“The only thing we learn from a new election is we learned nothing from the old.”
Much has been made of the troika of Republican San Diego City Council candidates that mayoral hopeful Carl DeMaio has touted on the 2012 campaign trail as the team he needs to make comprehensive pension reform a reality.
The word “slate” has been bandied about quite a bit, apparently to the consternation of DeMaio's political handlers at Revolvis Consulting, a firm that also happens to be running the campaigns of conservative candidates Ray Ellis in District 1, Mark Kersey in District 5 and Scott Sherman in District 7.
It seems that such talk of a link with the financially well-off DeMaio actually hurts fundraising efforts for the trio of council candidates. Meanwhile, folks at Revolvis—who did not respond for this column—are apparently shrugging it off as Carl being Carl.
Political crystal-ball gazers will tell you that Ellis faces the toughest challenge against Councilmember Sherri Lightner, considering it's been more than two decades since an incumbent seeking re-election lost. Kersey, on the other hand, is running to replace DeMaio in perhaps San Diego's most conservative district, so his victory seems more likely. Democrat Todd Philips has decided against running.
But in District 7, there are few bold predictions. In a district whose voter registration—thanks to recent redistricting efforts—is now fairly evenly split among Republicans, Democrats and independents, words like “down to the wire” and “swing district” crop up frequently in conversations.
The factors at play currently include low name identification for all three candidates running in District 7 and the uncertainty of how important the June 5 primary will be in the race for a Republican presidential nominee. If that's still up in the air by then, Republican voters are expected to come out in droves. If the California primary is an afterthought in the presidential race, then not so much.
Council races are officially nonpartisan, but political analyst John Dadian believes that probably won't be the case in the District 7 race. “Clearly, there's a major Democrat and a major Republican that the parties are going to get behind, so, realistically, it will become a partisan race,” Dadian argued.
But “major” does not translate to well-known. This, after all, is the district that brought us former TV consumer advocate Marti Emerald and the ubiquitous April Boling. Boling, whose husband is recovering from cancer, has tossed her support behind insurance firm co-owner Sherman. Emerald moved and is running for the new District 9 seat.
Sherman, an amiable 48-yearold Patrick Henry High School graduate who lives in the same Allied Gardens home of his childhood, has compiled a sizable list of conservative endorsements, including Mayor Jerry Sanders, the local county Republican Party, mayoral candidates DeMaio and Nathan Fletcher, councilmembers Lorie Zapf and Kevin Faulconer, and the San Diego chapter of the right-wing New Majority.
Sherman helped collect signatures for the pension-reform initiative, which appears headed for the June ballot, so he's definitely in line with DeMaio on that, although he bristles at the thought of being a DeMaio clone. Zapf was accused of the same thing, he said, “and she's proven that she's her own person. In fact, Carl was the last guy to the table. Nathan endorsed me first. I tell people, ‘I'm my own guy.'”
He said he got to know DeMaio during council debates over proposed closures of fishing locations. An avid angler, Sherman appreciated DeMaio “going to bat” for local fishermen and told him he “owed him one” should he decide to run for another office.
“Two months later, what do you know, Carl says he's running for mayor,” Sherman said. “So we held a coffee at my house.”
But Sherman insists he's beholden neither to DeMaio nor to acerbic local GOP chairman Tony Krvaric, despite the party endorsement. “When you get endorsements, a lot of times you end up taking the bad with the good, you know what I mean?”
Asked to elaborate, he added, “San Diego is a huge small town, and you never burn a bridge unless you want it burnt.”
Sherman's Democratic opponent, former Sen. Dianne Feinstein aide Mathew Kostrinsky, has the backing of local labor, Councilmember Todd Gloria and state legislators Marty Block and Toni Atkins. But he understands the battle ahead.
The 41-year-old Del Cerro resident has poured himself into town councils and community projects, including helping to raise $185,000 to rebuild a neighborhood playground park. Also a Patrick Henry grad, Kostrinsky worked for the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, where he focused on military, energy, high-tech and biotech issues.
He'll definitely clash with Sherman on the pension-reform initiative, which he predicts will be “costly for taxpayers and a legal liability.”
“I believe there needs to be reform, but where was the due diligence on this initiative?” Kostrinsky added. “My mom ran a small business, and before we did anything, we looked at the fine print. We're going to be spending city dollars to defend this without the due diligence to make sure [the initiative] can hold up.”
A third candidate, stay-at-home dad Rik Hauptfeld of Tierrasanta, is running as an independent. A 39-year-old native of the former Yugoslavia, his professor parents moved to Michigan when he was 2 to “escape the Socialist regime. My mom was the one who instilled in me to embrace democracy.”
Out of work from the construction industry since 2009, Hauptfeld—a self-described fiscal conservative—has also embraced caring for his three young daughters while his wife works. “Being around my kids so much just makes me want to contribute more to our community,” he said. “That's what you'll hear from me: community, family, kids.”
He does understand the challenge he faces against better-financed opponents, but he's unfazed. “I'm sure they want this over in June and will fund-raise to intimidate others like me to quit. But when I mention to people that I'm independent, they really get interested.”
Sherman hinted that a June finish would be preferable. “I've got some fishin' I want to do in July,” he said with a chuckle.