By Doug Porter
The narrative about the contest for the Third District City Council seat, namely that leading candidates Chris Ward and Anthony Bernal weren’t all that different, ended yesterday.
Voice of San Diego’s Andy Keatts wrote about a growing controversy stemming from donations to the Bernal campaign by former UT-San Diego publisher ‘Papa Doug’ Manchester and wife.
Support from a major contributor to the campaign against same-sex marriage in California is likely to be toxic in a council district whose politics have been dominated by LGBTQ activists in recent decades.
District 3, which includes downtown but also the neighborhoods surrounding Balboa Park like Hillcrest, is home to the city’s organized LGBT community. It’s been represented by an openly gay politician since Christine Kehoe won in 1993, becoming San Diego’s first openly gay elected official.
Now, Bernal has taken a combined $1,100 from Manchester and his wife. Manchester gave $125,000 to the campaign to ban gay marriage in 2008.
“This is the district of Christine Kehoe, and Toni Atkins, and Todd Gloria, and now (Bernal) is taking money from someone who did everything he could to make sure those people could not marry someone they love,” said Will Rodriguez-Kennedy, president of San Diego Democrats for Equality, which endorsed Ward. “To take that money is a betrayal to the district and the people he’s seeking to represent.”
The only way out of this for Bernal was to say he disagreed with the Manchesters on marriage issues, which is exactly what he did. Feelings about Proposition 8 run deep in the district, and Manchester ruined whatever good will he might have garnered as a developer during his tenure as publisher of the local daily newspaper.
The Stalking Horse
There’s more to this story than meets the eye. The right wing/business support for Bernal–first noted by Democrat Jess Durfee, who called the candidate a stalking horse for the Republican Party–is part of a more complex strategy to tie up liberal/labor resources in the D3 contest that might be otherwise available for a more critical contest in District 1.
From Voice of San Diego, March 18:
A confidential memo obtained by Voice of San Diego alerted party insiders that Anthony Bernal, a staffer for Councilman Todd Gloria who’s running to replace his boss, was actually a stalking horse for the Republican Party. The party needed to endorse his opponent Chris Ward, chief of staff for state Sen. Marty Block, to stave off the “stealth GOP takeover of San Diego City Council,” according to the memo.
Jess Durfee, the county party’s chair emeritus, looked through the donation histories of Bernal’s donors and found a number of them had been substantial contributors to the Republican National Committee, a handful of Republican presidential campaigns and conservative local groups like the Lincoln Club.
In all, nearly $10,000 of the roughly $100,000 Bernal has raised so far came from people with a history of donating to Republican candidates and causes, according to Durfee’s memo.
Bernal fired back with an op-ed in VOSD ten days later, essentially saying ‘everybody does it.’
It’s ironic that our local Democratic Party preaches an open and accepting environment that encourages people to get involved in the process. Yet, if you interfere with the agenda of the establishment members or have a perspective that may differ slightly with the sentiments of the establishment, you will be shunned. That’s the reality, folks.
However, here’s another reality: I am a Democrat, and I will always be a Democrat because I believe in our platform and our work to help all people have the chance to succeed.
Bernard was correct in the sense that mainstream candidates leave no stone unturned when it comes to raising money, regardless of political affiliation. Some donors give to multiple candidates, hoping for future access. Others give across ideological lines because of personal connections.
Just about all major candidates have professional fundraisers, most of whom work on a percentage basis. What makes Anthony Bernal’s funding exceptional is the institutional support that goes along with it, along with the promises they are making on behalf of the candidate.
Take, for example, this fundraising invitation:
The Presidential election years draw plenty of attention to our national politics. But here in San Diego we know how important it is to elect the right leaders to our local municipal government. In very recent cycles we’ve elected a pro-business Mayor in Kevin Faulconer and helped to build up a pro-business council around him – and we are already seeing results! This is why I encourage you to keep up the momentum and join me in supporting Anthony Bernal for San Diego District 3.
Ben & Ann Haddad, Craig & Melanie Benedetto, Bob White, and I are co-hosting a fundraiser for Anthony at the Haddad’s home next Wednesday on March 2nd at 5:30pm. Will you join us?
