With the endorsement of millionaire Steve Francis by the Republican Party of San Diego County's Central Committee, the infighting has begun.
More than just a vote a confidence or blurb to adorn campaign literature, the party's official nod opens the door to a treasure trove of benefits, including a ready army of precinct walkers and a campaign-finance proviso allowing the party to funnel unlimited amounts of money into advertising campaigns targeting its members.
Indeed, the rewards are so grand that prior to the committee's decision, Francis, who's polling in the single digits, told CityBeat it wasn't that important in a non-partisan race. But it seems Francis was only playing it cool for the press as party chairman Ron Nehring reported an “unprecedented effort” on Francis' behalf to woo committee members. But while Francis' efforts paid off, not every Republican contender was up for consideration.
Former Police Chief Jerry Sanders-the leading Republican in the race, according to recent polls-opted not to bother collecting the support of two committee members needed to qualify for consideration.
“It was clear to us before Monday night that the endorsement process had been stacked against us, and we didn't think continued participation would be productive,” Sanders said in an e-mail message.
Sanders told CityBeat he initially tried to win the Republican endorsement, speaking at a candidate forum and interviewing with the party's Executive Committee, but was met with an icy reception. Sanders said he spent two hours waiting for his interview, and when he finally got a chance to make his case, he didn't get the committee's full attention.
“Ron Nehring got up and walked out when I started my presentation, even though he was chairing the meeting and came back when it was just about over,” Sanders said. “It was just apparent to me that they were going to go with Steve [Francis].”
Nehring told CityBeat he did leave but couldn't remember the details. In the end, Sanders said he decided he wasn't going to bother. “I'm just not willing to jump through the hoops sometimes when it is obvious that somebody has predetermined who is going to get it or at least they have it narrowed down to one or two.”
While the absence of the top-ranked Republican candidate from the party's choice of possible endorsements has some politicos scratching their heads, some of the party's more conservative members are fighting mad about the actual vote. Supporters of motorcycle dealer Myke Shelby, who reportedly managed to stall Francis' allegedly preordained victory for several hours, are charging that some of their fellow Republicans employed dirty parliamentary procedure to get the two-thirds vote required to secure the endorsement for Francis.
Christian conservatives James Hartline, a former gay man turned Catholic flamethrower, and Priscilla Schreiber, a controversial Grossmont Union High School trustee, are making allegations that committee members who supported Shelby were threatened and are themselves planning to rally their fellow Christian conservatives -expected to turn out en masse to support the Mount Soledad Cross-against Francis.
“I don't believe in bussing people, I don't believe in affirmative action and I don't believe that people who are gay and lesbian or bisexual or whatever the hell they are have the right to call themselves some endangered class and have us make special laws. I don't believe in hate crimes.... If that sounds like part of the Christian Right, well, then, it only sounds like it, because I'm not part of that, but we happen to believe in similar things.”
That's candidate Shelby, who was scheduled to attend a forum held at the San Diego Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center in Hillcrest, where eight other candidates discussed their views on gay issues. But Shelby cancelled at the last minute, citing a scheduling conflict.
CityBeat caught up with Shelby the day before the debate and once he started talking, we just couldn't shut him up.
“As a citizen, as a person, I get a kick out of gays. They're funny. They have great senses of humor. They're very self-deprecating, and so it's entertainment and, you know, it's fun.
“But to [participate in the debate] and give it credibility, especially when the main thing on their agenda is gay marriage, I think that attacks the culture and undermines everything we stand for....
“I think that when you make laws that change the culture, that's wrong; when the culture changes the laws, that's right....
“It's like outlawing blowjobs. You wouldn't do that today, but we've got those-what do you call those laws on the books?-sodomy laws. Well, when they were put in, they were put in because that's the way the culture was. You wouldn't do that today and you wouldn't do that to change the culture, but the culture has changed, so the laws should be changed to match it....”
Shelby isn't suggesting that blowjobs be outlawed, but he made the leap to an apparent surge in their popularity among junior high school students.
“Don't get me wrong, I would have loved them to be as popular when I was in ninth grade. Damn, they want me to join these groups that preach abstinence-which I think is the right thing to do-but I can't do that. I spent too much time when I was 15 years old telling every lie and any other thing I can think of to talk girls out of being abstinent. I'm going to go now and say what I was doing is bullshit? I'm not preaching it, but it's probably the right thing to do, and I don't think the culture should get involved in either teaching it officially or not, or whatever.”
Candidates submitted their campaign-finance statements to the City Clerk last week, making public how much money they've raised between Jan. 1 and June 11, who contributed and how they've spent the loot.
Francis, who's raised and spent the most, shattered previous expectations by pouring $750,000 of his own money into the campaign. The “outsider” candidate also picked up approximately $75,000 from supporters, including contributions from hotelier Doug Manchester and several of his underlings, Mighty 1090 radio station owner John Lynch and failed state Assembly candidate Tricia Hunter. But Francis' statement shows that to date, his campaign has burned through almost all of its assets, spending more than $200,000 on consultants and nearly $500,000 on advertising, including a massive television blitz.
Subtract Francis' donation to his own campaign and Sanders actually emerges as the top fundraiser among the candidates, having raised roughly $105,000. Contributors include a smattering of law-enforcement types, as well as former City Manager Jack McGrory, the architect of a 1996 plan that allowed the city to under-fund its pension plan; former City Councilmember Byron Wear, who quipped, “It appears we have our own little version of a social-security scandal here,” just months before voting to further under-fund the pension system; and Roxanne Story Parks, assistant general council to the city retirement board.
Sanders' statement shows he already spent more than a third of his contributions on Internet and radio advertising, yard signs and consultants. He also returned $300 donated by former Police Officers Association president Bill Farrar, who told CityBeat he asked for a refund. “I decided that I didn't want my contribution misunderstood since I am the past president of the POA and still on the board of directors,” he wrote in an e-mail. But Sanders' campaign consultant Scott Maloni reported that Farrar yanked his contribution because he “disagreed with Jerry's position that pension fund benefits deemed to be granted illegally would need to be rolled back.”
Councilmember Donna Frye, who's leading in the polls, came in just behind Francis in total dollars raised (not counting Francis' $750,000 cash infusion) raising about $74,000. Frye's contributors include environmentalist and failed City Council candidate Kathryn Burton, former County Supervisor Lou Conde and League of Women Voters Vice President Norma Damashek. Frye's statement shows she has spent less than $20,000 on campaign signs and mailers.
Other candidates who filed disclosures include Jim Bell, who has raised $954, and a pair of lawyers who both insist the city should file for bankruptcy-Shawn McMillan ($1,400) and Pat Shea ($100). Seven other candidates did not turn in campaign disclosures before the filing deadline.