The Last Refuge for Losers and Scoundrels in Local Democratic Politics in Assembly District 80 and Council District 4
By Jim Miller
Before I devote the month of May to the San Diego Free Press’s upcoming focus on my Golden Hill neighborhood, recent events compel me to do one last column on the special elections in Assembly District 80 and City Council District 4.
The 80th California Assembly District: Lorena Gonzalez vs Steve Castaneda
In the race to replace Ben Hueso in the 80th it shouldn’t be shocking that Lorena Gonzalez’s opponent has attacked her for being a “union boss” except for the fact that that charge was hurled at her not from a Republican but from fellow Democrat, Steve Castaneda. Indeed, Mr. Castaneda, who would surely have taken labor’s endorsement if offered, was far too quick to turn to cartoon like right-wing anti-union stereotypes. This should tell us all we need to know about this variety of Democrat.
Sadly, he is one of a growing number of Democrats who can blithely turn on labor when it is convenient for their own political ambitions or pocket books.
As a union member, I am used to seeing this by now but it should also disturb anyone who wants the Democrats to be something other than just the liberal wing of one big business party. Even as Gonzalez has run a moderate campaign emphasizing her belief in compromise, Castaneda still felt the need to hit her from the right. This is not a war of position that should make progressives happy about the state of the Democrats locally or elsewhere.
If you live in Assembly District 80 you should vote for Lorena Gonzalez because she is a union leader and a progressive on issues like immigration reform, gay rights, and taxes. She shouldn’t have to apologize for that in a contest between two Democrats in a Democratic district. The fact that it is even an issue is a testimony to how meaningless the Democratic designation has become for far too many candidates. The good news is that Gonzalez will most likely smoke Castaneda and leave him to ponder his next move after being pasted by a “union boss.”
San Diego City Council District 4: Dwayne Crenshaw vs Myrtle Cole
Meanwhile, in the District 4 race, it has become clear that the Dwayne train is being driven by the Lincoln Club and that Kevin Faulconer is in the caboose cheering for one more vote on the City Council that can be moved by corporate money. As the San Diego Reader recently reported and Doug Porter has noted here, Dwayne Crenshaw is getting a boost from boatloads of right wing and business crowd money that includes the Lincoln Club, associates of Doug Manchester, companies angling for city contracts, and Walmart.
Despite all this, every single one of Cole’s primary opponents have endorsed Crenshaw against what they call in a CityBeat article “a political machine” that opposes “a community interest.” Of course, none of them, including Crenshaw had any trouble with local labor’s “political machine” when they were seeking its endorsement, so their new-found objection to big labor rings a bit hollow. When one factors in the kind of money and interests lining up behind Crenshaw this group endorsement seems like either a cynical sour grapes move or politically brain dead.
None of this was clarified by this bit of sage analysis from CityBeat: “Mayor Bob Filner endorsed Cole shortly after the primary, but it came during the annual Cesar Chavez Day march through downtown San Diego—not in District 4—and it came off to some as more how Cole could help Filner (the mayor mentioned, for example, how he needed her vote to get better wages for hotel workers) rather than what Cole had in mind to improve the lives of residents in District 4.”
The same article makes no reference to the Lincoln Club and other cash coming into the race in favor of Crenshaw, choosing instead to uncritically quote Cole’s opponents and tacitly accept their labor versus community frame even when it strains logic by suggesting that fighting for living wages for hotel workers is somehow completely unrelated to the lives of residents of District 4, a place where living wage jobs are more necessary than anywhere else in San Diego.
Do Cole’s opponents really expect the people of District 4 to believe that labor can create jobs in their community without the cooperation of business? Do they believe that the big money fighting to defeat Cole that has neglected their community for years unless they see the opportunity to exploit their labor for shit wages like they offer at Walmart have really started to care now? Apparently so.
Has labor put big money into the race to support Cole? Yes and here’s why: Cole will support Filner on the City Council and Filner, who District 4 residents voted for overwhelmingly, is the first mayor to actually care what happens in that District ever, period.
As I said in an earlier column endorsing Cole, “it’s pretty simple: if you want to help Mayor Filner fight to break the stranglehold of downtown moneyed interests over our city government, vote for Myrtle Cole. If you want the kind of Democrats that folded like a cheap tent when Walmart threatened them and are in bed with the hoteliers, support her opponents.”
The fact that a team of defeated Democratic candidates is letting themselves be used by those moneyed interests to help fight a progressive agenda in City Hall is a pathetic development indeed. And the portrayal of labor as a “machine” totally separate from the working class people that unions represent is a ploy straight out of the right wing playbook of folks like Scott Walker, Mitt Romney, and Carl DeMaio.
The money behind Myrtle Cole comes from working people, many of whom are of color, who comprise a big chunk of District 4. She is and should be proud to be supported by labor. And Crenshaw should be ashamed of getting the backing of the enemies of real progressive change in San Diego.
We don’t need another tool of business interests at City Hall. If you live in District 4 vote for Myrtle Cole and send the sellout Democrats a clear message that the Lincoln Club and Walmart are not advocates of progressive change there or anywhere else.