May 25 2016 01:28 PM

San Diego’s run to the primary is getting twisted

An anticipated Mayor Kevin Faulconer should be forced to a November runoff.
Photo illustration by John R. Lamb

Applause is the spur of noble minds, the end and aim of weak ones.

—Edmund Burke

Someone break out the smelling salts! The historically right-wing-to-a-fault San Diego Union-Tribune editorial board kicked off its June 7 primary endorsement pronouncements this week with a humdinger, picking openly Democratic entrepreneur Barbara Bry over the paper’s Republican choice four years ago in the District 1 City Council race, direct-mail retiree Ray Ellis.

It should be noted that the newly revamped editorial board, now headed by the paper’s former social-media manager Matthew T. Hall, was cordial enough about Ellis to root on a November-runoff scenario, noting, “A longer election would be fine, and we hope whoever loses doesn’t lose sight of how much San Diego would benefit from their civic involvement.”

But what sold the board on Bry, apparently, was her ability to correct erroneous statements quicker than her opponent. She was on the horn “from the parking lot” after a U-T interview to say she should have said “veteran homelessness” when claiming the city of Phoenix had “basically ended homelessness,” the endorsement explained.

Ellis, meanwhile, got dinged for not admitting quickly enough that he’d gotten Bry’s position wrong on whether to appeal a January Public Employment Relations Board ruling against the 2012 pension-reform measure Prop. B.

“He subsequently told an editorial writer, ‘I got a little ahead of myself,’ and explained he’d characterized her position [against appealing] based on a transcript of an interview he had obtained from a meeting of the Republican-leaning Lincoln Club of San Diego County,” the editorial read. “His was a political response that generated more questions than answers.”

Yes, like who at the Lincoln Club, which is spending mightily to help the Ellis cause, coughed up the transcript, and does this cross the line for candidate communications with a supposedly independent expenditure committee? Maybe it’s kosher, but it sure reeks, and the U-T editorial board was wise to say it will not “condone such shenanigans.”

The skeptic in Spin Cycle suggests that the Union-Tribune will now follow up its momentary tilt to the left with a barrage of right-leaning election picks, save perhaps for the presidency, at which time it will more than likely shoot itself in the collective head before choosing between Hillary Clinton, a past favorite U-T punching bag, and this newcomer named Something Trump.

But it just goes to show you that when media get fed a diet of snack foods from politicians, media get hooked on said snack foods. There’s that immediate rush from the intake, then the natural inclination to take a nap, followed by regret and indignation from swallowing such junk. Repeat. Rinse.

Perhaps the media scrub themselves too frequently, leaving no residue from past encounters with the aforementioned “shenanigans.” Certainly the circus barkers who rely on electioneering as a career hope the public lack certain skills in institutional memory. Their livelihood depends on it, otherwise they’d be relegated to generating the best ideas in hopes of crushing the lesser ideas of their opponents.

And that’s not a San Diego thing these days. Sometimes you have to just pat this town on the head and say, “Had enough?” Hell, Kevin Faulconer, the Republican incumbent mayor who so wants to wrap up his re-election efforts in June so he can avoid political heavy lifting come the November general election, is lending his seal of approval to Democratic candidates in council races where no Republican presence can be measured.

District 3 council candidate Anthony Bernal embraced his nod from the mayor, while District 9 favorite Ricardo Flores distanced himself from a Faulconer-voiced robo-call endorsement.

Between now and when you read this, only the second of three televised debates that Faulconer agreed to will have taken place with challengers Lori Saldaña, a former Democratic member of the state Assembly now running as an independent, and Ed Harris, a lifeguard sergeant and former city council member. Within the friendly confines of the KUSI television studio, Faulconer might have found a witty retort to Saldaña’s reference to him as the “Dean Spanos of mayors”— equating him and the Chargers owner with equal parts ambition for bigger pastures, Los Angeles for Spanos and the governor’s mansion in Sacramento for Faulconer in 2018.

Whatever the response is, however, should be better than what he previously told KUSI: “Ha ha, you know, people can say a lot of weird things in campaigns.”

The KUSI story also dusted off months-old approval ratings for the mayor—“His internal polling shows his approval rating among Democrats is 68 percent and 71 percent among Latinos,” the story claimed—and yet here we are less than two weeks from the primary, and darn if there’s been little recent polling shared with the public.

In election years past, we would have seen a few polls leading up to Election Day on the mayor’s race. All Spin has seen is some much-regurgitated polling of questionable repute showing Faulconer polling in the high 20s with a large number of undecideds. On Tuesday, the Independent Voter Network San Diego issued results from a poll it claimed put Faulconer within striking distance of an outright win in June, at 48.06 percent. Or as the cheerleading KUSI put it in mathematically challenged fashion, “New poll shows Faulconer sweeping primary elections.”

So, weirder things have happened, right? San Diego, via our piddling Padres, now owns more National Anthem screw-ups (the recent Gay Men’s Chorus debacle and the 1990 Rosanne Barr shriekfest) than World Series victories (Game 2, 1984 vs. Detroit Tigers).

The powerful San Diego Police Officers Association, whose endorsement among seekers is considered the Holy Grail, this year can be found on mailers endorsing candidates for the local Republican Party’s Central Committee. The POA shipped off $1,500 to the party in March. Truly weird.

If San Diego wants weird, let’s go for it. Send Faulconer to a presidential general, where he’s never gone before. Get the city council to settle the tourist-tax conundrum, with or without him. Maybe real words will replace happy talk. Crazy, right?


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