Mark Kersey attended Northwestern University in the 1990s along with future Late Night host Seth Meyers. Kersey is no TV funnyman but did win his seat on the San Diego City Council in a laugher. The video-tech researcher ran unopposed in 2012—the first time a non-incumbent did that since World War II, he’ll tell you.
Now Kersey, 39, seeks re-election in District 5, which is anchored by Rancho Bernardo and stretches from San Pasqual to Scripps Ranch. This time he hopes to emulate the winning ways of former classmate Luke Donald, once the world’s number-one golfer. But can he avoid the sand traps?
For months, Republican Kersey had only one long-shot challenger—Rancho Bernardo’s Keith Mikas, 46, who raised $2,500 last year (compared with Kersey’s $125,000).
But now comes a second Democrat—Fotios “Frank” Tsimboukakis, 56, of Scripps Ranch. He won’t spend more than $2,000, but will walk the district and said, “I have the two best volunteers—my left leg and my right leg.”
Tsimboukakis, who filed last week, has done some serious opposition research.
He thinks Kersey didn’t live in District 5 when he entered his first race in May 2011. The Greek immigrant believes Kersey made his home in Solana Beach, where he lost a 2004 city council race.
When Kersey cut campaign contribution checks to the GOP and other candidates in early 2012, he listed a Solana Beach address. And a March 2012 document shows Kersey directing a real-estate record to be mailed to his ex-wife, Brittainy, in Black Mountain Ranch (in D5). After filing for divorce in 2008, she remarried in 2013 and moved to Del Mar. Kersey now lives in that Black Mountain Ranch home.
“I don’t know any couples that live together after a divorce, especially one initiated four years earlier and completed long before 2012,” Tsimboukakis said.
Brittainy and Mark have a young son, and they share “50-50 custody,” Brittainy said. She also told CityBeat to trust her ex on where he was living in 2011: “I’m sure he’s telling 100 percent the truth. He’s always been a very upstanding person. I’m sure whatever he tells you is accurate.” In a seven-minute phone chat, Brittainy used the word “accurate” six times.
And Kersey says: “The ridiculous assertions from my opponent about my residency are fabricated and baseless,” and says his D5 residency was verified by the City Clerk’s Office when he ran in 2011.
The City Clerk’s Office relies on Registrar of Voters records, and the ROV relies on the Department of Motor Vehicles’ database, which is not verified for home residency by the DMV.
Kersey got just cursory inspection during the 2012 election—when he ran to succeed Carl DeMaio in the GOP-leaning district. No red flags were raised over his residency.
Stacey Fulhorst, head of the city Ethics Commission, says Kersey has never been the subject of a complaint. The ethics panel did a random audit of Kersey’s campaign committee for May 2011 to June 2013 and found he “substantially complied” with local campaign laws.
But Tsimboukakis raises another issue—a Form 700 financial statement filed in April 2014.
Kersey failed to disclose an undeveloped lot in Black Mountain Ranch that he bought in 2013 for $695,000, Tsimboukakis said. It’s within the district, reportable and notable, he contended, “especially given the fact that more than 80 percent of Kersey 2012 campaign contributions came from out-of-district developers.”
Tsimboukakis said he’s filed a complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission. He also says he’s contacted the District Attorney’s Office.
A Kersey spokesperson denied any impropriety with the Form 700 issue.
San Diego County Democratic Party chair Francine Busby said: “When Frank told me about his research, it wasn’t really a big surprise that there could have been an issue with this [residency]. If [the claims] can be verified, I’m sure that there would be legal ramifications because candidates attest to the information that they submit under penalty of perjury.”
She said Tsimboukakis is generally “very thorough” in his research. (He served as president of the East County Democratic Club when he lived in Santee and ran, losing badly, to Joel Anderson for state Senate in 2014.) “I expect him to run a vigorous [council] race,” Busby added.
Tsimboukakis, who moved back to Scripps Ranch after his two grown sons left home, said he “agonized” over running, but was upset over Kersey not taking the community’s side on issues like water meter rates and the 66-year land-lease deal that will raze the Innovations Academy charter school (and build 264 apartments instead). He said the district needs a bulldog in office.
Tsimboukakis has been saying—to Kersey’s great annoyance—that Kersey backed the developer in a letter to San Diego Unified School Board President Mike McQuary, but took the letter back. McQuary told CityBeat: “When I receive an email and then receive a request to withdraw it, I delete it and the request. I have no records of emails that were withdrawn.”
When Tsimboukakis says D5 needs a bulldog in office he suggests Mikas isn’t tough enough, either.
Mikas is dogged on Kersey’s Rebuild San Diego plan—a charter amendment to guarantee funding for infrastructure and maintenance headed for the June ballot. Mikas dismissed the long-evolving plan, calling it a dusted off version of DeMaio’s “Save Our Streets” lock-box effort.
“We can’t give anyone raises” under the Kersey plan (except for police), Mikas said. “You’re telling union workers they’re not going to get raises for 20 to 30 years?”
Mikas is a Nissan Leaf-driving political novice with no TV (his sons broke two) who works at Trader Joe’s in Scripps Ranch. Mikas has an encyclopedic knowledge of the district (don’t ask him about egress issues involving the incoming Palomar College campus), and said he took “basic training” in electioneering from a labor union. He said he attended three classes.
Kersey said he’s never met Mikas. “The fact is, Carl DeMaio moved into the territory and ran,” Mikas said. “I happened to see [Kersey] was running and saw that he was the only one, again. I was like: ‘I’ll hate myself if I don’t do something about this.’… [Kersey] rented a place in Bernardo Heights when he ran for office.”
Kersey answers the carpetbagger slam by saying: “Voters are less interested in the length of time that someone’s lived in a particular place—especially in a place like San Diego, where everyone is from somewhere else anyway— and more interested in what you’re going to accomplish and ‘What have you accomplished?’”