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Politics Report: Gonzalez Rains Fire on Chamber Delegation

Multiple people dunked on GOP Chairman Tony Krvaric this week, plus: The Dems’ new chair wants the party to focus more on SANDAG.

Lorena Gonzalez

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

The San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce took its annual delegation to Sacramento this week, and apparently had an interesting breakfast with Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez.

We started getting texts the moment she began speaking to the group Wednesday.

What she said: Some folks relayed that she had told the Chamber group that she hates them. She told us she said that she hates the Chamber during campaign season.

She also advised the Chamber to get out of campaign politics. She said she thought Mayor Kevin Faulconer had finally gotten “some balls” but then said she maybe shouldn’t have said that.

“One thing I do respect about Lorena is she is who she is and does not apologize. But it seems like there should be a way to express yourself without going in front of them and saying you hate them and what they represent,” said Councilman Chris Cate, who was there.

What Gonzalez says she said: Contacted Friday, Gonzalez said she is tired of what she described as a unique San Diego culture where people are courteous in person but then tear one another apart when they’re separate in private settings.

She said things would work a lot better if everyone just said what they were thinking and resolved their conflicts in the open.

“Let’s be honest and not play a game where we all get together and break bread and smile and then talk shit in our silos,” she said.

On the Chamber and politics: We were curious about a point she had apparently made that the Chamber should stay out of politics and focus on policy. She derided them for spending on losing campaigns.

We asked her about some of the losing campaigns labor had also spent on.

“Yes, but the Labor Council learns,” she said. “When the Labor Council goes out and does a highly partisan attack on, say, Carl DeMaio, they don’t expect Carl to show up again and kiss their ring.”

She also told the Chamber group she didn’t appreciate that they spent money against her husband, Nathan Fletcher’s campaign for supervisor.

“They need Democrats far more than Democrats need them,” Gonzalez said.

More: She reiterated that we could get a lot more done in San Diego if we were more comfortable with conflict.

“Have the ovaries to stand up and have a tough conversation, because when we create a conflict that can be resolved, it can be resolved in a good way,” she said. “I am tired of people believing that somehow there’s always a softer, gentler way to handle it.”

Chamber responds: Alison Phillips, the communications director for the Chamber, said in a written statement that the delegation wanted a diversity of opinions and benefits from it.

“We may end up on opposite sides of legislation or political races. However, we will continue to try to find compromise and middle ground because that’s what’s best for our members and the San Diego region,” the statement read.

The D3 Field Is Filling Out

Two candidates in San Diego City Council District 3 are in, and another is officially out.

Political staffer Toni Duran and consultant Adrian Kwiatkowski confirmed this week that they are in. Both are Democrats.

Duran, who works for state Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins, emailed supporters to announce that she was jumping into the race on Wednesday.

“We are at a crossroads in San Diego, and the decisions we make on housing, homelessness, transit and climate change will define who we are for decades,” Duran wrote in the email obtained by Voice of San Diego.

Kwiatkowski, a key player behind San Diego’s move to a strong mayor form of government, also said this week that he is in.

Kwiatkowski, a Democrat, noted his track record of working on the campaign for strong mayor and advocating for La Jolla seals and the VA San Diego Aspire Center in Old Town, a residential treatment center for veterans.

“I’ve had a long career advocating for a lot of controversial issues in the city,” Kwiatkowski said.

They’re not the only candidates in the race. Also in: Chris Olsen, a staffer for the city’s independent budget analyst and a lecturer at SDSU, and former San Diego Pride director Stephen Whitburn.

Big decision: One more potential candidate that many political watchers had their eye on has officially decided he’s out. Stephen Russell, a longtime mid-city development advocate who leads the San Diego Housing Federation, said he’s decided to instead focus on pushing a 2020 housing bond aimed at producing thousands of homes for homeless and low-income San Diegans.

“I’m really deeply committed to getting this bond measure passed,” said Russell, whose organization last year decided a 2020 measure could offer the best chance of success.

Lisa Halverstadt

Dunk on Krvaric Week

Tony Krvaric

Tony Krvaric / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

When the California Republican Party met last weekend in Sacramento, the chairman of the Republican Party of San Diego County picked a fight with Mike Madrid, a veteran political consultant. He told reporters not to call Madrid a Republican anymore. In response, Madrid torched Krvaric on Twitter. (Here’s the start of that thread.)

