May 7 2012 12:00 AM

Congressional candidate makes up new reasons for cancelling CityBeat interview

Photo by David Rolland

Lori Saldaña, one of two Democrats running against Rep. Brian Bilbray in Congressional District 52, has personally chimed in on this week's Turds & Blossoms column in which we explained to our readers why we won't be publishing a big spread about her candidacy. 

The short answer: Because the candidate, normally a liberal's liberal, decided she didn't like one of our Tweets and that the smartest course of action was the nuclear option-abruptly cancelling an interview with a newspaper that had set aside 2,400 words for her. 

In her responses, rather than cutting her losses, Saldaña doubled down and came up with fresh excuses to justify her decision. Almost all of them are demonstrably false. ---

Dave and David-

I base my choice to decline your belated invitation on your long-term lack of interest and failure to contact my campaign, as much any incidental tweet. I announced my candidacy in August, months before Peters. It was in the UT and attracted hundreds of comments - positive, negative and otherwise.

I was hardly hiding from you or other newspapers to answer questions. I sat down with other local newspapers for interviews, around the same time as my opponents. CityBeat could have followed suit, but chose to delay offering me a meeting for months.

You had Joe [Kocurek]'s contact info and knew he was my media contact- he'd worked for me for 6 years in my Assembly office. Yet you never expressed interest until recently.

Why the intrigue now?

I've learned a few thing about journalism as the daughter of a 25-year career reporter in this town, who did PR long before I was born. Your timing, tweets and this current debate give an opponent's campaign advantages that I will not have. You control what appears in print and when. The playing field is hardly level.

By giving him an October 2011 interview and refusing to offer me a date until late April/May 2012, you allowed him to discuss his Congressional plans, accomplishments and failed leadership on the City Council months before the election. Result: voters hardly noticed or cared last fall.

Now, voters are watching the 52nd district race with interest and will be casting mail ballots in a few days. It's too late to give me the same timing in an interview you gave Scott, so I once again decline your request.

Let's look at three specific statements: 

"... your long-term lack of interest and failure to contact my campaign."

CityBeat was one of the earliest to get excited about Saldaña's candidacy, publishing our first piece on it in July 2011, long before she formally announced. We even sent a photographer to shoot her portrait at a political lunch. Saldaña has since used that very image in her campaign materials. 

In October 2011, we checked in with Saldaña during the Occupy San Diego protests, and posted a clip of her own Occupy-related stunt in D.C. 

In November 2011, we referred to Saldaña as a "silver lining" in an otherwise gloomy year for Democrats and made note of her impressive fundraising through Act Blue. 

In December 2011, we praised Saldaña for proposing a six-debate schedule, and defended her from an attack by a conservative blogger.

If that demonstrates disinterest, then we hate to think what she'd consider clingy. 

At the same time we caused plenty of headaches for Peters (including this one), with no equivalent negative piece about Saldaña. 

"You had Joe's contact info and knew he was my media contact- he'd worked for me for 6 years in my Assembly office. Yet you never expressed interest until recently."

Let's set aside the numerous times we met or spoke with Kocurek during Saldaña's time as a legislator, or how we twice had her as a special guest during our 2010 election live blogs. 

Throughout 2011, I personally exchanged text messages directly with Saldaña, some of which I still have saved on my phone. We've also exchanged scores of emails with her campaign over the last six months. I personally spoke at length, face-to-face, with her spokesperson Joe Kocurek at the California Democratic Convention. 

"By giving him an October 2011 interview and refusing to offer me a date until late April/May 2012"

This is the most egregious misrepresentation of the truth. We had scheduled an interview with Saldaña from 10 to 11 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 9. It was Kocurek who asked to postpone it: 

"Shucks! We have a huge week leading up to the Dem Convention, so we need to reschedule for next week," Kocurek wrote in an email to us three days before the interview. 

Unfortunately, that's not how it works. CityBeat has limited space and we schedule stories weeks, sometimes months, in advance. A candidate doesn't get to decide when we're going to have a news hole. A few weeks passed, and eventually we settled on 10 to 11 a.m. on Wednesday, April 18, a date chosen by Kocurek. 

Again, Kocurek cancelled just a few days before the interview was scheduled. 

Saldaña had the opportunity to score a large feature in our paper right before ballots started arriving in people's mail boxes, plus a longer interview online with video. Apparently that kind of "timing" is offensive to a candidate. 

Instead we get to the spend the next few weeks before the election talking about how Saldaña cancelled interviews, then made up reasons to explain why, rather than having an open debate about policy and experience.

As I said in response to her comments, "Since you decided not to speak to us, that action will have to speak for your campaign." 

Rolland put it a little more bluntly: "For someone who's running for Congress, your sensitivity is striking."  

You can read the discussion between Saldaña, Dave Rolland and myself right here


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