File photo by Sam Hodgson
City Councilman and mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio has consistently touted bipartisan support for his agenda at debates, on his website and in campaign mailers.
We wanted to Fact Check some of most common claims that DeMaio has used to boost his populist campaign image, but we quickly found they are not independently verifiable.
For months, DeMaio has claimed a bipartisan group of voters supported his positions for improving the city.
We first noticed the claims at a mayoral forum in January. DeMaio described the partisan breakdown of voters who helped qualify the Proposition B pension initiative for the June ballot. He had led the signature gathering and made it a major part of his mayoral campaign.
“We had a third Republicans, a third Democrats and a third independents sign the ballot measure because we were effective in making the public case,” DeMaio said.
In March, DeMaio made similar claims about voting results. He cited bipartisan opposition to a November 2010 sales tax initiative, Proposition D. He had been the initiative’s most vocal opponent.
“I was proud of the fact that while we were outspent two-and-a-half to one by the government unions, we beat them on Election Day two-to-one and we carried every political party: independents, Democrats and Republicans,” DeMaio said.
Then, last month, the claim expanded to more elections and started landing in mailboxes across the city. DeMaio’s campaign paid for a mailer that said:
“Carl proved his bipartisan leadership abilities in three consecutive city-wide elections when he won passage of initiatives for managed competition and pension reform — and when he led the defeat of the sales tax hike. In each election, Carl’s reforms won the popular vote among Democrats, Republicans and independents!”
Lastly, at a mayoral debate Monday night, DeMaio added a couple of geographic and socioeconomic comparisons about the pension initiative. “We won every council district, every political party, every socioeconomic group on June 5,” DeMaio said.
But DeMaio’s claims are not as clear as he makes them out to be.
Election records back up DeMaio’s description of the sales tax initiative’s overall defeat — “we beat them on Election Day two-to-one” — and the geographic breakdown of the pension initiative’s results — “we won every council district.”
But none of the bolder claims about election results can be verified. Examining the accuracy of the statements would require access to signatures or individual voting records, which are confidential by law.
Since publicly available election records can’t verify DeMaio’s bipartisan claims, we asked his campaign where the information came from. Spokesman Ryan Clumpner said the comparisons represented the results of pre-election polls and the campaign’s assumptions about voting trends.
The campaign’s biggest assumption: The gap between votes for and against the initiatives were so big that DeMaio’s side must have included a mix of Republicans, Democrats and independents. More San Diegans opposed the sales tax initiative, for instance, than are registered Republican.
But did more Democrats — the primary backers of the sales tax initiative — actually oppose the measure than support it? There is no concrete evidence either way.
DeMaio cited slightly different information when talking about which parties helped qualify the Proposition B pension initiative for the June ballot. Stephen Puetz, a political consultant for DeMaio, wrote in an email that the partisan breakdown was obtained while signatures were verified.
“We wanted to be extremely thorough and diligent, so we had an elaborate signature verification process in place to make sure that we were submitting the correct number of valid signatures,” Puetz wrote. “The byproduct of that was we saw the party breakdown of the aggregate signatures.”
It’s impossible to verify those claims, though, because the signatures are confidential.
In fact, we can’t say whether any of DeMaio’s bipartisan claims are true or false. All of the records needed to verify them are not available to the public.
The theme of bipartisan support has been a constant message in DeMaio’s campaign. Yet some of his boldest claims can’t be proven, meaning we have to take DeMaio at his word.
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