A careful perusal of City Council candidate Carl DeMaio's fund-raising records next time around might turn up a surprise name: Eric Wolff, San Diego CityBeat. This is not to be taken as an endorsement of DeMaio (my endorsement remains up for grabs in District 5); it's more a case of curiosity killing the proverbial cat.
Check out an invitation we received in an e-mail blast: 'A social networking group for those under the age of 35 who are interested in getting more engaged in politics and community change.' It said the event featured Carl DeMaio and some other people. It would be held at the hip new Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
Hey, I'm under 35. I want to be more engaged in local politics. I want to be hip (too late, I know). How could I resist? Making it more enticing, DeMaio's people weren't going to let me in as a reporter. The only way in would require cash down on the barrelhead.
The scene itself defied my stuffy-fundraiser expectations. The hotel is a brand-new art-deco creation, with high, square barstools and a restaurant that opens onto a small round pool. Roughly 70 suited young people swarmed the lounge (thank the gods of news that I'd changed from my alt-weekly uniform of jeans and an oxford shirt before heading over), chatting over fried calamari (free), cheese-and-ham egg rolls (free) and martinis (most definitely not free). DeMaio himself roamed the floor in his own campaign uniform: tie-less with an open shirt collar and a tailored suit.
Not everyone knew what he or she'd gotten into.
'I had no idea this was a DeMaio fundraiser,' said Whitney Benzian, a lobbyist who used to work for City Councilmember Ben Hueso. 'I'm not angry or anything--I just didn't know.'
He was not alone, though other attendees didn't want their names revealed. DeMaio spokesperson Erica Mendelson said an omission of the fact that it was a fundraiser was unintentional.
'It seemed clear to me and the host committee as well. If there was any confusion, I think people were able to ask questions and clarify at the event,' she told me in a follow-up phone call.
Meanwhile, after I'd had time to talk action movies and politics with fellow attendees, DeMaio unveiled his stump speech. He's taking the outsider's approach, castigating the City Council for being beholden to unions and big business. He implicitly challenged Mayor Jerry Sanders to do more with reorganizing government and using the tools given him by Proposition C, a voter-passed initiative that opened up more city-government jobs to private-sector competition.
'Hey, if you're not doing the job, you get fired, just like in the real world,' he said.
Sanders, lately, has been expressing the view that, in light of his experience with departed land-use chief Jim Waring, he would prefer people with more government experience and perhaps a bit less in the private sector.
DeMaio responded, 'He's just promoting the status quo.'
He made it clear that if elected, he simply will not take no for an answer.
'Hey, I'm Mr. Ballot Initiative,' he said. 'If I can't get five [City Council] votes, I'll go out and get 100,000 signatures and put it on the ballot.'
That may have been the one remark that went over poorly with his audience.
'I don't know about that part,' said an investment banker. 'I kind of believe in representative democracy. I want the council to do its job.'