The Awkwardness of the U.S. Attorney Refereeing the Mayor's Race

Elections

The Awkwardness of the U.S. Attorney Refereeing the Mayor's Race

Laura Duffy is the story here, not Bob Filner.

 

I’ve gotten a bit of pushback for yesterday’s headline highlighting U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy’s complaints about U.S. Rep. Bob Filner, who’s running for mayor.

The headline is: “U.S. Attorney: Members Felt Filner ‘Embarrassed Himself’ at Temple Forum.”

Ramsey Green, a friend of mine who lives in New Orleans but grew up in San Diego, wrote this: “In New Orleans, when the phrase, ‘US Attorney’ is stated within a headline with the name of a politician, a reader doesn’t even need to read any further … someone is getting indicted.”

Another reader, Jeff Hammett, complained that, while it’s an accurate headline, Duffy was speaking from a personal perspective, not a professional one. “U.S. Attorney” therefore, wasn’t how she should be referenced.

The U.S. attorney is the top representative of the Justice Department in San Diego. U.S. attorneys are the ones mostly likely to lead political corruption efforts and their profile in regional law enforcement is as high as it gets.

Yes, this whole thing started from an email from Duffy’s personal account to the Carl DeMaio campaign. Had she not been willing to confirm it and elaborate on her point with me on the record, I don’t know if I would have run with it.

But she did. And I think she’s the story here, not Filner.

Again, my friend Green puts it perfectly:

Frankly, if the US Attorney and the members of the Temple invited these two candidates for mayor to their congregation and didn’t expect a bit of aggressive back and forth, then they are too naive to be inviting political candidates to any event at any time. I don’t even live in San Diego and could have told Ms. Duffy what the outcome would have been.

I agree and I tried to make that point in the post. Also, Duffy is not naïve. So, why Duffy decided to apologize to DeMaio and castigate Filner in this exchange is notable.

It’s like football. Monday night, Chargers tight end Antonio Gates pushed down a Denver defensive back as he was getting up from a play. The Denver guy, Mike Adams, jumped up and pushed back. Adams got the personal foul.

Chargers fans saw their star, Gates, get pushed. Denver fans said, “He started it!”

It appears that Laura Duffy is a DeMaio fan. How else does she see him as the victim in this?

Reader Cheryl Geyerman wrote me this: “It appears Duffy is endorsing DeMaio and she is not inserting herself in politics? What did she expect from these two strong opponents? How naive is she? Not very, I am sure of that.”

Duffy, for her part, says her note to DeMaio and comments to reporters asking about it do not indicate an endorsement. But look at what she said to DeMaio’s team:

“Our apologies that Filner had to be admonished about his uncivil ‘debate-style’ remarks. If it is any consultation (sic), I heard more than one temple member express their view that he embarrassed himself and that they thought Carl appeared far more mature and capable of addressing the challenges San Diego faces. Good luck in the final days of the campaign,” she wrote.

To be clear, it doesn’t appear Duffy did anything wrong. CityBeat writer Dave Maass posted the rules on political activity among that top echelon of Justice Department prosecutors.

There’s some strong wording there on political involvement but, as Duffy points out, she’s a member of this community and can care about who leads it.

Anyone who’s watched Filner in these debates and public forums knows that he often digresses incoherently and rises with a startling and passionate comment, sometimes out of nowhere.

DeMaio clearly wanted to provoke him into a moment like this. And he succeeded.

Someone threw a flag.

That the referee was the U.S. attorney is rather stunning.

Update: This came up at a mayoral debate Thursday night in Kensington. Carl DeMaio said this, trying to show the bipartisan support he’s generated (my emphasis):

“I’m supported by Mayor Jerry Sanders. I’m supported by the leading Democrat donor, Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs. Laura Duffy, the U.S. Attorney, donated to my campaign and today commented about her displeasure with the congressman’s temperament,” DeMaio said.

I’m Scott Lewis, the CEO of Voice of San Diego. Please contact me if you’d like at scott.lewis@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0527 and follow me on Twitter (it’s a blast!):

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