City Councilman Carl DeMaio’s mayoral campaign picked up a major endorsement this weekend from the Republican Party of San Diego County. In advance of the vote, Voice of San Diego’s Andrew Donohue predicted it would be “a big boost for the candidate who got it.” The endorsement is an important development for DeMaio’s campaign and will pave the way for financial and institutional support in the June primary.
Institutional and financial support from the Republican Party means a great deal in San Diego, where County GOP Chairman Tony Krvaric and Executive Director Barrett Tetlow have assembled one of the finest party operations in the country. Several hundred activists routinely attend the monthly central committee meeting and scores of volunteers turn out for “off-year” campaign activities.
On the financial side, the San Diego GOP will be able to provide DeMaio’s campaign with contributions above the city’s draconian finance limits. Again, the San Diego GOP’s full service operation was partially responsible for the change in the law. A coalition of San Diego Republican groups, including the county party and Lincoln Club of San Diego, challenged the city’s illegal and unconstitutional limits in a landmark free speech case that was decided earlier this year.
This summer, I watched this machine in action when I profiled the Comprehensive Pension Reform campaign for CalWatchdog.com. The CPR measure was wholeheartedly endorsed by the San Diego GOP. Tetlow and Krvaric were among those going door-to-door to collect signatures. That’s also why I’m not surprised by this endorsement. DeMaio spent all summer in the trenches, collecting signatures with the hard-core party activists that usually have positions on party central committees.
County parties traditionally don’t get involved in contentious local races, especially when there are several well-respected partisans on the ballot. The party endorsed in the 2005 mayoral race, but that’s another exception that proves the rule.
This rare endorsement is all the more impressive because it was won on the first ballot and after Asm. Nathan Fletcher’s campaign “ran the full drill.” The campaign solicited a letter co-signed by Sen. Joel Anderson, Sen. Mark Wyland, Asm. Brian Jones and County Assessor Ernie Dronenburg urging the committee to focus its efforts on defeating Bob Filner, instead of backing one candidate.
On Thursday, Fletcher himself sent out an email about the endorsement fight. That pitch was followed up by an email from Erik Caldwell, Fletcher’s chief of staff, a San Diego GOP Central Committee Member and an accomplished Republican activist in his own right. Caldwell’s email was a bit shorter than the fourteen page dossier distributed by an anonymous Fletcher critic earlier in the week.
But, the most remarkable thing about the endorsement is what hasn’t happened. It’s early Monday morning and (so far) not a single campaign has cried foul about the process. No one is carping about cunning parliamentarian procedures or nefarious motions to disqualify committee members. No one is claiming that their candidate was treated unfairly. No one has called the process rigged.
“Tough but fair, tense but transparent” is how San Diego Rostra’s Jim Sills described it. “Fairness is why you hear no complaints or demands for recounts today.”
Credit goes to Kvaric for managing the meeting and the process. If only all Republican pre-primary endorsements ran this smoothly… The losing campaigns and candidates deserve credit, too. Fletcher and District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis could be spinning the results, downplaying the significance of the party endorsement or complaining about the process. They’ve shown grace in defeat. The San Diego Union Tribune’s Jen Lebron Kuhney has the reaction from the Dumanis and Fletcher camps.
Amy Thoma, Fletcher’s spokeswoman, said the assemblyman will continue to fight despite not winning the endorsement.
“We’re proud of the broad-based support we have,” Thoma said. “We’re looking forward to growing that support as we move forward.”
Dumanis took a similar approach in a statement she released after the endorsement was made.
“I am proud to be endorsed by both Republicans and Democrats who represent a long and diverse list of elected officials, law-enforcement groups, business leaders and individuals,” she said. “The mayor’s race is nonpartisan, and our city needs a mayor who will represent the interests of all San Diegans.”