The race for District 4 County Supervisor is heating up. And not necessarily in a good way.
Four Democratic candidates are seeking the seat: attorney Omar Passons, former Deputy Fire Chief Ken Malbrough, along with former Assemblypersons Lori Saldaña and Nathan Fletcher. Former DA Bonnie Dumanis is the sole Republican on the June 5 primary ballot.
Saldaña and Fletcher are the ones making the news this week, with stories in the Union-Tribune and the Times of San Diego. You’d need a scorecard to keep track of the charges and counter-charges between two camps. While I’m not going to detail every move and countermove, I will give readers a taste of what’s been happening.
In a nutshell, last week candidate Lori Saldaña was endorsed by a breakaway labor group scorned by many progressive activists. This news has triggered a war of words.
The upheaval has little to do with platform promises or past voting records; it’s about temperament. Although Saldaña touts her truly progressive tenure in the Assembly, she has burned more than a few bridges along the way.
While she has plenty of loyalists willing to argue for her candidacy on social media, her campaign –according to the report issued at the end of January — had the least amount of money of anybody running for the office. Saldaña obviously needs a well-heeled backer. She needed this endorsement.
Fletcher, on the other hand, has endorsements spanning the social and political groupings throughout the Democratic Party. And he’s raised the most money by far. He didn’t need an endorsement from this group.
He has come a long way in the past six years, actively campaigning for and supporting just about every progressive cause I can think of. His marriage to one of the rising stars in the Democratic party, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher, hasn’t hurt his credibility, either. When it comes to responding to attacks on her husband’s campaign, Mrs. Gonzalez-Fletcher has mighty sharp elbows.
Fletcher is–gasp!–a former Republican. And to hear Saldaña tell it, this is an unforgivable sin. In fact, his voting record in the Assembly from a decade ago dominates her campaign.
Saldaña wears the mantle of Progressive Outsider Democrat. Fletcher has the enthusiasm of a Convert to the Cause. There is no chasm in terms of policies each candidate would actually advocate as the sole Democrat on the five-person Board of Supervisors.
Now, a little bit of background about the controversial endorsement at the heart of this matter.
Mickey Kasparian, President of United Foodservice and Commercial Workers Local 135, established the Working Families Council (WFC) with a few other unions in 2017, just as observers from the national AFL-CIO reached the conclusion he ought to be booted from his leadership role in the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council.
Depending on whose version of the breakup you listen to, it was either ‘you’re fired’or ‘I quit.’
As President of the Council, Kasparian was attracting unwelcome attention as ex-employees of the UFCW went public with assertions of sexual harassment or retaliation for standing up to him. Other unions on the council were also chafing at his ‘my way or the highway’ leadership style.
Kasparian’s recently settled up with the women who filed legal claims. The deals all include non-disclosure agreements, so what’s left on the public record are the labor leader’s denials.
What’s left on the political ledger in San Diego are hard feelings from supporters of Las Tres Hermanas, the nom de guerre adopted by the women. They hounded Kasparian in public appearances and on social media over the past 15 months. They’re still at it, having just announced plans to picket the upcoming UFCW convention in Las Vegas.
The County Democratic Party moved its meetings to another location just to get away from those pesky picket lines. And the intrigue inside the party over Kasparian’s (very important financial) relationship with the organization won’t make anybody proud, when and if it comes to light.
This has been real uncomfortable for a lot of folks. For some, it was about #MeToo. For others, it was a matter of loyalty to a leader who they saw as a progressive visionary. Allies have become enemies and vitriol spewing forth on social media continues to this day.
Just 14 months ago Lori Saldaña was a signatory to a letter with 45 other progressives responding to claims of sexual harassment and calling on the Mickey Kasparian to be suspended pending an investigation. Later she Tweeted, “I have no plans ‘to accept a contribution, an endorsement or other types of campaign support from UFCW 135 or the Working Families Council while Mickey Kasparian is president.’”
Last week the WFC endorsements were published.
Candidate Nathan Fletcher’s campaign issued a press release reflecting much of the reaction to the endorsement on social media:
In a stunning display of shameless political opportunism, Lori Saldaña has taken the political support of Mickey Kasparian, an accused sexual harasser who just months ago she demanded step down from office in response to allegations of sexual harassment, gender discrimination and workplace abuses.
