Looking Back at Our Special Election Coverage: Sixty One Articles by Sixteen Writers

by on November 19, 2013 · 7 comments

in Activism, Business, Columns, Labor, Politics, The Starting Line, Voter Guide Special Election

startinglinelogoBy Doug Porter

The email said: “You have lost me”.

The reader was presumably upset by an interview with Nathan Fletcher posted a few days ago. After posting more five dozen articles by sixteen different writers, this conversation with one of the major Democratic candidates was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

So today as people have their final opportunity to cast their ballots, I thought that taking a look back over our coverage might be useful.  If you haven’t voted this might prove useful.  If you have voted, good for you; send this story to a friend who might not have voted.

Mostly this column will be about short quotes and links to the articles. I strongly encourage you to click through to the original stories early and often. In case the words “Progressive Views” on the top of the page have somehow eluded you, SDFP has (and encourages) a certain point of view. We’d rather be honest about that fact than try to delude you as is the standard in much of the mainstream media.

Believe or not, what comes to the inbox has a major impact in how our coverage is shaped. I wish I could have highlighted every article, but time and space constraints necessitate a shorter format. And I’m sure my fellow editors will tell me it’s still too damn long.

Jim Miller’s Monday column has provided much of our coverage. He was first out of the box in the wake of Filner’s fall from power, decrying the back room deals he saw going on to anoint a front runner. Miller doesn’t mince words in: The Collected Works of Our Savior Nathan Fletcher, The Magic Democrat:

In the aftermath of the Filner resignation, a group of Democratic Party insiders and money people are continuing to run around with their hair on fire trying to anoint Nathan Fletcher as our savior and discourage other truly progressive candidates from entering the field.

Of course this includes folks like Christine Forrester, who runs a marketing consulting firm that connects businesses with hedge fund money, and former Labor Council leader Lorena Gonzalez, who has long been championing her personal friend, the former Assemblyman with an 18% labor voting record over the vociferous objections of many in labor.

Indeed, anyone who has been closely following the inside moves behind the curtain of the Filner scandal knows that the backroom meetings and fundraising efforts designed to put the fix in for Fletcher began simultaneously with the press conferences that kicked off our month-long three ring circus.

The U-T wants only what is best for San Diego
– quote from editorial warning Carl DeMaio to obey publisher Doug Manchester’s wishes

Kevin Faulconer District redoThe Democrats weren’t the only ones plotting in back rooms.  Kevin Faulconer emerged from a Republican sit down as the man blessed by the Lincoln Club/Lynchester set as I chronicled in The Pawns Line Up…:

It was a day to remember in San Diego’s political history.  Three high-profile politicians opted to decline the opportunity to enter the contest for the top spot in the eighth largest city in the United States.  That’s like three customers going into a Starbucks paying for a latte with a hundred dollar bill and saying “keep the change”…or a camel passing through the eye of a needle.

Things didn’t go so smoothly for the Democrats. Bruce Coons and Mike Aguirre had enough name recognition to enter the race on their own terms. And City Councilman David Alvarez emerged as the choice of the more activist wing of the party.

In recent years the Labor Council has increasingly aligned itself with party activists. So there was no small amount of irony involved when they opted for Alvarez over their former leader’s candidate.

Here’s Jim Miller, writing in The Labor Council’s Choice: David Alvarez:

Last Friday evening, after five grueling hours of candidate interviews and spirited debate, the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council overwhelmingly endorsed David Alvarez for mayor.

This decision came after weeks of intense lobbying on the part of former labor leader Lorena Gonzalez, who, along with other powerful Democratic power brokers and money people were seeking to clear the field of genuinely progressive candidates in order to anoint Nathan Fletcher as the “only choice.”

Indeed, while Democratic money bundler Christine Forrester was writing to her well-heeled contacts praising Fletcher as “an astute business leader, worthy of representing and evolving Qualcomm’s business interests” and someone “well-suited to find common denominators between left and right” in order to create a “bipartisan platform from which San Diego can soar,” Gonzalez was repackaging him as a working class hero about whom she said to her list of labor folks, “the more he learned about economic justice issues, the better champion he became.”

