Politics Report: GOP Drama Settles, Peters Decision Shakes Up Mayors Race - Voice of San Diego

Politics UNVEILING THE UNSEEN

Politics Report: GOP Drama Settles, Peters Decision Shakes Up Mayors Race

GOP’s chairman won’t change anything after all. A congressman’s decision shakes up the mayor’s race and Kristin Gaspar goes to the White House. Again.

Tony Krvaric
Tony Krvaric / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

We left the story of the future of the Republican Party of San Diego without a conclusion at the end of 2018. Looks like we have ended up where we started.

To review: Tony Krvaric, the chair of the party, had volunteered in the role for 12 years and made it known months ago that he was not going to do another term. Mayor Kevin Faulconer congratulated him on his tenure on Twitter and there was (not very titillating) gossip for months about his successor.

Then as the day for his departure approached, Krvaric changed his mind. He wanted the job still. He also decided he may want to be paid for the role, if he stayed on.

The Central Committee of the Republican Party of San Diego County flirted with an executive salary — compensation that could reach $180,000 on election years.

The committee re-elected Krvaric chairman but punted the question of compensation until after the holidays.

The news: This month, the group decided to approve the compensation within its bylaws, but Krvaric refused it.

“Ultimately, I declined the offer,” he told us. “Tough call but I am more effective when I am completely independent.”

Scott Peters Picks D.C.

We were not the only ones surprised to learn that Rep. Scott Peters would not be running for mayor of San Diego after all. He had already spent money and started to staff up. He was prepared for an announcement this week. He did a poll in December that, he says, put him at the top of the early field.

But then, Wednesday, he said he was out. He wanted to stay in Congress. The Democrats’ new power in the House was thrilling, said his spokeswoman and longtime aide MaryAnne Pintar.

“He really enjoyed what it felt like. It felt like the right platform at the right time,” she said.

Peters had received nationwide attention after Speaker Nancy Pelosi tapped him to give the Democrats’ weekly address last week. He responded to President Donald Trump’s take on the border and made a plea for modernization of the ports of entry and respect for the nuances of the situation.

A selection of it:

Agents at our ports of entry every day arrest criminals, seize narcotics and guns and deny admission to people they identify as a threat to national security. That’s what real border security looks like and I can tell you that San Diegans want that border security. But we do not want a wall.

No domino effect: Peters stepping out of the congressional seat would have opened the door for others to replace him, including the oft-mentioned Sara Jacobs, who ran unsuccessfully for the 49th Congressional District last year.

Also: There are a couple Republicans still mentioned as potential Peters challengers, including Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey and San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer. But 2020 could be very difficult for local Republicans.

Twitter Sleuth Spooks Peters

Seems not every constituent is very pleased with Peters’ border wall take.

A woman on Twitter posted videos of what she called a “12-foot wall” around his property in La Jolla.

But it looks like … a fence around a tennis court? Tennis courts typically have fences because otherwise the balls will bounce away. Pintar said the police were called.

And Finally, Peters May Start a PAC …

In his message to supporters explaining his decision not to run for mayor, Peters included a sentence that caught our eye.

“And although I am not prepared now to make any endorsement, I plan to engage in the race for mayor in a substantive and meaningful way,” he wrote.

Beyond an endorsement, what is a substantive and meaningful way to engage the mayor’s race?

Pintar said he hoped not only to endorse but regularly speak out about local issues. And, she said, Peters could spend money. He was considering forming a political action committee.

“He’s excited about the YIMBY movement,” she said. “He wants to help drive the conversation and make sure we’re not just talking about the same issues we have been for so many years.”

Peters Makes Room for Someone From the Right

Coucilman Mark Kersey / Photo by Sam Hodgson

Peters has a lot of fans among the business elite in San Diego, and so his decision not to run for mayor could open up a bit more room for someone from his right to run in the race. Business types are itching for a candidate who will hold the line on labor and regulations.

It’s worth watching two names: Councilman Mark Kersey and Assemblyman Brian Maienschein.

Kersey: Supporters are urging him to run, he told us.

“I’m taking a look at my options for 2020,” said Kersey, who now represents District 5, which includes Rancho Bernardo, Scripps Ranch and Rancho Peñasquitos.

Kersey has made infrastructure his top priority during his years on the City Council, a topic that remains popular with San Diego voters.

Kersey acknowledges he’ll have much to consider before he makes any decisions, particularly family priorities.