The optics of her response to criticism arising out of this endorsement are not good.
Saldaña told the UT on Friday her January tweet about not accepting support from the Working Families Council was written when “she did not believe that the council would be offering endorsements.”
“I said, literally in a tweet, that I had no plans…I had no plans to ask for it because they had no plans to offer,” she said.
She said she was concerned about the allegations against Kasparian and has not changed her position…
…Saldaña would not say on Friday whether she believed the women who accused Kasparian of misconduct and then settled their complaints.
Then she got into a squabble with UT reporter Joshua Stewart, demanding to know why he didn’t quote anybody from WFC in his article. The short answer: they didn’t respond to his request.
Then she started posting the old stories about Carl DeMaio’s accuser being busted for making false statements, the implication being that somehow Kasparian’s accusers could be lying.
Criticism of her affiliation with Kasparian and the WFC on social was brutal:
I took campaign contributions from a strip club, so it’s hard for me to claim the moral authority in San Diego, but I do finally have it over one person- Lori Saldana! What are you thinking- are you that desperate? Have you no compass? You’ve become an enabler- you are shameful! https://t.co/BCW61YakVK
— Ralph Inzunza (@RalphInzunza) March 16, 2018
The Times of San Diego posted an article (and then corrected it) making the claim that Nathan Fletcher sought Mickey Kasparian’s support in late 2017.
Josh Kellems of the Fletcher campaign said the Working Families Council invited Fletcher to interview for the endorsement, “but [the campaign] never received a copy of the questionnaire or a detailed explanation of their process.”
The Fletcher spokesman said: “We were told if Nathan made a personal apology to Kasparian and issued a statement exonerating him, we could earn the endorsement. Nathan refused to abandon survivors of harassment and side with their abuser. Clearly, Lori Saldaña agreed.”
Hearing that, Kasparian said: “If you really wanted to come in for an endorsement, wouldn’t you request a questionnaire? If they’re going to start splitting hairs. … Oh, wouldn’t you make a phone call?”
The AFL-CIO affiliated Labor Council has made it clear for months now that their endorsed candidates should not seek the Working Family Council’s blessing.
Some hinky stuff about the WFC’s list of endorsements makes me question the credibility of that organization. I have heard through a third party from two ‘endorsed’ candidates for the County Board of Education (more on this in another story to come) who say they never sought the endorsement or filled out a questionnaire.
And the press release announcing the WFC endorsement of Saldaña included the Service Employees International Union local that represents many of the 10,000 county employees.
Local 221 was one of the first organizations to endorse Nathan Fletcher (July 2017) and recently announced it was leaving Kasparian’s group.
The WFC leader told the Times of San Diego –while he was aware of Voice of San Diego’s reporting on the departure–he was unaware of SEIU’s departure. I’m guessing maybe SEIU President David Gracia’s conversation with Kasparian’s political director Kelly Bankhead went unreported. Or maybe he missed the announcement on social media.
So, yeah, in case you haven’t guessed, I’m taking a side here. I find her acceptance of this endorsement unacceptable. I invite you to do a little time traveling with me to understand why.
Let’s start with an imaginary visit to June 6th, the day after the primary election. Let’s say that one of the three Democrats other than Saldaña gets enough votes to make it to the November ballot.
If the other Democrat happens to be Nathan Fletcher, candidate Saldaña all-but-promised at the Democrats for Equality forum to take her marbles and go home.
The local party has –true fact– greased the wheels for him, and that’s not fair. Or you could say he’s learned to play the insider’s game very well.
The forces backing Fletcher have not been shy about pushing his candidacy, and there are people other than Saldaña who are unhappy about the processes involved, both with the Democratic Party and the Labor Council. But I’m fairly certain they won’t sit out campaigning in the general election.
It’s one thing to wish the vetting processes of the Democratic party were more transparent; it’s another to give aid and comfort to the people who ultimately–despite posturing–support the Trump agenda.
Now, let’s go to early in 2017.