Alvarez was deemed by the party insiders as being “not electable”, if for no other reason than his low name recognition in various polls.  Democratic consultant Larry Remer saw it differently in an email we republished as Fletcher vs Alvarez: One Consultant’s View:

They (the Republicans) are very confident Faulconer can beat Fletcher. That’s because Nathan has what we pundits and spin doctors call “very serious negatives”.

This election is all about TRUST. Bob Filner, after all, betrayed our TRUST.

So, what do you think the voters are going to TRUST after the Republicans spend a gazillion dollars pummeling Nathan for all of the various contradictory positions he’s taken? Remember, this will be a special Mayoral election where turnout will be more conservative than the Presidential general last November that re-elected Obama that elected Bob Filner.

I don’t want to go into the gory details of how somebody like Karl Rove can and will fillet and fry Nathan because I don’t want to give Papa Doug and his ilk any new ideas. But, trust me, that’s what’s coming.

democratic-primary-300x167For Jim Miller the Democrats choice of a candidate went beyond electability. From Fletcher vs Alvarez – The Battle for the Soul of the Democratic Party:

Fletcher is the 1% Democrat par excellence. The Magic Democrat can posture as a progressive and line up opportunist politicians behind him to praise his conversion while still raking in the corporate cash. He can win!

The problem is that winning with Fletcher is just defeat dressed up as victory for progressives. You get to wash down Filner’s betrayal of progressive principles through his reckless behavior with Fletcher backers’ betrayal of progressives in the service of a cynical opportunism that takes advantage of our civic tragedy to stage a New Democrat take-over of the party.

But what becomes of the political narrative in San Diego when Fletcher represents the “left” while Faulconer is the right? It becomes a joke again. You get Sanders versus Sanders lite; the Chamber of Commerce’s first choice versus their happy second choice. You get an election brought to you by a secret meeting of Republican power brokers on one side and a secret meeting of Democratic power brokers on the other side. That’s not democracy; that’s a rigged game.

The Democratic Party held a special meeting and endorsed Alvarez (40-24). At that time they also stipulated that whoever won the runoff vote would get their support. From Alvarez Gets the Nod…:

Not everybody was so accepting of the vote.  Professional pundit Carl Luna, whose support of the Fletcher candidacy has been so transparent that he might as well take a position with the campaign, went on Twitter to vent:

Dems pull a Fletcher: (v) To endorse the ideological candidate and not the moderate one more likely to win….

Democrats endorse Alvarez  via @utsandiego. The Big winner at Dem central committee meeting: Kevin Faulconer…

Earlier in the day, Luna had obviously gotten around to reading SDFP columnist Jim Miller’s piece on the Fletcher vs Alvarez battle within the labor movement and took to Twitter to publish this rant:

…At Last! SD Democrats have a clear road map to irrelevance: become the Tea Party of the left! Kucinich in 2016!

Other Writers Chime In…

sddfeWriter Eva Posner chronicled the angst evident at a meeting of San Diego Democrats for Equality that ended with Alvarez picking up a crucial endorsement on the second ballot:

It was a night of organized chaos. It had a casual structure to it that allowed California Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins, also a member of the club, to simply blend in with the audience one minute and receive wild applause the next.

It was loud and sometimes contentious. The night was long, the meeting ran late. Tempers got heated, and so did the room as the body heat radiated off the standing-room-only crowd. Zingers got thrown. There were laughs and tears. Debate was passionate and voting was purposeful.

