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Tony Manolatos

The Times They Are a-Changin: Filner Hires Shepard

The rumors about Democrat Bob Filner signing Republican political consultant Tom Shepard to run his San Diego mayoral campaign became reality on Wednesday.

The U-T San Diego posted a story about the move last night. A blog post went up on San Diego Rostra about the same time. And there was Tony Krvaric’s email blast. The chair of local GOP didn’t mince words. His subject line: “BREAKING: Tom Shepard betrays our reform effort and signs on with Bob Filner!”

Krvaric closed by saying: “PS. The Republican Party of San Diego County will not do business with him ever again as long as I remain chairman. Elephants don’t forget – and principles matter.”

Shepard is a friend and a mentor. We’ve worked together. I admire and respect him. He took the loss in the June primary hard — he represented Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, who finished third behind DeMaio and Filner. Shepard is not a DeMaio fan and the bitter election battle certainly didn’t do anything to change his opinion.

From the U-T: In a Wednesday interview, Shepard said he knows his decision to back Filner will likely damage the relationships he’s built over the years and hurt his consulting business. He said he just couldn’t sit back and watch DeMaio become mayor because he knows “how much damage a destructive personality can do to an institution.”

This had to please local labor leader Lorena Gonzalez, who tweeted: “Kudos to Tom Shepard for putting our City above politics & even his business. A stand up guy. Wake up folks, DeMaio will wreck San Diego!”

FlashReport’s Jon Fleischman had a different take.

“I was disappointed to see Shepard allying himself with Filner,” Fleischman said. “This November San Diego voters will decide if the city is run by the public employee unions or whether the taxpayers are in charge. Shepard has sided with the unions.”

Shepard’s decision has cost him at least one client. Republican state Assembly candidate Sherry Hodges dropped him and announced Wednesday she retained Gilliard, Blanning & Associates, Inc.

“I have decided to make a change to my consulting team for my campaign for State Assembly,” Hodges said today in email to supporters. “My consultant from the primary has taken on a client that is ardently in contrast to my positions and my conservative values compel me to make a change. Tom Shepard and Associates is no longer my consultant.”

Shepard is smart, savvy and knows the mayor’s race and both candidates well. He knows if Filner runs a great campaign he’s going to be tough to beat. He also knows not to underestimate DeMaio, who is the most strategic politician in town.

DeMaio’s primary campaign was just about flawless. Filner’s campaign was brutal, but he still managed to stay close — losing to DeMaio by less than 3,000 votes.

The numbers — 40 percent of the registered voters in San Diego are Democrats and 28 percent are Republicans — favor Filner and so too will a big turnout in November.

Both candidates recently have displayed new campaign wrinkles to appeal to more voters. So as much as the Shepard hire surprised some, it wasn’t unexpected to every political insider.

Art Castañares, a Democratic consultant who DeMaio recently signed as a strategist, told me today: “Both candidates are looking at the same numbers. Both are being smart to reach across the aisle and expand their base. They have to do that.”

Tony Manolatos is a communications strategist. You can follow him on Twitter or LinkedInYou can hear Tony talk politics and media with KOGO’s LaDona Harvey every Monday at 2:35 p.m. on AM 600 and FM 95.7.


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