Politics Report: On Independent Expenditures

Politics

Politics Report: On Independent Expenditures

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The rule of campaign finance is that you don’t need the most money to compete, but you need enough. But one thing local candidates in big races can count on more and more these days is independent expenditures. There’s no limit to how much someone can spend on independent expenditures. The thing is, however, they cannot coordinate on spending.

A candidate, for example, can talk to big donors and say, “Will you donate to my campaign?” and also “Will you support the committees that support me?” But the campaign cannot say, “Hey you send people in Ocean Beach that mailer, and we’ll send a mailer to people in La Jolla.”

This is different from the political parties. The San Diego County Democratic Party and the Republican Party of San Diego County can both raise big money and spend it in support of candidates. They can even coordinate with the candidates. But they cannot reach out to voters unless they’re registered to vote with that party.

So we wanted to gather some information and commentary about the independent expenditures we’re seeing. And thanks, as always, to Mason Herron, who’s The Ballot Book tracking website is just fabulous if you care about this stuff.

San Diego Mayor’s Race

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Assemblyman Todd Gloria is getting much more independent support coming mostly from the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and the largest union of city employees, the Municipal Employees Association. They were responsible for those “wrong universe” mailers — the ones touting Bry’s appeal to Republicans (which were sent to Democrats) and the ones touting her progressive bona fides (which were sent to conservatives).

Bry, who is far more HRC than DJT, has been bemoaning those repeatedly while highlighting some of those same points and endorsements as evidence of her bipartisan appeal.

She also has independent spending coming in to support her. Steve Peace, the former legislator and now amorphous political actor, is spending heavily to help her. One mailer even has a pic of the inside of his brain:

Reform California, the PAC run by Carl DeMaio, has also spent some money against Gloria.

County Supervisor District 3: Labor Hands Off to Dems

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This one kind of surprised us. Obviously Gaspar was going to get support from conservatives and business advocates, and they are helping her.

But labor unions spent, from what we could gather with The Ballot Book’s help, more than $720,000 to support Terra Lawson-Remer in the primary against a fellow Democrat. Were they not coming in for the final lap?

It’s a bit more complicated than that. The Democratic Party is taking a lot of this burden, and labor is donating to it. Through Sept. 19, the Democratic Party has either given Lawson-Remer, or spent on her behalf, more than $330,000 — and a lot more is probably happening right now.

David Lagstein, the political director for SEIU 221, the largest union of county employees, sent over a loaded statement about the disparity between their spending in the primary and in the runoff.

“The Democratic Party’s member to member efforts will be the cornerstone of Terra’s victory over Trump Republican Kristin Gaspar, because they are communicating to Democrats that they have a choice between an environmentalist that served as Senior Advisor to the Obama Administration and Trump Republican Kristin Gaspar, who is in lockstep with President Trump’s denial of the COVID-19 crisis and policies against immigrant families,” he wrote.

It appears they want to tout Gaspar’s connection to Trump and they don’t think it will help her.

Gaspar told voters in her official candidate statement that she has proven she can work with anyone and anyone includes the president.

Other District Independent Battles

We rounded up the spending in the districts that had gone over $25,000.

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Moore’s support has come mostly from the Chamber of Commerce and Building Industry Association. LaCava’s has come from the Municipal Employees Association, the union of city employees.

City Council District 3

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City Council District 5

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City Council District 7

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County Supervisor District 1

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County Supervisor District 2

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The Mayor and the Teachers Union

San Diego’s Republican Mayor Kevin Faulconer joined with an unconventional partner Friday: the San Diego Education Association, the teachers union. They sent a joint letter to the governor with a hefty demand: “We are writing to request COVID-19 diagnostic tests to support in-person instruction at San Diego Unified. Specifically, we request no less than 10,000 COVID-19 diagnostic tests per day or no less than 50,000 COVID-19 diagnostic tests per week (covering students and staff).”

That’s … a lot of tests. They jointly declared that distance learning was failing.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating inequities that have existed in California’s education system for years. Access to COVID-19 diagnostic tests is no different and deployment should seek to address the issue of equity,” they wrote. On Friday, our Will Huntsberry revealed that some schools have no teachers willing to return for “phase one” reopening.

Faulconer, who has a daughter in 12th grade and a son in college, called into the Politics Report to explain.

He revealed that he had been meeting weekly with San Diego Unified School Superintendent Cindy Marten, SDEA leaders, county health leaders and business leaders from the company Helix, who he said are prepared to deploy up to 100,000 tests per day.

“I’ll get city EMTs on it if I have to. I’m trying to break through the barriers to figure out what we can do to open schools now,” he said.

Thursday he and the other mayors of California’s largest cities called on schools to open and for the state to help them get there.

And Then There Were Two: Campbell Running for Council President, Too

Councilwoman Jen Campbell / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

In the early days of the pandemic, when we were all learning how to live without leaving home, Councilwoman Jen Campbell committed a revealing gaffe.

During a remote Council meeting, she forgot to mute her mic, so we all heard her half of a personal phone call. She was talking about a plan to take on the coastal height limit, when she said something that now feels newly relevant.

“I’m not chicken at all about it,” Campbell said. “What have I got to lose, right?”

Five months later, she told the Politics Report – on purpose, this time – that she has decided to run for Council president.

Campbell, who represents District 2, encompassing the city’s beach communities, said she sees herself as a moderate candidate who can work with anyone doing business at City Hall.

“I’ve lived long enough and done enough that I’m not scared of anything,” she said. “I am not scared, and I’ve got nothing to be scared of. I have no interest in higher office.”

In early December, the city will inaugurate its newly elected officials. The new Council’s first order of business will be choosing its new president, who will then be responsible for setting the body’s agenda and appointing members to various committees.

Last week, Councilwoman Monica Montgomery told us she was pursuing the gig. Now, Campbell has done the same, and the rest of the Council is likely to choose between the two of them, who were both elected to their first terms in 2018.

There are five open Council seats poised to be settled in November’s election. With just four of nine Council members known right now, it’s too early to count prospective votes for the two candidates.

Campbell didn’t want to name individuals who encouraged her to run, but said she’s spoken to people from the police union, Chamber of Commerce and organized labor, and other people who’ve worked in or with the city and “know how I roll.”

“I certainly never thought I’d be running, but many people asked me and I decided, ‘yes,’” she said.

Campbell counts as accomplishments in her first two years in office – either items that came through the environmental committee that Campbell chairs or through her Council office because it dealt with District 2 – community choice energy, a new agency focused on buying energy to shift the region to more renewable sources, scooter regulations and a controversial ordinance that restricted homeless people from living in their cars in certain areas. Her list of in-the-pipeline projects includes Measure E, the proposition before voters next month to remove the height limit from the Midway area to increase development there, the city’s selection of a development group to redevelop the sports arena area and a new set of regulations for short-term rentals.

She said her priorities on the Council would be housing, homelessness (“which is of course attached to housing”) and climate change.

If you have any feedback that is negative send it to andrew.keatts@voiceofsandiego.org. If you have any tips or ideas and positive feedback, send it to scott.lewis@voiceofsandiego.org. If you think this was good, it was largely because of Megan Wood, who can do anything in digital media. Any of the things, she can do. It’s crazy.

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