Saldaña has told folks I know she laid the groundwork for her campaign by cozying up with people who should be political enemies: those associated with the Lincoln Club. They had some push-polling showing she’d be a stronger candidate come November once the dirt in their possession got thrown at Nathan Fletcher.
These are the same people who funded mailers implying councilman and mayoral candidate David Alvarez was a Barrio Don Corleone. The Lincoln Club knows how to do these things, especially when it comes to divide and conquer.
Then there was Saldaña’s tet-a-tet with then-DA and now Republican Supervisor candidate Bonnie Dumanis. And the former DA’s campaign consultant Jason Roe has been heard singing the praises of his client’s opponent.
It turns out that Mickey Kasparian also has a relationship with these folks.
At one point a few years back Kasparian was doing his best to claim the mantle of kingmaker in San Diego politics. I remember Richard Barrera telling the Point Loma Democratic Club of a million dollar pledge back when Kasparian headed the legit labor council to boost voter registration and get out the vote efforts.
Nathan Fletcher’s unsuccessful run for mayor in the wake of Bob Filner’s demise represented a challenge to Kasparian, who supported City Councilman David Alvarez. (As did I, for the record.)
Local Republicans didn’t like Fletcher, in large part because he’d abandoned their party, and because he had –from a name recognition standpoint– a better shot at beating their man, Kevin Faulconer.
I believe this was the point where Kasparian started making deals with the devil. That’s a slippery slope, and it wasn’t long before other deals got made with the GOP. The ascension of Myrtle Cole to City Council President was one of those deals. And I’m guessing the some the city’s trade unions got the short end of the stick on at least one deal beneficial to the UFCW.
So, while a surge of progressive activism came in the wake of Donald Trump’s election, San Diego’s union movement had a serious fracture on its hands.
The 2018 elections represent an opportunity for the Working People’s Council to make its mark on local politics. The key contest, from the point of view of labor, is for termed-out Ron Roberts’ seat.
Term limits (something Kasparian helped orchestrate) for the Board of Supervisors have negated the advantages of incumbency. It’s entirely possible Democrats–who haven’t been players at this level for decades–may end up with a majority in the next few years.
County elections at this point (unlike City & State races) can be decided on June 5 if any candidate gets more than 50% of the vote.
The consequence of negative campaigning is to drive down voter turnout. Lower voter turnout in the primary election favors the status quo.
In the District 4 Supervisor race, the status quo is represented by Republican Bonnie Dumanis. And that’s apparently fine with the Working Families Council; as the GOP candidate was the only other one considered…
By a labor group. In 2018. Think about it.
*While this story concerns the candidacies of just two Democratic candidates, don’t let all the hubbub eclipse consideration of the other two folks running: Omar Passons and Ken Malbrough.
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bob dorn says
Wow, that’s some deep digging into what usually remains hidden; San Diego’s mean and dirty politiking. Our political kings and queens do their doo-doo well removed from the public’s view.
Liz S says
Why not keep above the fray and vote for someone who is running a strong grassroots campaign? Vote for Omar Passons. Research his amazing story and why he’s running.
Ernesto Barrera says
This is all stemming from the debacle of the Bob Filner scandal and the power-play games between Lorena Gonzalez and Mickey Kasparian.
In 2013, Democrats and Labor were warned that the personal split and infighting among the factions supporting Nathan Fletcher and those supporting David Alvarez had the potential to not only elect Kevin Faulconer, but destroy the progressive movement in San Diego.
Alas, Alvarez supporters chose to feel self-rightous and attack those who preferred Fletcher as “DINO’s” or “Corporatista Democrats” , while the Fletcher forces attempted then and now to turn his candidacy into a referendum on feelings towards Lorena.
Once again, we see much the same dynamic in 2018 – and unless Democrats unite behind a candidate of integrity – Omar Passons – we’ll see very similar results to what happened in 2013.
Until the Democratic Party and Labor in San Diego can grow up and act the way a big city and county progressive network should act, we will continue to have Republican governance.
That hurts the working and poor people of San Diego and that – that alone – should be the only concern of anyone within the Labor movement or the Democratic Party.