Last spring, Kersey ended his bid for a state Senate seat, citing family health issues.

Maienschein: He’s got roughly a million dollars in the bank and may decide that if he has another tough race in the Assembly in 2020, he may as well try for a tough race in another ring.

We Do Still Have a Mayor!

And he came into our podcast studio this week.

Our highlights: We still think this was the biggest news of the week. So we spent a lot of time talking to Faulconer about his push to eliminate height limits for new housing construction around transit stops. We can’t help but conclude that the result of the District 2 City Council race made it easier for him to make this decision. Former City Councilwoman Lorie Zapf and her successor, Democrat Jen Campbell, are both hostile to taller buildings along the new transit line going up the Morena Boulevard corridor — reflecting some of the views of the district’s voters in Bay Park and Clairemont.

But after Zapf lost to Campbell, the mayor had no political reason to hold back heights along the corridor and help Campbell with that messy situation.

We also asked the mayor what was going to happen to the Fifth Avenue Landing situation. You’ll recall that the partners who control the lease for the land behind the Convention Center that the city needs to expand the Convention Center (at least in the way they’ve always envisioned the expansion) presumably have the right to now pursue their hotel on that lease. After all, they were only supposed to wait out a 2018 ballot measure. And 2018 is over.

A new hotel would block the Convention Center expansion. The mayor told us he’s begun negotiating an extension to their agreement. We asked if that would mean the city would have to pay the partners more and he said, flat out: “No.”

We will see.

D3 Race Will Be Big

Gloria’s decision to leave the Assembly and run for mayor obviously led to Chris Ward’s decision to run for Assembly, which obviously opens up his seat on the City Council. Now, we’re hearing of yet another possible candidate for that.

Stephen Russell, a longtime mid-city development advocate who now leads the San Diego Housing Federation, confirmed this week that he’s considering a bid.

Russell said he is consulting with friends, family and community leaders and plans to announce his plans by Feb. 1.

“I am taking this very seriously,” said Russell, who for years worked in the District 3 office as a staffer for now-state Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins.

Chris Olsen, a staffer for the city’s independent budget analyst and a lecturer at SDSU, and former San Diego Pride director Stephen Whitburn, have already said they’ll seek the District 3 seat.

Gaspar Goes on Another Trump Trip

Kristin Gaspar
Kristin Gaspar / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

Rumors have swirled about County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar’s political calculations following her surprise White House meeting last week amid border wall fights and a local crisis that’s forced asylum-seeking families onto city streets.

In a county that’s increasingly leaning away from President Donald Trump, Gaspar has repeatedly met with the president about border issues and led an effort to support his administration’s challenge of California’s legislation governing how law enforcement interacts with federal immigration agents.

In doing so, she’s potentially chilling Democratic and moderate voters in the coastal North County swing district she represents.

So is Gaspar be mulling a congressional bid instead?

Gaspar told Voice of San Diego she hasn’t decided whether she’ll seek her county seat again in 2020.

“I haven’t made any decisions as to my re-election,” Gaspar said. “I will do so in the appropriate time.”

Gaspar said she’s spoken up despite the political blowback that comes with it out of concern about how San Diego’s affected by drug and human trafficking tied to the border. She also said she believes the existing border fencing has helped stave off more crime and drugs in the region.

“A number of people have suggested, ‘Well, just stay here, focused on what’s happening in San Diego. Don’t get in the middle of what’s happening on a national scale,’ but again, I need to do my job,” Gaspar said.

Gaspar’s Jan. 11 meeting with Trump came three days after county supervisors debated how to respond to the crush of migrant families in need of shelter.

At the county meeting and in a Friday interview with VOSD, Gaspar has politely criticized federal officials’ recent policy of leaving families out in the cold without confirming travel arrangements with their sponsors as they had in the past. She said that “the setup needs to be better” and said that more funding and collaboration, including from state officials, could change that.

Yet Gaspar said she didn’t discuss the migrant issue at her meeting at the White House, which she described as a last-minute affair. She said she hopes to elevate those issues in the future.

“I’m hoping that through the connections that have been made with the administration and the White House team, that we can have these follow-up conversations and really communicate the exact needs for San Diego,” Gaspar said.

If you have a tip or feedback for the Politics Report, send them to scott.lewis@voiceofsandiego.org or andrew.keatts@voiceofsandiego.org.

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