NumbersRunner blogger and civic activist Norma Damashek gave her personal assessment in The Mystery of Why Qualcomm Adopted Nathan Fletcher:

Nathan Fletcher is funny, engaging, self-deprecating, and a topnotch storyteller.  He is low-keyed even when boasting, “I interrogated al-Qaeda… I can negotiate a labor deal.”  (You might remember that Fletcher was in the Marine Corps Reserves while working in the office of Duke Cunningham, a San Diego congressman who also used his military experience as a political prop to win an election. Cunningham was recently released from prison after serving a sentence for enriching himself illegally through bribery and fraud while in office.)

Nathan Fletcher is a performer with a special gift for reading the minds of his audience and bouncing back precisely what you want to hear.  He strings his words together in a tightly-drilled speech pattern that convinces you he’s answered your question — even when he hasn’t.

Though once excoriated by labor unions for his conservative voting record, now his chief cheerleader is former labor-leader Lorena Gonzalez.  He’s regarded as a good catch on both sides of the fence, or so it would seem from the number of wealthy San Diegans who’ve endorsed him for mayor.

 Nathan Fletcher is the Great Gatsby of our time — a fabricated man filled with longing and wild ambition but not quite who you think he is… was… wants to be…

Contributor Judi Curry was undecided and made it her mission to meet with all the Democratic candidates. She wrote about meeting David Alvarez and Mike Aguirre in her deeply personable style.  Things didn’t go so well with her attempts to meet the third big name candidate, as she chronicled in Why I Am Not Voting for Nathan Fletcher:

That write up drew a response from PR-person Rachel Laing:

 There’s no excuse for not responding quickly to requests, but I do wish you’d have spent five seconds following up instead of penning an 850-word article about how I failed to fulfill your request.

 Judi fired back:

 Your comment about giving you 5 seconds is laughable. I gave you 1,814,400 seconds before I wrote my article. I even called back to the campaign headquarters and was again told to send you an email.

Del Mar Times columnist Gordon Clanton speculated here about knocking Kevin Faulconer out of the race by getting Mike Aguirre to drop out and a massive get out the vote effort.

sdfp MyNeighborhoodWe reposted Bill AdamsUrbDeZine San Diego article talking about walkable neighborhoods in San Diego, which started out as an endorsement for Bruce Coons—only to have him drop out of the race as he want to press.

Contributor Jay Powell’s comments about the history of livable neighborhoods in San Diego got turned into an article providing a better understanding of what “neighborhoods first” should mean in the context of this election.

Andrea Guerrero wrote in to stress the importance of turnout, especially for Latinos/as.

Ernie McCray’s beautiful prose made the case for getting out to vote as well”

Voting is at the core of our nation’s soul. The big cats know that well. That’s why they buy folks who’ll heed their will. But we, in a numerical game, which voting is, outnumber them by the millions. And once we learn how to work together and passionately support those who have our interests at heart as the powers-that-be do for their flunkies who do their dirty work so faithfully, we will be on to something. We would turn our lives around. Idealistic, for sure, but true. But those one percent kind of folks, for lack of a better description, count heavily on us not exercising our precious right to have a say.

Activist Christian Ramirez wrote in to make the case for David Alvarez as a 21st Century Mayor for San Diego:

Oh and by the way, San Diego has not had a Latino mayor since 1847. We are not waiting any longer.

We even published a bit of satire on the race, despite the fact that politicos are notoriously deficient in the sense of humor department, by Matt Valeni, asking the question:

What do school bathrooms have to do with San Diego’s mayoral candidates?

Lincoln Club Mailer

Lincoln Club Mailer

Editor Frank Gormlie took a long, hard look at the GOP’s efforts to ‘play” this race:

This is politics these days.  A politician figures out who her or his most formidable opponent would be in the general election, and then tries to manipulate opposition voters into voting for a lesser opponent, in an effort to force the weaker one in the run-off….

…This is why Republicans and Faulconer don’t want you to vote for “conservative” Fletcher.

Now, Fletcher is no more “conservative” than Faulconer.  Probably less so these days.  Fletcher at least says he likes unions.  Yes, Fletcher used to be a Republican.  We’re aware of his “metamorphoses”.

