San Diego’s Mayoral Race, Part One: Sex, Lies and Videotape

By Norma Damashek / NumbersRunner

Lies and Videotape:

Does anyone out there remember the doomsday cult called Heaven’s Gate — UFO-believers led by Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles, aka “The Two,” aka “Te and Do,” aka “Bo and Peep”?  Heaven’s Gate cult members were ascetic “vehicles” on a journey to the “next level.”  Their shared delusions and willing submission to authoritarian leaders came to a shocking end in a tragic group suicide.  This happened in 1996.  Only videotapes remain, documenting their stay in and departure from San Diego.

Yes, truth can be stranger than fiction.  But if you think it can’t get even stranger, consider this: we’ve got another Hale Bopp scenario on our hands.  This time it involves billionaire corporate investors with an anointed “vehicle” who happens to be running for mayor of San Diego.  This could be the plot for a 3rd rate horror film but I’m afraid it’s real.  Here’s what’s going on:

A group of of multi-million/billionaires — well-known for their anti-tax, anti-government, anti-labor, anti-regulation, anti-pension, anti-public, anti-environmental, pro-privatization proclivities — have targeted the city of San Diego for political takeover.  Their goal is not greater efficiency or raising the standard of living.  Their goal is to transfer the control, ownership, and wealth embedded in the city’s valuable public assets straight into private corporate hands.  Their goal is a new world order.  Their goal is to use San Diego as a launching pad.

This radical group includes familiar names in the national news — Grover Norquist, the Koch brothers, Newt Gringrich, Virginia Thomas (wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas), Karl Rove, Dick Armey, the Heritage Foundation, Reason Foundation, CATO Institute, and Americans for Prosperity.  Bringing up the rear is our very own Doug Manchester.

Their shared philosophy is part anarchist, part Maoist, part domino-theory: conquer the countryside (San Diego) and watch cities across the nations tumble.  To echo Carl DeMaio, “If we can show ‘reform’ in San Diego, it becomes a model nationwide.”

That, in a nutshell, is what’s at stake in the Carl DeMaio / Bob Filner race for mayor.

Sex and Videotape:

San Diego leaders are a conservative but non-radical group of entrepreneurs (I’m referring to the tightly-held inbred consortium of bankers, real-estate developers, hoteliers, law firms, lobbyists, and other political intimates who have historically ruled the city’s roost).  They’re sophisticated when it comes to running home town politics, but when it comes to the tantalizing, reckless, greed-fulfilling bag of tricks offered by big-time billionaire investors, they’re goners.

Even the bunch of up-and-coming San Diegans who swear they’ve seen the light and moved to the middle (the next level?swoon when they get a glimpse of billionaire fantasy videos with names like: Private control over public property. New ways to screw city employees.  Corporate dominance.  Voter submission.  Retooled performance standards.  Hands in the public pocket.  Pay to play…


About ten years ago Carl DeMaio was sent to San Diego to implement a right-wing takeover.  A stand-in for Bo, he was programmed early in his career to believe that government is the enemy and should be shrunk small enough to “drown it in a bathtub.”  Under the guise of cleaning up city government he went to work dismantling San Diego employees’ labor unions and privatizing city government services.  He called his plan Roadmap to Recovery.

Carl DeMaio is relentless and talented at capturing public attention.  His ambitions and abilities must have looked like promising qualities to his Washington D.C. and radical right-wing mentors.  Even his personality quirks (robotic demeanor, evasive responses, dexterity at conflating truth and fiction, bullying threats to people who cross him, volatile temper) may once have been considered ammunition to speed along his takeover assignment.  Financial backing from superPAC funders, on top of his considerable personal wealth (by the age of thirty DeMaio could boast, “Don’t people know I’m a man of means now? I drive a BMW!”) have been greasing the skids in his run for mayor of the nation’s 8th biggest city.

But the fickle finger of fate, aka mischievous cupid, pointed its arrow in the direction of Carl DeMaio.  And here’s where the story takes a sharp downward turn.  Here’s where the sex, lies, and videotape get personal.

Norma Damashek is a long-time civic activist and past president of San Diego’s League of Women Voters. She publishes her own blog, NumbersRunner.

Readers take note:  Sex, lies, and videotape is a 3-part commentary. Parts Two and Three will run over the next couple of days.

Norma Damashek is a long-time civic activist who focuses on promoting decision-making that serves the public good. She has spearheaded community-based coalitions and served on city and regional-government task forces and as past president of San Diego’s League of Women Voters. She opines on her website NumbersRunner.


  1. avatarShelley Plumb says

    Oh god. Absolutely frightening like a bad horror movie, but spot on. Thank you for your insight, Norma. Can’t wait to read parts 2 & 3.

  2. avatarJudy Ki says

    I read about this in a report named Target San Diego: The Right Wing Assault on Urban Democracy and Smart Government. It was written by Lee Cokorinos in Nov. 2005. Ch. 2 in that report was about the Performance Institute and DeMaio. I tried to warn everybody in D-5 when he ran for city council. Volunteered and worked my butt off for his opponent, but we were outspend, of course. It’s bad enough to have the unholy trinity of Issa, Hunter Jr. and Bilbray. I don’t want to fathom a DeMaio takeover! This is really, really bad news for San Diego.