The district is a bi-polar political entity. Geography and long-standing loyalties both exert a significant influence on elections in the city’s southernmost political sector.
City Council District 8 is bisected by National City & Chula Vista. The north and south ends have a majority Latino population in common, but the external realities differ.
The forces of gentrification weight heavily on neighborhoods connected to the core city like Barrio Logan. The border with Mexico, along with the militarization that goes with it, looms over the southern end.
Overlaid on these different environments are family and personal connections. To understand the race for city council in District 8, a history lesson is in order. I’ve simplified parts of this story because the nuances are near-impossible for an outsider to discern.
Communities: Barrio Logan, Egger Highlands, Grant Hill, Logan Heights, Memorial, Nestor, Ocean View Hills, Otay Mesa East, Otay Mesa West, San Ysidro, Shelltown, Sherman Heights, Stockton, Tijuana River Valley
Registered Democrats have a better than a three-to-one advantage over Republicans in the district, and the GOP didn’t bother to field a candidate for the June primary.
The contest for San Diego City Council in 2018 is a manifestation of a long-simmering feud symbolized by the animus between termed-out D8 Councilman David Alvarez and State Senator Ben Hueso.
Alvarez is the upstart whose actions have defied political convention.
Alvarez won his council seat when he beat Felipe Hueso, brother of the State Senator, in 2010. He’s currently running for a position on the Community College Board of Trustees. It’s no secret Alvarez will abandon the post (should he win) for a shot at Greg Cox’s County Supervisor seat when the incumbent is termed out in 2020. Ben Hueso would also reportedly like a shot at the same seat.
The District 8 Councilman ran for Mayor in 2014 with the backing of then-labor council president and would-be progressive political kingmaker Mickey Kasparian.
Then Alvarez crossed his former backer, soliciting a political contribution from Lincoln Club Political Affairs Committee chair (and now former Republican) David Malcolm, whose fortune comes from Suncoast Financial Mortgage.
Kasparian, still serving as president of the United Foodservice and Commercial Workers, fell from grace from the Labor Council amid accusation of sexual harassment and political malpractice. He started a rump group, the Working Families Council, with a couple of other breakaway unions, and is considered politically toxic in most progressive circles.
Alvarez staffer Vivian Moreno is his anointed candidate to replace him. Her challenger, San Ysidro School Board member Antonio Martinez, is backed by allies of Ben Hueso and the Working Families Council.
Vivian Moreno (Democrat)
Issues: Keep our neighborhoods safe by putting more police officers on the street, Create jobs and grow our economy by attracting more investment in our communities, Fix our streets and sidewalks and build more parks and playgrounds for our kids.
Organizational Endorsements: San Diego County Young Democrats, San Diego Municipal Employees Association (MEA), California Young Democrats (CYD), San Diego Union-Tribune, Sierra Club San Diego, Run Women Run, San Diego Democrats for Equality, San Diego Environmental Democrats, San Diego County Apartment Association, Democratic Women’s Club.
Union-Tribune – San Diego City Council candidate Vivian Moreno on the issues
KPBS – Vivian Moreno Wants More Housing, Transit Options In District 8
San Diego Reader– Candidates square off for Alvarez’s council seat
On paper, there’s little to distinguish the politics of the candidates. Moreno has come out against the idea of rent control, a position possibly connected to the copious amounts of money contributed to her effort by real estate interests.
While both candidates are vocal about “keeping our communities safe,” the nod from law enforcement establishment political action groups has gone to Martinez.
Moreno, on the other hand, was the beneficiary of a July 31 fundraiser whose hosts included Irene Rodriguez, married to National City Police Chief Manny Rodriguez. I’m not sure this constitutes an endorsement by the controversial cop, but the folks who forwarded me the invitation to the Achiote Restaurant event certainly did.
Antonio Martinez (Democrat)
Issues: Our Community’s Fair Share, Helping Every Child Succeed, Healthy, Safe Communities, Protecting South Bay Families
Organizational Endorsements: San Diego County Democratic Party, San Ysidro Teachers Association, Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters, San Diego Police Officers Association, United Association of Plumbers, Steamfitters and HVAC/R Local 230, San Diego City Fire Fighters, Deputy City Attorneys Association of San Diego, Planned Parenthood Action Fund of the Pacific Southwest, San Ysidro Classified School Employees Association, San Diego Working Families Council, Unite Here Local 30
Union-Tribune – San Diego City Council candidate Antonio Martinez on the issues
Times of San Diego – Second Primary Opponent Endorses Martinez for City Council District 8
Times of San Diego – Democratic Council Members Endorse Different Candidates
Martinez has the support of much–but not all–of the Democratic Party establishment. He got the party’s official blessing, which means its member communications pipeline now includes support for the Martinez campaign. What this means in terms of financial support will not be reported until later in the season, so quantifying it isn’t possible now.
So, when it comes time to vote, as best as I can determine, it’s really not about the candidates. It’s about what faction they represent. The Martinez website has a virtual catalog of politicos backing him. On the other hand, there’s the toxicity of Kasparian, whose ongoing battle with Latina activists makes any candidate he supports a no-go for many progressives.
Martinez and the two other candidates running in the June primary received 63% of the vote. Both Christain Ramirez and Zach Lazarus have endorsed his candidacy.
The Moreno website doesn’t have an endorsement page; I had to go digging through Facebook posts for what I’m sure was an incomplete list. While I normally don’t list individuals backing candidates on my posts, I think it is significant that Moreno is endorsed by Councilmember Georgette Gomez
Some of the Democratic party activists I spoke with on background for this story told me she had an “entitled attitude” in asking for support that cost her backing. Certainly, there is a long history in San Diego of political staffers replacing their bosses, and Alvarez has gone all-in drumming up support for Vivian Moreno.
Like I said, it’s complicated.
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