Tag Archives: Jan Goldsmith

Dede Alpert Happened

In June I asked What the Hell Happened in San Diego following a disaster in the June primary. A few days later, I noted that, among other things, Ben Hueso happened. Today, former state senator Dede Alpert happened in much the same way. Alpert is, apparently by virtue of just being a Democrat who’s ever been elected to something, generally considered to be a major force within the San Diego Democratic Party. She was even batted around as a possible candidate for mayor before leading Dems decided it would be easier to just give up and go home. So in the one remaining citywide race, Alpert endorses Jan Goldsmith for City Attorney, the Republican. This of course continues her streak of supporting Republicans every chance she gets.

Let’s keep this straight. Incumbent City Attorney Mike Aguirre is the only one in San Diego who has consistently and seriously pursued tremendous corruption concerns over the past several years. Alpert’s endorsement says that Goldsmith “will provide the kind of leadership the City Attorney’s office needs to be a competent, well-managed law office for the people of San Diego.” Which of course implies that Aguirre’s office is incompetent and poorly managed. This is a popular line of CW bullshit in San Diego pushed out by people who bristle at the notion of real accountability at the city level. I know that Aguirre isn’t always the easiest person to get along with or work with, but with nobody else in the entire city taking seriously the responsibility to provide an uncorrupted, open and reasonably functional government, I’d wonder what exactly Alpert is looking for.

Has the city’s recent crumbling infrastructure, financial mismanagement, city hall pay-to-play scandals, collapsing economy and lack of responsiveness been some sort of model for virtuous governance and I missed the memo? Has the appeal of having a viable oppositional voice been abandoned in favor of a de-facto autocracy full of people keeping their head down and building a resume?

In this case, it makes some sense that, since Alpert’s Republican choice for mayor has won, that she would want to undermine anyone who might oppose his policies- regardless of whether the policies are good. Or ethical. Or healthy for the long-term prospects of city governance. Effective government requires a public and reasonable debate, a legitimate division of power within government and between ideologies, and a basic level of competence and motivation towards maintaining such standards. It would seem Alpert disagrees, but complacency and go-along-get-along simply doesn’t fly. Not anymore at least.

The Democratic Party in San Diego is completely rotten at the top. These standard-bearers of the establishment and decaying conventional wisdom are an embarrassment and actively undermine the tremendous bottom-up organizing that new blood, new perspectives and new energy have brought to the grassroots level. It’s people like Ben Hueso and Dede Alpert who work expressly at cross-purposes to the notion of a viable San Diego Democratic Party. The ultimate opponent is the GOP, but these oppositional Democrats are a hurdle that need to be identified and understood as well. There won’t be a healthy Democratic Party until we win both fronts. If Dede Alpert wants to try to hold up the Republican power structure, so be it. Now we know what we’re dealing with.

What the Hell Happened in San Diego?

At Voice of San Diego today, David Washburn asks Where are the Democrats?

It’s a question that I’ve been contemplating and broaching in conversations since June 3 which was, to put it mildly, a disaster for Democrats of San Diego. In a Democratic majority city, the official mayoral nominee of the Democratic Party received 6.3% of the vote. The contested Democratic primary in the 50th Congressional District received in total just 70% of the votes that incumbent Rep. Brian Bilbray received running unopposed. In the 52rd district, Democratic candidates combined for 81% of the total received by Duncan Hunter Jr. himself in a four-way primary.

Not a single Democratic challenger to the Board of Supervisors reached 30% of the vote. One fresh face was added to the Unified School Board- running unopposed. Democrats could not force a runoff in all four City Council races or reach 50% in any, leaving a very real possibility that Dems will lose control of the nominally non-partisan Council in November. Dems in the race for City Attorney split the vote three ways, allowing Republican Jan Goldsmith to slide into pole position for the November runoff against incumbent Mike Aguirre who clocked in at under 29%. Heck, the Chair of the San Diego Democratic Party came in 7th in a vote-for-six race for Central Committee (and then won a DNC spot over the weekend). I could go on.