Anthony has received the endorsements of many business leaders and business associations like the Building Industry Association and the California Restaurant Association. He also has great grassroots support from the community in District 3 – an area he’s been working on behalf of at City Hall for the last seven years. Prior to becoming the Director of Business and Community Projects for Council District 3, Anthony worked for a local construction and engineering firm.
Will you join me in support of our pro-business candidate for District 3, Anthony Bernal, next week?
The Building Industry Association, the California Restaurant Association, California Strategies and the Regional Chamber of Commerce are all represented in significant ways in the Haddad invitation. That’s a lot of (mostly) conservative clout for any candidate, let alone one who touts his Democratic party inclinations.
Rumors dating back to early March have Bernal actually meeting the Manchesters at a fundraiser. Their donations were made one day prior to this event.
Part of what’s happening is that Republicans have learned to seek out and support “pro-business” Democrats as a means of bolstering their influence in an otherwise politically hostile environment.
A conservative Political Action Committee, with the reliably Republican April Boling and Ryan Clumper as officers, has emerged, calling itself Neighborhood Services Coalition in support of Anthony Bernal for City Council 2016.
In the all-democratic contest for District 9 City Council, the regional Chamber of Commerce has launched a political action committee, called Urban Neighbors United supporting Ricardo Flores for City Council 2016 sponsored by and Major Funding from the SD Regional Chamber of Commerce PAC.
What’s This Got to Do With District One?
The critical City Council contest in the upcoming primary is the race for District One. Early polling showed Republican Ray Ellis possibly getting a big enough margin over Democrat Barbara Bry to win the seat outright in the June primary.
Winning the D1 seat on the council will shift the balance of power to Republicans and that’s what at the bottom of all this newfound love for Democrats.
Multiple sources have told me that business/Republican support in normally Democratic council races, particularly in D3, was aimed at diverting financial support from the Bry vs Ellis contest. Representatives of the Restaurant Association have been especially open about this strategy.
Things have gotten more complicated in the District 1 contest since retiring incumbent Sheri Lightner’s husband, Bruce, declared his candidacy. He jumped into the race hoping to divert enough votes to get the contest past the primary, mostly because he’s still steamed about personal attacks made by Ellis in the 2012 elections.
Another complication in the D1 contest is the popularity of Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Students at UCSD, not normally a high propensity voting bloc, have been among the Senator’s most avid supporters. They have also been walking precincts for the Bry campaign. So the normally Republican advantage in primaries may not hold.
And in other news….
Homeless Rock Block Effort Backfiring on City of San Diego
The City’s decision to place rocks along a stretch of Imperial Avenue linking Sherman Heights to downtown in hopes of preventing homeless people from sleeping under a freeway overpass continues to backfire.
Nine thousand people signed petitions delivered to the mayor’s office last week to protest the hardscape and to petition for the city to set aside land for temporary, affordable tiny houses for the homeless on a six-month trial basis.
A Los Angeles Times story revealed some unintended consequences:
Sherman Heights resident Silvia Leon said the rocks have made the stretch of Imperial Avenue below the 5 cleaner, but since their installation she has noticed more homeless people near her residence four blocks away.
“It’s cleaned up,” she said of Imperial Avenue. “But now, I walked out of my house this morning and I have homeless on my block, picking up their sleeping bags. They’re being pushed into our neighborhood.”
And here’s the icing on the cake: the property in question belongs to CALTRANS, and they were left out of the decision to place the rocks at that location.
The city DID have permission to place paving blocks on the property. But now that a controversy has erupted, it’s not considered likely the jagged rocks will be considered part of the deal. That is a no-no, my friends. It is written somewhere, I’m sure: “Thou Shall Not Piss Off CALTRANS.”
I’m told the City of San Diego will likely be asked to pay a fine large enough to house eight homeless people for a year.
On This Day: 1886 – Four striking workers were killed, at least 200 wounded when police attacked a demonstration on Chicago’s south side at the McCormick Harvesting Machine plant. The Haymarket Massacre took place the following day. 1948 – The Supreme Court ruled that covenants prohibiting the sale of real estate to blacks and other minorities were legally unenforceable. 1967 – Carl Wilson (Beach Boys) went to court on draft evasion charges.
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