May 29 2013 09:43 AM

Campaign tactics make us question new council member's morals

Myrtle Cole
Photo by David Rolland

Former cop and recent healthcare-union organizer Myrtle Cole will be the next San Diego City Council member representing District 4, having defeated former San Diego Pride director and longtime political aspirant Dwayne Crenshaw in a special election to replace Tony Young last week by 1,002 votes.

We supported Crenshaw because he had a better grasp on the issues facing San Diego and better ideas for how to deal with them; Cole didn't impress us, but her election wouldn't be the end of the world, we figured, because she's committed to Mayor Bob Filner's progressive-populist agenda for the city and she'll vote the right—that is, left—way most, if not all, of the time.

But she pulled a stunt at the end of the campaign that made us sick, and we're not going to let her take office without detailing why we have serious questions about her morals, if indeed she has any.

When we interviewed Crenshaw before the primary election in March, he told us that near the end of his unsuccessful race against Charles Lewis for the District 4 seat in 2002, Lewis' campaign hit him with an attack mailer that falsely tied Crenshaw to a drug-deal incident at SDSU in the 1990s. Crenshaw was there, but the police corroborated his story that he was retrieving a wayward friend—his involvement was a positive one.

Crenshaw didn't blame Cole for the attack—or even name her as Lewis' campaign manager. We realized the connection when we later interviewed Cole and proudly she told us that she'd run Lewis' campaign. We considered the possibility that the disgusting campaign tactic could resurface, but we hoped it wouldn't. We hoped she wouldn't sink that low again.

But she disappointed us. 

Kudos to reporter Liam Dillon at Voice of San Diego for doing everything he could, in a story headlined "Cole's Whack Crack Attack," to debunk the hit piece. When Dillon went to the Cole campaign for comment, it referred him, in an act of cowardice, to political consultant Larry Remer, who worked for both Lewis in 2002 and Cole this year.

Dillon reported that Remer said he never saw a 2002 San Diego Union-Tribune story in which a police officer backed up Crenshaw's version of events. We find that hard to believe. Remer expressed zero remorse, saying there was nothing wrong with the mailer. "This is politics," he said cynically.

Kudos, too, to KPBS radio host Tom Fudge for forcing Cole after the election to answer for the attack. Here's what she said, as quoted by Dillon in a follow-up: "You know I will not say anything about that. Things happen over the course of a campaign. Unfortunate things happen over the course of a campaign. Both to myself and to the opponent. So, you know, I hate to say that's politics because that does not, that should not, be. But that's how it was. And that's all I can say about that."

In other words: I knew it was wrong, but I did what I had to do to win. And I'm not going to say anything more, because if I do, I'll have to admit what a bullshit move it was.

Yes, she also said she was victimized in the campaign, too. About that: a group called San Diego County Voters for Progress and Reform, which has ties to the Lincoln Club of San Diego County, which supported Crenshaw, hit Cole with a false attack mailer that bore something that could easily be mistaken for an official city seal. The San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, which backed Cole, countered with a false attack that implied that Crenshaw had pocketed money meant for community purposes.

Those two repulsive mailers were done in support of candidates by outside groups. Cole's drug-deal hit was done directly by her campaign. The closest Crenshaw came to that—as far as we know— was making a mountain out of molehill with regard to Cole's residency; that is to say, he did nothing to her like what she did to him.

We don't know what effect Cole's attack mailer had, if any. She got 2,285 more votes last week than she got in June, while Crenshaw picked up an additional 3,562. What's done is done. She's a council member now. We hope she comports herself with a tad more decency than she's thus far shown. But we're not holding our breath.

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