Each of these races on their own might be justified. But when it represents the entire strength that the San Diego Democratic Party can muster in the midst of a pro-Democratic tide across the country larger than anyone has seen in decades, it’s cause for concern. So what happened? Washburn offers a few thoughts as do I:

One of the most glaring issues is money. As Washburn notes,

In the just-finished primary, the Democratic Party spent $35,000 on direct mail and other support of Stephen Whitburn. His chief competition for the District 3 seat came from two other Democrats — Todd Gloria and John Hartley. Gloria and Whitburn made the runoff.

“Why would you spend a penny on that race?” asked Andy Berg, the director of government relations for the National Electrical Contractors Association and a Democrat. “Gloria and Whitburn would likely vote the same (on council) 100 out of 100 times.”

Meanwhile, Berg noted, Democrats are in dogfights against well-funded Republicans in Districts 1 and 7. The party spent nearly $70,000 in the primary to support Marti Emerald and oppose Boling in District 7. The GOP spent more than $200,000 in that race.

In District 1, the funding disparity is starker. The Democratic Party spent just more than $5,000 supporting Sherri Lightner in a race against Thalheimer and Marshall Merrifield, Republicans who combined raised more than $700,000, most of it coming out of their own pockets.

In the mayoral race, the GOP spent $230,000 on Sanders while the Democrats spent $1,869 on [Democratic nominee Floyd] Morrow.

I should note that District 1 is current represented by Democrat and City Council President Scott Peters, so losing that seat could mean losing control of the Council.

Current state GOP Chair Ron Nehring came up in San Diego, where with unlimited national-level resources he rebuilt the SD GOP with a focus on infrastructure and electoral victory, leaving ideology as incidental. As designed, it has almost completely eliminated the ability of local Democrats to win or often contest elections- which makes the ideological debate moot since…well…there isn’t one.

One wonders what exactly the point is of even nominating someone for Mayor if there will be no support at all. The most prominent Democrats in San Diego looked past Morrow, with former state Sen. Dede Alpert, former Assemblywoman Lucy Killea and former Rep. Lynn Schenk endorsing Jerry Sanders and Councilmember Donna Frye doing everything but endorsing GOP challenger Steve Francis. There’s a time and a place for pragmatism, but completely giving up on even having a debate of the issues that ranges outside the far right-to-center right continuum should be embarrassing. If we can’t even talk about these issues in an election, when are we gonna do it?

Washburn goes on to touch on another issue that I’ve discussed many times with local Democrats: Where the hell are the candidates and the infrastructure? Lorena Gonzalez lost an exceptionally tight race for City Council in 2006 in a district that covers beach communities and downtown urbanites that should be favorable for a Democrat:

“Here we have a Stanford-educated woman with brilliant ideas and Democratic ideals — she epitomized what the party is about,” Berg said. “And [the party] couldn’t muster the support to win a City Council race.”

Gonzalez, who is now the secretary-treasurer of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council, said she felt, to a degree, like she was on her own during the race.

“Speaking as a candidate, we don’t have the same infrastructure that the GOP has,” said Gonzalez, who estimates she was outspent 7-to-1 in the race. “And there have been no real attempts to create an infrastructure and professionalize the party.”

Gonzalez might be going a bit further than I would there, because the SD Dems and Chair Jess Durfee have in fact been making tremendous strides recently. Indeed, Washburn notes “Since taking over as chairman four years ago, Durfee said he has increased the organization’s budget from $60,000 to $300,000. Also, he said, and the party has gone from having no field operations at all, to more than 700 trained precinct leaders in the county.”

That’s a darn good start, and one that should be commended. But when the money is being misallocated, when candidates don’t feel like they’ll be supported by a vigorous infrastructure, and when leading figures in the party check out and throw their lot in with the GOP under the guise of some cop-out notion of pragmatism that simply justifies the opposing point of view, there’s been a fundamental and catastrophic breakdown.

The infrastructure that is beginning to take root here is encouraging, but remain small steps in the right direction. These few encouraging steps are more than outweighed by the colossal “DNP” on the coaches’ scorecard for prominent Democrats throughout the County. If they weren’t busy with in-fighting, they flat did not show up. And with that kind of leadership, building from the ground up- even in times as conducive as these- becomes a herculean task. If June 3rd’s results are any indication, local Democrats won’t be done wandering in the wilderness any time soon.