Politics Report: Why Maienschein Flipped - Voice of San Diego

Politics Report

Politics Report: Why Maienschein Flipped

We can't stop talking about this. The future of the Republican Party and height limit fans start to speak up.
Assemblyman Brian Maienschein / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

You knew we were going to have to talk about Assemblyman Brian Maienschein’s decision to become a Democrat. Yes, we’ve written about it a lot (check out the Sacramento Report).

But we did have one last question: We asked Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez if she pressured him to switch parties. After all, many Democrats complained to us that Gonzalez’s lack of support for his rival, Sunday Gover, in the November election was one of many reasons he was able to pull out the victory. He only won by 607 votes (out of nearly 200,000 cast!) so every bit of spending and endorsement mattered. Gonzalez can marshal a lot of resources for a candidate, as we have seen.

Gonzalez told us Maienschein is one of her best friends. They take the flight to Sacramento together. She’s friends with his girlfriend.

And yes, she told him that she would oppose him in 2020, as she has hinted at before.

“My comments made publicly were the same as privately,” she told us in a written message. “The district had changed, and I would support a Democrat in 2020 in the 77th. Happy it will be Brian.”

Republican surprised (and not surprised): There was a weird moment Thursday after the Maienschein news came out. Carl DeMaio tweeted that the announcement was expected. “Absolutely NO SURPRISE here …”

And then just a few minutes later, longtime Republican leader Ron Nehring wrote in disbelief that reports of the flip were even true. “I would be very surprised by this,” he wrote.

A source texted in to remind us that Maienschein had never sought a leadership position among state Republican lawmakers. In fact, it was Democrats and his other friend, now-Sen. Toni Atkins, who gave him a committee chairmanship a couple years ago.

About his politics: Maienschein comes from a tradition of moderate Republicans in San Diego who never really do anything that bold. They survive and thrive with a personal charisma and likability among constituents. They’re always present in the community. They seem reasonable and energetic. The cardinal rule they follow is to never, ever piss anyone off. Mitigate the pissing-off as much as possible.

But he is a politician, and he did have positions. It seems clear Maienschein did not fit with the Republican Party, at least as he is now portraying his politics. If you break down his announcement, Thursday, it’s quite a liberal list.

Maienschein of course complained about the president but emphasized that wasn’t the only reason he was leaving. He wants to regulate firearms more and protect a woman’s right to choose abortion. He believes labor unions are crucial to supporting the workforce and he believes in universal health care.

“I believe that a person born outside of the U.S. has the right to pursue his or her American dream,” he said.

That’s not a Republican even five years ago, pre-Trump.

So, Uh, What Are Republicans Going to Do?

From Scott: You may remember that, not long ago, I wrote a piece about what the Republicans were going to do after their drubbing in the 2018 election.

Maienschein figured prominently in the bright spots! Lol. If you did what Maienschein did, some of the people we interviewed said, the Republican Party could thrive. (It turns out I’m terrible at this “understanding-what’s-happening-in-local-politics” thing because I’m genuinely surprised Maienschein left the Republican Party. Not that I thought he was that conservative. I just didn’t think he’d ever do anything really interesting. This is the most interesting he has done since he ran for city attorney that one time. This is three-star interesting to me.)

Democratic political consultant Dan Rottenstreich had a quote in that piece about why some Republicans won that reads differently now that you know Maienschein was thinking about becoming a Democrat.

“The Republicans who survived this time are the ones who had their own brand. They were well-known enough, well-liked enough and understood enough to be seen as their own thing apart from Trump,” Rottenstreich said.

Turns out Maienschein was really far from Trump! Who’s next?

Why aren’t there big discussions, panels, op-eds and essays about the future of the Republican Party? Because if Republican leaders don’t change something, the future of California and San Diego politics will be various tournaments contained entirely within the Democratic Party.

Bry Passes on Faulconer’s YIMBY Pitch

Councilwoman Barbara Bry at a San Diego City Council meeting on July, 16 2018. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

A week after rolling out his new YIMBY approach on housing, Mayor Kevin Faulconer is already having the (desired?) effect of influencing the race to replace him.

Councilwoman Barbary Bry, one of four announced mayoral candidates, went on KUSI this week and openly opposed the mayor’s proposal to remove height restrictions for new developments near transit stations.

“One thing the mayor said is he would remove height limits citywide. I disagree with that. I think each neighborhood and community is unique, and there should be no blanket policy like that citywide,” Bry said.

(The mayor’s proposal isn’t exactly citywide. It would eliminate height limits within a half-mile of transit stops. But that would not include areas west of Interstate 5, whose 30-foot height limit was put in place by voters and thus can’t be eliminated without a vote.)

Bry’s wasn’t a blistering critique of the mayor’s proposal. But she did go out of her way to position herself against it, after a week in which the rest of the Council said very little one way or another.

There was always going to be opposition to the mayor’s idea. What we didn’t know was how much of a voice that opposition would be given in the mayor’s race. Attorney Cory Briggs intimated last week that he’d run for mayor specifically because no one came out forcefully enough against the proposal; this week he unveiled a @briggs4mayor Twitter account. And now Bry has also signaled that she isn’t getting on board the YIMBY movement, either.

That also means there’s one no vote for Faulconer’s proposal. Regardless of how it plays into the mayor’s race, it’s also worth monitoring how the rest of the Council receives it, and if they push to whittle it down in some way.

The City’s New Land-Use Politics

The Mid-City Rapid 215 bus stops at El Cajon Boulevard and 43rd Street. / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

The mayor isn’t the only one at City Hall venturing into new ground on land use.

Council President Georgette Gomez and Councilman Chris Ward on Thursday unveiled a plan to turn part of El Cajon Boulevard – which passes through both of their districts – into bus-only lanes in hopes of making transit service through City Heights, North Park and Hillcrest faster and more reliable.

Two reasons that matters: For one, the Rapid on El Cajon Boulevard was supposed to have a bus-only lane when it was first built, but regional leaders at SANDAG backed down in the face of local opposition that didn’t want to lose out on parking spaces or another lane for cars. So this is an admission that was a mistake.

But it’s also new and different for the Council to proactively involve itself in transit in the first place. Members rarely make proposals on what the transit system should look like within city limits, leaving those decisions instead to the SANDAG and MTS boards (which include City Council members).

State legislation changed MTS and SANDAG last year, giving San Diego city officials more sway on those boards. But the thinking of those city officials has changed too. They’re far more willing to be as active on the topics those agencies cover as those within City Hall.

Taking stock: Don’t lose sight of just how many things city and regional leaders are discussing right now that each would have been major moves anytime previously.

What’s Darrell Issa Up to?

Rep. Darrell Issa appears at Golden Hall on Election Night 2016. / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

Former Rep. Darrell Issa has been quiet ever since he announced he wouldn’t run for re-election in CA-49 — except for that time he told the world the race to replace him would be a blowout on the morning of Election Day.

But this week, he terminated his “Issa for Congress” committee and transferred the $645,000 it still had on hand into an old “Issa for Senate” account that he’s had opened for decades, as statewide political expert Rob Pyers reported Friday.

What does that mean? Well, it could easily not mean anything at all. But given Sen. Kamala Harris just announced a presidential run, it’s not far-fetched to think Issa’s decided to situate himself for that seat.

Send email to scott.lewis@voiceofsandiego.org or andrew.keatts@voiceofsandiego.org.

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