Faulconer is much more of a traditional GOP’er, anti-union, pro-managed competition, pro-outsourcing basic municipal services kind of guy.

Faulconer you can say is a mild-mannered version of Carl DeMaio. They both sing from the same hymn book, just have different voices.

Faulconer also has a new TV ad out with former mayor Jerry Sanders smiling and espousing Kevin’s virtues.  Jerry Sanders?  His term as mayor is nothing to be proud about – talk about Sunroad – do you recall the REAL Sunroad scandal?  Sanders wanted to shut down our libraries and rec centers.  It was under Sanders that the City started having problems with maintaining its police force.

The Debates

clint3There were a gaggle of debates over the past six weeks.  SDFP writer Andy Cohen was a panelist at a KNSJ/Jefferson School of Law forum, asking questions about how the City can pay for needed services and infrastructure in the future.

The San Diego Free Press also published a virtual forum, inviting the candidates to write about eight topics. Those questions included Managed Competition, Implications of the Plaza de Panama Controversy, The Building Permit and Planning Processes, Walkable/Bikeable Neighborhoods and Public Transit, Fixing San Diego’s Infrastructure, The Homeless, Obamacare, and The Environment.  Kevin Faulconer’s campaign did not respond, so we ran a picture of Clint Eastwood’s empty chair fgrom the 2012 GOP convention in place of his answers.

Andy Cohen’s column on Character Matters gave one of the best glimpses into Mike Aguirre’s candidacy I’ve seen, and deserves a shout out.

During the debates thus far, Mr. Aguirre has revived images of Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 presidential campaign.  For Giuliani, every third word uttered was “9-11.”  For Aguirre, his cause célèbre is pensions, and the amount that the City of San Diego continues to pay toward reducing its pension deficit.  He may be right, but he never makes it clear during the debates what he would do differently as mayor; what his solution to the problem is.  Our pension morass was caused by nearly a decade of massive underfunding of the system, and that deficit must be paid down.  It is not at all clear what Mr. Aguirre would do to accomplish that goal, or whether he would return to the practice of underfunding it.

His single-mindedness makes it difficult to determine where this “kinder, gentler” Mike Aguirre stands on other key issues, and whether his leadership style has truly changed.

The Fletcher Interviews

Nathan Fletcher 1So now we come down to the last days of the campaign. And despite my prediction that he’d never do it, Nathan Fletcher sits down with SDFP writer Andy Cohen. (FYI-Andy says he’s still undecided as of last night) The result is two stories: Democrat in Republican Clothes

You’re a Democrat, Nathan.  Might as well make it official.

These were strange words to hear for the lifelong Republican, and at first they didn’t make any sense.  Gradually, though, he began to realize that just because you identify as a Republican doesn’t mean the label fits.  Which was odd.  And Confusing.  And difficult to sort out.

Maybe I’m not a Republican.

and Nathan Fletcher: The Minimum Wage Must Be Raised.

Listen to Nathan Fletcher talk about his policy ideas and positions and it’s hard to believe that he ever considered himself a conservative, a Republican.  These are not the thoughts of the anti-tax, business-is-always-right crowd.  This is a guy who has given this stuff a lot of thought and understands the historical significance of the issues.  He understands that history can tell us a lot about what works and what doesn’t.

The editorial board of the San Diego Free Press ultimately decided NOT to endorse in the November 19th election. If it’d come down to a vote, I’m pretty sure the blessing would have gone to David Alvarez.

I’ll give the last word to Jim Miller, from this week’s column:

David Alvarez is that future, and he stands for a progressive politics that will be transformative not because he is our savior but because he is one of us and will have an open door to all of us, wherever we come from, whether we have friends in high places or not. He represents a vital, inclusive, forward-looking San Diego that leaves no one behind.

Imagine that.

Perhaps out of the summer of scandal and the fall of discord, new hope can be born.

