

In an interview with The Daily Transcript, Lynch denied ever claiming he had made progress convincing one of the candidates of his plan, despite the email saying otherwise.

DeMaio met with Lynch on Jan. 20, two days before U-T San Diego released its waterfront plan.

Lynch said he met with DeMaio that day to discuss giving him the paper’s endorsement, but said DeMaio actively asked questions about the plan once the meeting began (although the plan had yet to be released at that point).

He said he also pitched the plan to Mayor Jerry Sanders and members of his staff and to Peters.

“It wasn't to secure support or anything else,” Lynch said. “It was simply to create an interest in the project down there. Our thought was never to lead until the end, but to give a vision and get the business community to take over.”

From there, the situation took increasingly bizarre twists, and at least temporarily moved it away from the mayoral race.

Peters provided to Voice of San Diego CEO Scott Lewis an email in which Lynch threatened to lead a campaign to disband the Port.

In a subsequent interview with KPBS, Lynch said he never sent such an email, and said the email Peters provided must have been doctored. He produced another version that didn’t include the threat, and said someone could go to jail over the issue.

KPBS then uncovered yet another email, this one sent by Lynch to Tom Lemmon, business manager at the Building and Construction Trades Council. In it, he issues a similar threat to disband the Port if it renewed Dole’s lease at the terminal. The lease was eventually renewed in August.

This week in endorsements

The week in the mayoral campaign began Tuesday when Sanders endorsed fellow Republican DeMaio.

Despite sharing a party, Sanders and DeMaio have often been at political odds since the one-term councilman forced his way into the city’s policy realm. DeMaio led the resistance to Sanders’ proposed sales tax increase, voted against every budget the mayor has released, and opposed the retiree health care reforms Sanders negotiated.

They also worked together to pass Proposition B, the voter-approved pension reform measure.

Sanders, who in the primary endorsed District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and on Election Day called Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher his second choice, said not issuing an endorsement would have been the easy decision.

“But I have spent 33 years in city employment, 26 with the police department and seven with the mayor’s office, and I love this city too much to just sit it out because it would be the easiest thing for me,” Sanders said.

DeMaio accepted the endorsement by saying Sanders would go down as one of the best mayors in the city’s history — a sentiment previously voiced by the mayor’s communications director — and said his administration would be much like Sanders’.

Two days later, DeMaio announced another high-profile endorsement: Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM) co-founder and wealthy philanthropist Irwin Jacobs.

Jacobs confirmed the endorsement, but didn’t attend a press conference announcing it.

"He has impressed me with his intelligence and his command of the issues facing our city and its neighborhoods," Jacobs said in a statement. "Carl will be a worthy successor to Mayor Jerry Sanders."

Jacobs was thrust into the mayor’s race when a plan to overhaul the central area of Balboa Park, the majority of which Jacobs had pledged to fund, came before City Council. Filner attended the vote and criticized the plan for endangering the city’s general fund, asking the council what would happen if Jacobs were to die.

DeMaio voted for the plan, after keeping it at arm’s length in the primary, and praised Jacobs and his wife while doing so.

Filner welcomed the endorsements Friday of six Civil Rights-related figures, including Stuart Milk, LGBT leader and nephew of Harvey Milk, and Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, who, like Filner, was active in the Civil Rights movement.

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