Surfer Girl says
Yes yes yes! Omar Passons is the candidate you can be proud of to support. He is a native born San Diegan who grew up in the San Diego County foster care system until he was adopted. He went on to help support over 100 foster brothers and sisters until he attended college, graduate school and then law school. Omar came back to San Diego to give back to his community. When he realized there was an opportunity to step up his leadership he decided to run for County Board of Supervisors in District 5, held by Ron Roberts for over 2 decades. Let’s elect someone who is above the fray, a man who is consistent in his long held values and beliefs. There is no flip flopping with Omar, what you see and hear is exactly what you will get. I am so honored to support this fine man and I ask you to go to click omarpassons.com and check out his web site. You will find substantive plans for seniors, youth advocacy, housing crisis, homelessness and much more. Thank you Doug Porter for writing this so democrats and progressives can view for themselves what is happening “under the tent.” It’s yucky! June 5th you can make a HUGE change and vote for Omar Passons. You will be so glad you did. He will make you proud! No fluff, just stuff. #IntegrityMatters
Bonnie Russell says
I asked Omar Passions about addressing misogyny in San Diego.
His response? Crickets.
Moving along…. the DA’s race. Ix-nay on Summer.
It’s a wonder stayed in San Diego as long as she did.
But Kendra had to move her business out of San Diego to stay safe.
Surfer Girl says
This comment surprises me about Omar Passons and I have a feeling if you asked “on line” he did not see the question – he walks precincts even day and doesn’t spend as much time on line…he is endorsed by California National Organization for Women and San Diego Press Press, Voice and Viewpoint, Ocean Beach Rag and even Union Tribune. Please go to omarpassons.com and ask your question. I imagine he will have a lot to say about the issue of misogyny, sexism as well as an earful about racism.
Ryan L says
I’m voting for Omar Passons.
Elvia Smith-Corona says
I’m not sure I understand this issue very well. To me, Lori Saldana is a progressive democrat who is forced to raise money and is doing so by trying to appeal to local labor unions. If Mr. Kasparian sends her a personal check I would agree with her returning it, but to say no to an endorsement and money from a group of democratic aligned labor unions doesn’t make sense to me. What is puzzling to me is how local progressive democrats can support Nathan Fletcher? Here’s a young man who if I recall correctly was a diehard republican who worked for Duke Cunningham and now suddenly he’s a progressive democrat? I may be getting older but with age comes wisdom and this young man is in a hurry and his values and beliefs be damned. He just wants to win.
Lori Saldaña says
Thank you Elvia.
They don’t seem to be able to distinguish Working Families Council as a labor organization, and make it sound like it’s only one person with a checkbook passing out money.
For a publication that often promotes labor unions and the right of workers to organize, that seems an oversight.
FWIW- I’m an AFT member and former union carpenter. I met with the leadership of the Laborers Union last year to ask for their support. So did at least one other candidate.
The Laborers are part of the Working Families Council and reviewed our respective voting records on their issues.
I was consistently supportive.
My opponent was not supportive or consistent.
That’s how earning an endorsement works.
Brent E. Beltrán says
Kasparian controls WFC. It says and does what he wants. He was kicked out of the Labor Council by AFL-CIO. He got his minions in other Locals to pull out of the LC. Seeing the error of its ways SEIU 221 pulled out of WFC. Everybody in labor knows all of this. Yet somehow you do not? Is it purposeful ignorance? What Kasparian did to Olga Diaz and David Alvarez wasn’t enough? Or that he settled four civil cases by four Latinas is that not enough? His ego split labor in San Diego, is that not enough? What will be enough? What will be enough to not seek and accept the endorsement and money from a man that was accused of those disgusting things against women? Plenty of others see it. And plenty of others have chosen to not be affiliated in any way with him.
Bonnie Russell says
People can change.
However, I will say when I attended the State Parole Board hearings for Double teenage killer, John Gardner, called by Nathan Fletcher, Fletcher refused to look at the one company whose GPS ankle bracelet can’t be cut. So many murders later, I spoke with him about it. Didn’t get a feel he was interested.