That wasn’t all. By the end of the week, Lucas O’Connor, and aide for Councilman Chris Ward, decided to do his own thread. Krvaric had tweeted that the Republican Party in San Diego was the only group to oppose Measure A, the 2016 tax measure the San Diego Association of Governments tried to pass.

“You’re welcome everyone,” he wrote.

O’Connor offered his gratitude.

“Under his tenure, the GOP lost majorities in every North Coastal city, Imperial Beach, and *Escondido,* plus the 49th and 52nd Congressional Districts, plus couldn’t even manage to contest the 76th Assembly District last year,” O’Connor wrote.

More: O’Connor pointed out that Republicans ended up on the bad sides of super-majorities in the San Diego City Council and state Legislature. “Which was promptly and predictably followed by the defection of a third of his remaining SD Assembly caucus,” O’Connor wrote. He pointed out that the GOP’s “Public Enemy No. 1” (Nathan Fletcher) had gotten onto the Board of Supervisors.

“And a year out from the 2020 primary, the SDGOP can’t find a single person willing to destroy their career by running for mayor under the banner Tony branded.”

His thread ended with a blow: “And these days he spends most of his time publicly defending Donald Trump in a county that Trump lost by 20 points *before* the backlash began.”

“So yes, Tony. THANK YOU.”

Krvaric’s response: “I don’t punch down.”

Is it Krvaric’s fault? Ryan Clumpner, a political consultant who has worked for many Republican campaigns but who left the party last year, said the local GOP’s real problem is the president, not the party chair.

“The best a local GOP chairman could do would be to not exacerbate the problems caused by Trump and give more leeway, allow more diversity of thought and representation,” he said. “This isn’t happening in San Diego, and it’s a problem for them but not the root cause of their losses.”

The Democrats’ New SANDAG Strategy

Will Rodriguez-Kennedy / Photo courtesy of Will Rodriguez Kennedy

In years past, the San Diego County Democratic Party has subjectively determined which races in a given cycle are “strategically critical,” a designation that allowed it to make endorsements – and therefore start spending money for candidates – earlier than it could otherwise.

New party chair Will Rodridguez-Kennedy said he’s looking to implement a new, systemic structure that will dictate the party’s priorities.

They’ll focus on races that could mean flipping a seat on the board of directors at the San Diego Association of Governments, the regional agency that handles planning and major infrastructure projects countywide.

“In my perspective, the party’s priority is really SANDAG,” Rodriguez-Kennedy said. “So any race tied to the makeup of that board – whether it’s the county Board of Supervisors, a mayor’s race, and then races that could change a majority on a city council—my priority moving forward is a SANDAG strategy. That’s the board I want to influence and I want the party to have a say in, because I think we can have an immeasurable impact on how our region affects some of the conflicts or the challenges of the day by having more Democratic representation there.”

SANDAG’s board has two representatives each from the city and county of San Diego, and one representative each from the 17 other cities in the county. Typically, mayors of smaller cities sit on the board, but the councils in those cities can appoint someone else as their representative with a majority vote.

The board’s disposition already shifted left late in 2017, when the state approved a law that gave more voting power to the larger cities in the county, which tend to be more Democratic.

Now, the Democratic Party itself said it’ll use the board as a proxy for establishing its political priorities.

The Border and the 2020 Mayor’s Race

David Alvarez / Photo by Sam Hodgson

Former Councilman David Alvarez has been quiet since he left office last year. We caught up with him this week, and he said he’s been enjoying spending more time with his family and reminding himself just how much City Hall is a bubble, where the issues that dominate discussion aren’t the things that most resonate with constituents.

He also said he hopes to play a role in the 2020 mayoral race, specifically by forcing the race to include a discussion on binational issues in which the city could be involved.

Alvarez started a consulting firm, Causa, to focus on border and binational issues. Now, he said Councilwoman Barbary Bry, Assemblyman Todd Gloria and environmental attorney Cory Briggs, all running for mayor, have reached out to him to discuss the race. Alvarez himself ran unsuccessfully against Mayor Kevin Faulconer in 2013, after former Mayor Bob Filner’s resignation.

He said he’s in the very early stages of putting together some entity that could host a conversation on binational issues in the 2020 race.

“Right now we’re thinking: What do we have on the books? What policies could we create? We’re in a conversation now about what that platform could be,” he said.

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