On This Day: 1954 – Sammy Davis, Jr. was involved in a serious auto accident in San Bernardino, CA. Three days later, Davis lost the ability see with his left eye.   1969 – Apollo 12 astronauts Charles Conrad and Alan Bean made man’s second landing on the moon.  1998 – The impeachment inquiry of President Clinton began.

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I read the Daily Fishwrap(s) so you don’t have to… Catch “the Starting Line” Monday thru Friday right here at San Diego Free Press (dot) org. Send your hate mail and ideas to DougPorter@SanDiegoFreePress.Org 

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Doug Porter

Doug Porter was active in the early days of the alternative press in San Diego, contributing to the OB Liberator, the print version of the OB Rag, the San Diego Door, and the San Diego Street Journal. He went on to have a 35 year career in the Hospitality business and decided to go back into raising hell when he retired. He won awards for 'Daily Reporting and Writing: Opinion/Editorial' from the Society of Professional Journalists in 2013 and 2014. Doug is a cancer survivor (sans vocal chords) and lives in North Park.
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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar judi November 19, 2013 at 11:41 am

Good synopsis, Doug. Thanks.

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avatar Andy Cohen November 19, 2013 at 11:47 am

Honestly, I thought I was going to get lynched by the SDFP mob for even deigning to want to talk to Fletcher (lookin’ at you, Brent! ;-] ). But I’ve always found him to be an interesting character, and there were a lot of questions that had never been answered….or even asked. No one was really sure about his policy positions…because, again, no one had really asked. And the story about his switch from Republican to Independent to Democrat…no one had really ever covered it, gotten the real nitty gritty of it….at least not to my satisfaction. I was curious. Sue me.

And I’m glad I did it. We knew the guy had all this charisma, but is he really a good Democratic candidate? Is he really a Democrat? My conclusion after spending over an hour with him, grilling him, is yes, he is a Democrat. He may be more moderate than David Alvarez, but he definitely fits the Party.

The thing that I think struck me the most was what he really WANTED to talk about: He WANTED to talk about the minimum wage, telling me he had only been asked about it once before. He WANTED to talk about the Living Wage Ordinance. He WANTED to talk about a broader economic plan for San Diego that extended beyond just the High Tech/Biotech industry. He WANTED to talk about working people, and how we can help them, and how helping them helps our economy. On Democratic economic issues, he gets it.

Perhaps his answer to the Barrio Logan question is rather unsatisfactory, but at least it was honest. But in listening to him, and learning about his thought process, I do believe that he would ultimately do right by the residents of BL.

My only regret about the interview was that it came so late in the campaign. I had been trying for the better part of the last two months to arrange something, but his campaign was obviously ambivalent about giving a significant block of time to the SDFP, who, let’s be honest here, has published an awful lot of negative stories about him. I can understand why they would think he wouldn’t be treated fairly. But that’s my M.O. They agree to give me the time, I OWE it to them to at least be fair, whether I agree with them or not.

Finally, my conclusion about the two competing Dem candidates is this (sorry, Mike Aguirre is still nothing more than an outlier): We have two VERY good Democratic candidates running for mayor in this race, and I don’t think we can go wrong with either one of them. I think we should be proud of that. Our focus, though, needs to be in making sure that Kevin Faulconer does NOT become San Diego’s next mayor.

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avatar Anna Daniels November 19, 2013 at 12:17 pm

There has been much discussion about the factors affecting voter turnout. One of those factors is “intensity.” The more strongly citizens are invested in electoral outcomes, the more likely it is that they will vote.
SDFP has presented many voices throughout the campaign. Those voices are not limited to the 16 writers–they include you, the many commentors, who have critiqued and analyzed and practiced the arts of persuasion and dissuasion.
This campaign coverage was important to the SDFP all volunteer editorial board. It demanded extra effort and commitment from each editor. Doug Porter deserves special recognition for knitting the process together–and finding the perfect image.
So yes, there has been voter intensity. It remains to be seen if and how the intensity of thought and feelings on the SDFP pages extends into our communities, onto the streets where live.

