In Under the Perfect Sun, Mike Davis, Kelly Mayhew and I observe that San Diego is a city that “many conservatives extol as a utopia of patriotism and free enterprise.” Indeed it was Nixon’s “lucky city” but, as we note, “San Diego has too frequently been a town wide open to greed but closed to social justice.
Like its Sunbelt siblings—Orange County, Phoenix, and Dallas—it has a long history of weak and venal city halls dominated by powerful groups of capitalist insiders. ‘Private Government’ has long overshadowed public politics.” More recently in Paradise Plundered: Fiscal Crisis and Governance Failure in San Diego, Steve Erie, Vladimir Kogan, and Scott MacKenzie similarly illustrate how San Diego’s political and business elite have done a fantastic job of “using public resources to maximize private profit” with little to no oversight from our “shadow governments.”
If you look at the field of candidates for mayor you can see who San Diego’s moneyed elite support with right-wing front-runner Carl DeMaio leading the pack taking in $1.8 million in donations from conservative PACS, the Republican Party, downtown business interests, and developers. DeMaio is also getting a lot of help from his biggest fan, Carl DeMaio, who has poured nearly half a million dollars of his own money into his corporate jihad.
Next in the game is Nathan Fletcher who has netted $1.3 million from his rich friends and corporate interests such as Qualcomm and Bridgepoint Education. He also has a good deal going with the liquor store lobby that serves as his hit man, smearing Filner with nasty mailers so that Fletcher can pretend to rise above the fray.
Downtown insider Bonnie Dumanis has raised about $684,000 from a handful of donors like the wealthy Mexican businessman based in Coronado who runs Airsam. He was good for $100,000 alone.
Coming in last is Bob Filner, who has raised about $400,000 largely from smaller individual donations.
Why does Filner have so much less? Because the big money in San Diego, the real “downtown insiders” who everyone in the race says they are campaigning against know that if Filner becomes mayor they won’t be running the show anymore. That’s why the brain trust of Doug Manchester’s mouthpiece, the San Diego Union-Tribune, recently declared, “We as an editorial board do not want to see Bob Filner get through to the general election, because the environment around the general election is much more favorable to Bob Filner. So we certainly want to keep that from happening.”
So take it from the horse’s mouth: San Diego’s elite are afraid of Bob Filner because he will be a mayor for all San Diegans, not just a tool for the City’s entrenched power brokers. If Filner wins this election, it will be a historic loss for the old guard and a real victory for the majority of the people of San Diego, particularly those whose interests have never been well represented in City Hall.
And the good news is that despite this huge financial disadvantage and the enmity of much of the city’s media, Filner has pulled ahead of Fletcher and is closing in on DeMaio with the most recent polling showing Filner now only three percentage points behind DeMaio (within the margin of error), but still just 5% ahead of Fletcher. Dumanis is well behind the pack and pretty much out of the race.
Thus, if the Democratic base comes through for Filner, San Diegans will have a real choice in the fall. Filner with his great, long progressive record on everything from labor and the environment to education and veterans’ issues versus the pure product of the right-wing think tanks bent on busting unions, privatizing the commons, and turning San Diego into a Petri dish for every libertarian scheme and give away of public monies to private hands imaginable.
It will be a battle for the soul of San Diego. Carl DeMaio and his well-funded “bullshit” (just quoting Jerry Sanders here) campaign versus Bob Filner’s grassroots effort. In that scenario, San Diegans will have a choice between a mayor that will represent ALL San Diegans and a mayor who would not just represent moneyed interests but IS a moneyed interest posing as a reformer.
Now that would be a political contest that actually meant something.
If Fletcher’s equally well-funded effort to morph himself into a phony independent succeeds and draws away enough of the Democratic base to pass Filner, then we’ll have a contest between the Dr. Evil of the local libertarian hard right and his Ken doll opponent who talks like a moderate on his insipid TV commercials but who, in reality, is the same guy who fell all over himself to genuflect to Grover Norquist and heaped fawning praise on ALEC. Put succinctly, Fletcher is a Trojan horse par excellence.
In sum, a DeMaio/Fletcher run-off is the old guard’s wet dream. They win either way. Sure the Republicans might grumble a bit if Fletcher won, but they’d get the same kind of policy, and the same cozy little private government would rule because different factions of the city elite are backing both men. My guess is that the more handsome Fletcher would win and then we’d have a pretty picture postcard face to put over the same old shadow government.
This just in: it’s the guy who went to jail fighting for civil rights who is the game-changer here. So let’s break the historic pattern of settling for less, San Diego. Take a step toward making history and put a real progressive in the run-off tomorrow. It’s not anybody but DeMaio. Don’t vote fear, vote Filner.
Other Game Changers
If you’d like to keep upsetting the apple cart, hope that Lori Saldana beats Scott Peters’ million dollar self promotion machine in the 52nd Congressional District and smacks down the corporate Democrats in the New Democrat Coalition. And a win by Mat Kostrinsky in the District 7 City Council race would give us hope for electing a real ally for Bob Filner in November. In the 77th Assembly District, progressive Independent Greg Laskaris would present a bigger challenge to Republican Brian Maienschein than the weak back bencher the Democrats threw into that race. And let’s not forget the OB Rag’s own (and my good friend) Gregg Robinson who is running for County Board of Education District 1 along with fellow progressive educator and parent Lyn Neylon running in District 2. Finally, if you want to protect our schools from the forces of privatization, vote for Marne Foster, another educator, for the San Diego Unified School District Board in Seat E.
Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will
Why not shock the world and vote down Propositions A and B just to afflict the comfortable? That would be better than becoming the Wisconsin of the West.