How an Embattled DA Cruised to Re-Election - Voice of San Diego

Bonnie Dumanis UNVEILING THE UNSEEN

How an Embattled DA Cruised to Re-Election

It’s been a turbulent 2014 for District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. And yet she appeared to eke out an outright win Tuesday.

It’s been a turbulent 2014 for District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. And yet she appeared to eke out an outright win Tuesday.

She’s been at the center of a campaign finance scandal and faced her most serious opponent for district attorney in challenger Bob Brewer, who had significant financial backing and a cadre of supporters who hurled multiple public complaints against her.

Then there was Dumanis’ horrible, no good, very bad 24 hours.

News broke on Election Day Eve that Dumanis wrote a letter of recommendation for the son of the man at the center of a local campaign finance scandal, Jose Susumo Azano Matsura, after his illegal donation to her failed mayoral campaign despite Dumanis’ claims that she barely knew Azano.

Dumanis, not typically known for turning down media appearances, disappeared Tuesday, a day most politicians spend every waking minute seeking out the spotlight. She even canceled her plans to vote at the San Diego County Registrar’s Office Tuesday morning.

Which led to led to serious responses like this.

And not-so-serious ones like this from fellow ex-mayoral candidate Nathan Fletcher.

But when early returns posted, Dumanis had received 55 percent of the vote. She re-emerged with a smile on Tuesday night.

Here’s how that happened.

Everybody knows Bonnie Dumanis.

Dumanis is one of the county’s most visible politicians. She’s been in office since 2003 and has since made hundreds of television and radio appearances. She rarely turns down an invitation to a community event.

She’s also served in key posts that have given her national and statewide exposure.

And on Tuesday, she faced political newcomers Brewer and retired prosecutor Terri Wyatt, who both started with virtually nonexistent name recognition among county voters.

Most people voted early.

A decade ago, Monday night’s news that Dumanis may have had a closer relationship than she’d acknowledged with a figure central to a major campaign-finance scandal could’ve been devastating.

But this year, most county voters had already turned in their ballots.

Registrar Michael Vu predicted last week that about 60 percent of county voters who participated in the June primary would fill out and mail their ballots before Tuesday.

The final count of mail-in versus Election Day ballots wasn’t immediately available on Tuesday night but Vu’s prediction appeared to play out in the night’s initial results.

Dumanis took a roughly 41,000-vote lead over Brewer, the No. 2 finisher, immediately when the registrar’s office released its 8 p.m. tallies. The first count of the night consists mostly of mail-in ballots.

Terri Wyatt siphoned some anti-Dumanis votes.

Ousting an incumbent – or even moving onto the runoff – is a tall order even with just two candidates in a race.

So Brewer faced a significant roadblock when Wyatt, who retired from the district attorney’s office last year to take on her former boss, entered the race last fall.

Like Brewer, Wyatt campaigned on the need for change in an office run by Dumanis for more than a decade.

And early in the race, Wyatt lobbed accusations at Brewer, claiming he’d promised a top district attorney’s office post to her and another potential candidate last year  to try to deter them from running against him. (Brewer denied that charge.)

Wyatt ultimately didn’t pose a major challenge to Dumanis but she did grab more than 20,000 votes, many of which may have otherwise gone to Brewer.

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