Supporters of Bonnie Dumanis might want to tell her that San Diego is a big American city and that to be elected as its mayor, she'll have to start putting some careful thought and effort into it.
The race for mayor began in June, when candidates were permitted to start asking people for money. At that time, Dumanis was widely considered -- at least among politics junkies -- to be a co-favorite with City Councilmember Carl DeMaio on the Republican side. Dumanis seemed to be the choice of the Republican establishment, anchored by an endorsement from the current mayor, Jerry Sanders. State Assemblymember Nathan Fletcher was seen as less-formidable than DeMaio and Dumanis.
However, in June, Fletcher raised an eye-popping $320,000 in campaign contributions, catapulting him upward in the eyes of early observers. At the same time, DeMaio raised nearly $271,000 from contributors and matched that amount from his own bank account, bringing his total to nearly $542,000. Meanwhile, Dumanis brought in less than $157,000, a figure that included $10,000 that she loaned to her campaign.
DeMaio comes off as the most confident in his mission, followed by Fletcher. Twitter is an echo chamber, but that's where journalists and other opinion shapers hang out, and while DeMaio and Fletcher seem engaged and proactive, Dumanis seems inert, bereft of energy.
Worse, she looks indecisive. Last week, Dumanis reversed her position on a pension-reform measure proposed for the June 2012 ballot in San Diego. In April, she said she was against it because it took a defined benefit away from city firefighters. Last week, she flipped, saying that firefighters could put their money in an annuity program. Fletcher expressed that view first.
The political world is a cynical world, and folks ain't buying Dumanis' reason for flipping. More likely, it's because her position wasn't polling well with conservatives, and voters who are against the reform measure will go with Congressmember Bob Filner. Didn't Dumanis think this through? DeMaio and Fletcher will hammer her for waffling.
Last Thursday, Dumanis sat for an interview with news and editorial writers at The San Diego Union-Tribune. We won't see the full results until Sunday, Sept. 4, but the live tweeting from the interview was alarming. Reportedly, she refused to divulge how she voted on last year's proposal to increase the sales tax in San Diego to help pay for services, flippantly dismissed early debating and said, “First of all, there are no new ideas,” when asked for her ideas. In a tweet, voiceofsandiego.org editor Andrew Donohue called it a “slow motion train wreck.”
When voiceofsandiego.org asked all the candidates for positions on the Chargers-stadium issue, DeMaio, Fletcher and other hopefuls were relatively detailed, but Dumanis was terse: “I don't support a tax increase for a stadium, and I can't comment further until I have a financing plan to review.”
Does she even want to be the mayor? Her heart doesn't seem to be in it. It's worth noting that Filner, DeMaio and Fletcher all have to give up their current offices to run for mayor. Dumanis doesn't, and she seems awfully comfortable as district attorney, so far attacking her mayoral campaign with a resounding yawn, followed by a shrug and an eye-roll.
Early on, Dumanis supporters tended to cite her experience running a large organization with a huge budget. However, one observer pointed out for us this week that the D.A.'s office has been insulated from the budget cuts that are plaguing the rest of the world. Since ousting incumbent Paul Pfingst in 2002, Dumanis hasn't faced much in the way of serious challenges. When she has been challenged, by the press in particular, she's reacted with thin-skinned defensiveness, which won't serve her well when the likes of DeMaio and Filner start gunning for her.
In an Aug. 28 editorial that was remarkably devoid of substance, the U-T opined that the campaign doesn't really get going until after Labor Day, effectively giving Dumanis a pass for her sluggishness.
Even if that's true, her opponents have gotten a head start, and we suspect that Dumanis' moderate supporters are probably starting to wonder if Fletcher is a stronger candidate to face off against DeMaio once the campaign, you know, really gets going.
What do you think? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.