I tried Lori, too. Also No response. Same for Applegate, (before discovering what a creep Applegate is.) The guy had a meltdown when I confronted him at one of those “Meet the Candidate” meetings. Wound up screaming people were lying about his record. His State Bar record! Duh. Which wasnabout ripping off a client. Duh
To date the only person in any campaign that is supporting great GPS, with straps that can’t be cut, and real-time victim notification ahead of time, is: Mike Levin. And he’s low key about it. GPS is not a State issue, it’s a Federal issue, as we have a right, and pay taxes to live in safety. How dare any candidate refuse to address the right to live in safety.
Mind you, when I tipped NBC to this horror show GPS story, they cut the part out of the story that featured the solution! Never mind that it took NBC seven months to air the Report showing how much at risk we all are because most counties use one, horrible GPS product…instead of the cheaper, more technology advanced one.
Returning to politics.
Women voting for the character-free Doug Applegate, (never mind campaigning for him) is symptomatic of San Diego’s openly misogynistic bent. San Diego women remind me of the Stepford Wives movie. Most women won’t even speak openly about this. Shame on them.
Michael Durkin says
The voting records of Saldaña and Fletcher are more instructive than all this skullduggery. Fletcher’s record is pro-gun, anti labor & anti-environment. Saldaña’s record is for sensible gun control, pro labor & pro-environment. You can see for your self at:
Votesmart also shows Fletcher has an “A” rating with the National Rifle Association (NRA) with 93%.
I am in agreement with all of Lori Saldaña’s votes and opposed to all of Nathan Fletcher’s votes. It is not because Fletcher used to be Republican but because he voted against the interests of everyone I know.
Lori Saldaña says
Thank you Michael. I appreciate your support and fact checking.
Lori Saldaña says
“Political smear isn’t personal; it’s a strategy for gaining power. It’s frustrating and tedious, but once understood, it should be dismissed, not indulged.” – US Rep. Keith Ellison
I first met Keith Ellison in 2011 as I prepared to run for Congress in 2012. He was hard at work in Washington DC supporting progressive candidates around the country.
I appreciated his encouragement and support and continue to admire his commitment to serving people despite the attacks against his character that are part of his experience as a Muslim and a black man.
What I’ve learned from him and others is that these attacks are launched against candidates who are seen as a threat to the status quo.
Opponents attack our strengths- then hide behind others they pay to launch the most fervent insults. I learned this in 2004 when I first ran for state assembly and I was accused of wanting “open borders.”
This year I’m accused of colluding with Republicans and siding with abusers of women.
The 2004 accusations represented hateful rhetoric from Republicans who feared immigration reform and the growing tide of Latino voters.
Today it’s about the #MeToo movement and the power of women and communities of color.
As a Latina : I’ve grown accustomed to these attacks. But I’ve also grown tired of seeing them prevent young women and people of color from entering politics.
And as a survivor of sexual assault: I know politically motivated smears silence many women who want to speak up about their experience of abuse and sexual assault, but fear similar criticism.
In the end, only by having more people from diverse backgrounds serve in positions of political representation will we move past this hateful and divisive rhetoric.
Being attacked on immigration reform didn’t silence me in 2004.
Being sexually assaulted as a college student didn’t prevent me from completing my college degree.
These most recent attacks won’t stop me from continuing to campaign for San Diego county supervisor.
So what I get from this article is that the sole repugnantcan may get the 50%+ as the Democratic vote will be quite split. If no one gets to 50% its a run off of the top two, at least one of whom will be a Dem and the winner. Fingers crossed on a high turn out.
Surfer Girl says
I say BELIEVE that a first time candidate (all electeds had a first time) with the qualities we want most in our leaders can win! Aren’t you tired of the same games? Aren’t you over candidates fluff without real solutions to very difficult issues like homeless and housing? Aren’t you tired of the same ol’ rhetoric without substance? Aren’t you tired of our San Diego region embracing mediocrity in our elections? Go to omar passons.com and get to know Omar Passons, his life story and his thoughtful vision about the potential changes and opportunities at San Diego County Board of Supervisors. Lori Saldaña accuses people of smears. No one from Omar’s staff has smeared her or any other candidate. Integrity matters and only Lori and Nathan are throwing mud right now. Yuck! Come join Omar and BELIEVE that a black man who grew up in San Diego’s foster care system who educated himself through college, graduate school and Law School can grow up to run for office in his community to change and breathe new life into our arcane County Government. Courage Strength and Hope is what Omar can bring to local government. June 5th you can make the difference with a new voice at the table of regional leadership. You can change the paradigm with your vote for Omar Passons.
so, Ms. Girl, you want us all to cast our votes based on BELIEF rather than rational thought?
you may BELIEVE what you wish, but i’ll trust my brain and actual data to inform my vote.
