A debate’s raging in San Diego. A debate over debates.
It’s a curious thing. The moment San Diego mayoral candidate Councilman Carl DeMaio turned down a Voice of San Diego hosted candidates debate, among others already accepted by Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher and Congressman Bob Filner, suddenly he was the target of much speculation (District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis is also not expected to participate).
The result was what we media consultants lovingly call organic news. Suddenly, DeMaio’s name was everywhere – on social media, in headlines and churning in the poliwonk rumor mills. Then, the situation took an even stranger move – Fletcher and Filner sent DeMaio and Dumanis a letter asking them to join them in three upcoming scheduled debates.
In the letter, the pair wrote: “You have both enthusiastically pursued media coverage of your campaigns through news conferences, news releases, and public events, so it is difficult to understand why you would be unwilling to expose your views to a wider audience through the proposed forums.”
The reason for DeMaio’s snub: he said he’s focusing on getting the Comprehensive Pension Reform Initiative qualified for the ballot. Dumanis did not respond.
Of the four major candidates, DeMaio and Fletcher support the pension reform measure, which would end guaranteed pensions for all new city hires except police officers in favor of a 401(k)-type plan.
A valid signature deadline looms on October 14 for the measure, and they’ve had a heck of a time getting around opposition to make their dreams come true. In recent moves, the initiative bumped up the per signature fee and started taking the signature gathering efforts away from areas hounded by blockers. No doubt the recent labor-backed radio buys across the state warning voters not to sign petitions with a host of scare tactics, including *hammer toe, was ill-timed.
Tonight, the Republican Party of San Diego County’s hosting a town hall to gather signatures just for this effort. It’s that important to Republicans that it qualify.
So, riddle me this, Batman: what’s the big deal? Seriously. Who cares if DeMaio and Dumanis sit out a forum or two or all? I imagine the candidates know their supporters well enough to know whether these types of decisions will turn them off. In the case of DeMaio, focusing his energy on qualifying the measure just might be his best use of time.
Don’t misunderstand me, I’m a huge proponent of public discourse. It’s the best setting for voters to really see the true underbelly of candidates – answering questions on the fly, surrounded by their competition.
The sacred value of one’s vote arose at lunch yesterday with a Democrat friend (who just happens to be supporting Fletcher) and he mentioned his surprise at DeMaio not participating in the Voice debate with Fletcher and Filner. Not that it would make any difference to him – he’s made up his mind.
But what my friend brought up, and he’s quite right, is that debates are DeMaio’s territory. I’ve worked for candidates who become jangling, raw nerves before debates. DeMaio seems to downright enjoys them. I’ve sat agape, and even shook my head in a sitcom-esque style double take more times than I care to admit, watching him work an argument.
It would appear he wants, or more to the point, needs this measure to qualify. Could he see his race indivisible from the initiative? Perhaps he believes his success as mayor greatly decreases without pension reform.
Whatever the reasons, the echo chambers continue ringing over the dis. They’re indignant, annoyed and dare I say, offended by his downright lack of interest in favor of the pension reform measure.
It’s the rules of engagement: the one who won’t be caught keeps getting chased.
For a giggle, check out just a few of the social media daggers from @citybeatkelly, @AnybodyButCarl, @DaveMaass, @EvanSDlabor, @LiviaBorak, and from the San Diego Union-Tribune (spelling error and all) @sdutLocalPol. The topic even yielded its own hashtag: #insteadofdebating.
Must be somewhat satisfying to know he’s that important to the discussion.
*You cannot get hammer toe from signing a petition. I looked it up on WebMd.
Erica Holloway is an award-winning Republican media strategist and former print journalist based in San Diego. She served as communications director to former Senate Minority Leader Dennis Hollingsworth and San Diego County Supervisor Pam Slater-Price. In addition to the Flash Report, Holloway also blogs for San Diego Rostra. Follow her @erica_holloway.