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Politics Report: The Trump Conundrum

Tony Krvaric, chairman of the Republican Party of San Diego County / Photo by Megan Wood

When President Donald Trump officially launched his re-election bid this week, we got a press release along with everyone else about how San Diego Republicans stand with Trump’s vision for America.

It came from Tony Krvaric, the chairman of the Republican Party of San Diego. The thing is, some of the most prominent Republicans in town don’t stand with Trump. And when we asked Krvaric about that, he scoffed that the GOP wasn’t like the Democrats and could have diverse views within the party.

But then the most prominent local Republican, Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who pointedly hasn’t stood with Trump, at all, suddenly literally did stand with him.

“Hahahahah. Just as you try to drive a wedge with your questions Faulconer meets with President Trump!” Krvaric texted.

But then we asked Faulconer if he, after years of refusing to support Trump and criticizing his most controversial pronouncements, had indeed begun to, you know, stand with him.

No, his office said.

Then we heard that the president had gone on national television and discussed his meeting with Trump. And … well, he had a different recollection [1] of how it went than Faulconer did.

In the end, the mayor of San Diego basically said the president of the United States lied about their meeting.

No big deal in 2019, apparently.

How Things Change

Just a few years ago, Krvaric was not the gleeful Trump supporter he is today.

In the summer of 2016, political consultants and elected officials were telling us Trump was making things harder for their campaigns, particularly those who had branded themselves as moderate “San Diego Republicans.” We reached out to ask Krvaric for his take.

“We’re the local party which means our focus is the nearly 200 local candidates that will be on the ballot in November,” he wrote. “There’s no doubt the party is divided in terms of the nominee so there are good Republicans with different views. What everyone can agree on are our local candidates — which is the focus of all local party organizations.”

Then we asked whether Krvaric himself supported Trump. He did not respond. A day later, we asked if it was fair to read that as a no comment.

“You have all my comments,” Krvaric wrote.

The Trump Drag: Perhaps the clearest example of a local Republican who lost an election due to the president’s unpopularity in San Diego is former San Diego Councilwoman Lorie Zapf. It’s impossible to be sure why she lost her re-election bid last year. But groups opposing her candidacy hammered District 2 voters [2] with mail pieces connecting Zapf to Trump on the way to her losing by more than 15 points to Councilwoman Jennifer Campbell. Four years earlier, she had won re-election by 14 points.

After losing that race, Zapf appears to have decided to leave the Republican Party. On Feb. 3, she re-registered as a no party preference voter, according to the San Diego Registrar of Voters.

Zapf did not respond to a request to ask her about why she decided to leave the party. She has not been visible in local politics since leaving office, and hasn’t indicated she plans to run for office again.

Kersey Probably Going to Do it

Councilman Mark Kersey / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Just about everyone in local politics now expects Councilman Mark Kersey, who left the Republican Party earlier this year, to launch his own mayoral bid soon.

Waiting until after June 30 would mean he doesn’t have to worry about filing any fundraising figures for months, giving him time to get his campaign situated.

Democrats are coming off a very good 2018, when even Republicans who few thought were in danger, like former Escondido Mayor Sam Abed, succumbed to the county’s changing demographics and an unfavorable national climate.

But if Kersey indeed made it through March, he’d nonetheless find himself in a one-on-one match-up where he’s likely to have significant financial support.

The solid analysis you pay for: City Councilwoman Barbara Bry has apparently decided not to run for mayor to the right of Assemblyman Todd Gloria. At least not yet, and that’s left a big lane open for Kersey. He may not be able to consolidate all of the right-of-center interests, especially if Republican partisans are bitter about his defection from the party, but how many of them are there?

Fundraising matters: June is nearly over, and with it will come the close of the latest campaign fundraising period.

Voters aren’t paying attention to any of these races right now – many never will – so the early fundraising check-in is something of a proxy for whose campaign is going well, and whose isn’t.

It’ll be especially interesting, for instance, to see how the two main mayoral candidates, Gloria and Bry, are doing courting donors.

Gloria has stacked up a commanding lead in major endorsements, another concrete indication of how a campaign is doing at this stage. He got former Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday.

That’s now feeding a conventional wisdom that he’s a clear front-runner in the race. If Bry puts up a big fundraising number, she could chip away at that perception.

Notes From the Week

Correction: An earlier version of this post neglected to include Kenya Taylor’s candidacy in the District 2 county supervisor race.

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