Debbie Terry says
Bottom line for me. Everyone running has either the experience and or commitment to qualify to run for this office. My experience, after working for 34 years with the City of San Diego, is that if there is more than a single qualified candidate, pick the one that will add the most to the department, or in this case, the Board or Supervisors. In this case, we do not need a another white man in a ridiculously homogeneous group that is supposed to be representing D4. If you have five drummers in a band for God’s sake hire a guitarist. There is no way that I would vote for yet another white person – especially a man – to perpetuate this unfair representation of the public they serve. Kenny, Omar and Lori fit the bill to integrate the group. They each would bring their insights and cultural awareness regarding County-wide issues to the present group who don’t know what they don’t know.
WRONGLY ACCUSED THE GLESTY WATERS STORY says
I agree, Mss Summer’s AS DA…:-)
WRONGLY ACCUSED THE GLESTY WATERS STORY says
I agree with the truth…:-) I didn’t do the crime’s I was convicted of…:-( I want to be exonerated of those Crime… I was convicted of… I agree to tell you,America the truth… But First Lets Get To The Truth???
WRONGLY ACCUSED THE GLESTY WATERS STORY says
If my, Over 8,000 followers on linkden, see my Comment…:-) I’ll be happy…:-) We have hey purpose …:-)
WRONGLY ACCUSED THE GLESTY WATERS STORY says
You Miss Summers, Will need to, Solve the Murders Of 45; Prostution, Killings… From 1985—1988… In San Diego California. You Miss Summers, need to read, my book… Your Boss DA Bonnie Dumanis… Conspired along with her lead; Dectives… To have me convicted of crimes I never committed… Your radio speech knowing, Ed Milled didn’t impress me… It dosn’t mean I don’t like you eather… I want to be exonerated… Are you able to get this done???
Bonnie Russell says
Kendra Beebe is lucky to be alive. Zero credit to Summer.
Summer refuses to open the case of Beebe’s ex, Chetwyn Archer, as an accessory in Kendra’s near murder….although Kendra supplied all kinds of evidence…she learned from phone records, (Malil and Johnny Archer spoke the night before Malil stabbed Kendra multiple times for 45 minutes.
Kendra told the DA this. Kendra also told the DA Malil and Archer also spoke the day Kendra was stabbed 23 times) …violating an restraining order.
Kendra learned other things at Malil’s recent request for parole. Summer’s office is actually helping Kendra’s ex, run out the clock on the statute of limitations.
So no Summer for me, thanks all the same.
Debbie Terry says
We can do better than this!
Glesty Waters says
There is no free press ? True facts don’t get poster Why not ???
Glesty Waters says
I wouldn’t have almost 9,000 followers on Linkden, if I was an idiot…:-( San Diego Free Press wake up… Your not sharing free press… I’m giving you free press information… Your profiling my comments & discarding what I’m posting…:-( What is your opinion of free press ???
Glesty Waters says
San Diego Free Press; My statements are backed by facts… 29 years of investigation work. My one of 5 Investigator’s I’ve hired over 29 years, is Mike Kiger. Missing Ink Inc. If you want to hear free press ? Or your free press is a joke??? Then sensor this message…:-( I’ll take a snap picture for my records… As I see it now my last two comments were removed…:-(
Doug Porter says
So, late at night/early morning you expect somebody with an all volunteer organization to be standing by to approve your comments, and if don’t drag our asses out of bed to do it, we’re part of the conspiracy against you or whatever your causes is, right? I’m approving all your comments, just so our readers can see how ridiculous you are. Try reading our terms of service (top of the page tab or about us in the future.) In the meantime, all your comments will have to moderated–when we feel like it– and if you insist on hurling insults we’ll just spam list you.
Have a nice day.