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avatar Jay Powell November 19, 2013 at 1:53 pm

First, thanks so much to all of the SDFP Editorial Board members for taking this on and special thanks to Doug Porter for the final synopsis. Message to Andy: Thanks for trying so hard to understand who and what Nathan Fletcher is. Now. Take a breath. Step back from the kool aid. Another deep breath. Go to the polls. Fill in the box with David Alvarez next to it. You will feel real good. I know I did.

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avatar Dana Levy November 19, 2013 at 2:57 pm

If not the last word at least my last on today’s mayoral subject and the inner fighting for the Democratic vote. It has been most interesting and enlightening to read and comment on all things Democratic in San Diego. We struggle to hold our heads above the water level and plead for improvements passionately. While we are somewhat split today on who should prevail (hopefully to a runoff) from our side, it is as I have maintained all along and Andy more eloquently says (and I paraphrase): it is paramount that Faulconer does not get another city position from which to deceive us once again! It has been intense at times, yes, but my intentions were always to persuade and dissuade others and not to change the image of Democrats or diminish those attributes that separate us miles apart from the Republicans (who always live up to my assessment that they are selfish, self-righteous, self-centered, short-sighted, and sanctimonious). As MY president JFK (still miss him and lament what we could and should have been) said “There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction”.
Lastly JFK said and I wholeheartedly agree and follow this premise: “I’m an idealist without illusions”. The ultimate success of the American socialist movement is what I seek to promote (if we had single payer for the ACA we wouldn’t be where we are now) and if we are not all in it together we shall surely sink to the bottom together. Starting tomorrow I will join our entire like minded Democratic party and begin to tout and campaign for OUR new mayor (with the one exception of that if Faulconer should luck out and get more than 50% it will be the start of a replacement mayoral campaign when it comes to 2016)!

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avatar Frances O'Neill Zimmerman November 19, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Sound and fury, signifying not much, except how wishy-washy this journal is.

The San Diego Free Press has managed to find a bunch of acceptable Democrats in this field of candidates — pretty much dismissing “outlier” longtime Dem Mike Aguirre and then having the chutzpah to equate FletcherNathan with lifetime Dem and Latino Councilmember David Alvarez. Slick FletcherNathan was courted, coached, cajoled and finally bought by a billionaire to enter the Democratic Party fold.

Why is everyone so careful, so nice about this? Where’s the bottom line? What do you stand for? I’ve voted for David Alvarez and feel good about it, just like my old friend Jay Powell said.

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avatar Lori Saldaña November 19, 2013 at 11:35 pm

The votes haven’t been completely counted, but things are looking good for David Alvarez, who just overtook Nathan Fletcher.

This result makes me very happy, and very proud of the work David has done. He has inspired many voters in this short campaign.

The commonly heard charge that “David (or any other progressive) can’t win” because of being outspent is a cynical tactic designed to devalue, undermine and demoralize grassroots/progressive campaigns that are people-powered vs. wealth-endowed. It often discourages the participation of voters who want to reduce the impact of big money on elections and government, and who seek to elect people whose policies are supportive of the working as well as the monied class.

Let’s hope we are seeing the end of these “progressives can’t win” arguments. They play on voters’ fears vs. aspirations- a tactic that has been used effectively in other campaigns when moderate/conservative candidates focus on funding for public safety, the war on drugs, defense/terrorism etc. and ignore broken infrastructure, education and social services.

No one wants to discuss the local economic divide directly. Instead, the codeword for this in the current campaign is “support neighborhoods” which is a subtle variation of “Main Street vs Wall Street.” Of course, the neighborhood of, say, Mission Hills expects very different things from City Hall than Golden Hills.

Looking ahead to the general election: If the “moderate monied interests” (MMI) choose to sit out an Alvarez-Faulconer runoff, it will validate the criticism that, for many of these, “D is for dollars” vs. “D is for Democrat.”

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