Inside Look at Tense La Jolla Confab Where Republicans Chose Faulconer

Inside Look at Tense La Jolla Confab Where Republicans Chose Faulconer

Photo by Sam Hodgson

Doug Manchester

It was Saturday, Aug. 31. No Republican had announced his or her intention to run to replace Mayor Bob Filner, whose term in office ended quietly the night before.

A group of about 30 of the city’s most influential conservatives and right-of-center business representatives assembled at developer Tom Sudberry’s La Jolla estate.

Doug Manchester, publisher of U-T San Diego, came. Jerry Sanders, CEO of the Chamber of Commerce and the former mayor was there. As was Sanders’ former chief of staff, Kris Michell, who is now CEO of the Downtown Partnership.

Bill Geppert, the head of the emergent Business Leadership Alliance, attended, as did Tony Krvaric, chairman of the San Diego County Republican Party and Kelly Burt, the businessman and chairman of the New Majority San Diego, a fiscal conservative action group. Bill Lynch, the chairman of the Lincoln Club, was also there.

And so were the three potential Republican candidates for mayor: former Councilman Carl DeMaio, County Supervisor Ron Roberts and Councilman Kevin Faulconer.

It was the third meeting of the group. Even before it was clear that Filner was resigning, organizers had wanted to unite around a strategy. At first, they decided not to support a recall. Filner was the Democrats’ problem, they decided.

Then, as it became more clear that Filner was unlikely to recover, they decided they wanted to unite behind a right-of-center candidate in the mayor’s race. They asked all three candidates if they would each respect the decision of the group and bow out if it asked them to.

Faulconer and Roberts said they would not run if the group didn’t get behind them. DeMaio refused to commit to that.

I’ve confirmed these details with four participants, though all requested anonymity because the meetings were supposed to be confidential.

At the final meeting, on a couch in the front of the room with others behind him, Manchester, the developer-turned-newspaperman, made the case for DeMaio.

“We need a guy like him,” Manchester said, according to sources. “We haven’t had a damn good thing done in this city in the last 10 years.”

Behind him, in the group, Sanders stood up, angry.

“Wait a second. That’s bullshit. That’s fucking bullshit,” he said before describing a few of the city’s recent achievements.

“You’ll get your chance to speak,” Manchester replied. He pointed out a new football stadium hadn’t yet been built.

Later, Manchester apologized. Repeatedly.

DeMaio got up to speak and asked the group to acknowledge the job Sanders had done as mayor. That provoked a round of applause.

At the meeting, a group of pollsters, including John Nienstedt, passed along the data they had collected. DeMaio had the best name recognition. No surprise. Faulconer had a long way to go but could change many minds.

The group decided to support Faulconer and everyone pledged to try to get their organizations to support him. Most everyone left the meeting thinking DeMaio might still run.

DeMaio announced he would announce his decision the day after Labor Day, Sept. 3.

On Sept. 2, Manchester’s U-T San Diego — which ran three front-page editorials endorsing DeMaio for mayor last year — posted an editorial arguing DeMaio should not run again. U-T editors have acknowledged Manchester and CEO John Lynch control these editorials.

“There is no room for political opportunism,” the piece read. “His in-your-face doggedness and sometimes abrasive manner is just what is needed to fix a broken Congress. But those traits are not what is needed to heal our broken city.”

The New Majority did its part. On Sept. 6, it endorsed Faulconer for mayor.

The Republican Party also followed suit. On Monday, Sept. 9, it endorsed Faulconer. So did the Downtown Partnership’s political action committee, even though the chairman of its organization, Keith Jones from Ace Parking, is an outspoken supporter of Faulconer’s top rival, Nathan Fletcher.

But there was a hiccup at the Chamber of Commerce. Sanders, the Chamber’s CEO, pushed through a finding that it was in the Chamber’s interest to endorse early in this primary election.

Here was the notice Sanders sent out to his board members.

In accordance with the Chamber’s established Policy, the Chamber shall not endorse a candidate for election to any political office unless the board, after following the procedure laid out in the Policy, makes a finding that the outcome of the election will have a material and substantial positive or adverse impact on one or more critical issues that are recognized as vital interests of the San Diego Region, and determines to endorse a candidate.

Chamber Board Chair Mike Niggli and President and CEO Jerry Sanders initiated the process by making such a finding.

The board agreed. An endorsement vote was scheduled for early Monday morning.

But late Sunday, the meeting was suddenly canceled and moved to Thursday.

A Chamber representative on Twitter claimed that Fletcher could not make the early Monday meeting and so it was moved to Thursday so the board could hear him out.

When I asked whether Fletcher even had a chance, with Faulconer’s momentum from conservative leaders, the Chamber’s Chanelle Hawkin tweeted: “Nathan needs to make the case on who is the best candidate for jobs, business and economic growth.”

On Tuesday, after the big Saturday gathering, DeMaio announced that he had decided to stick with his congressional run. Though polls had showed him as a strong mayoral candidate, he faced a dead heat with Fletcher. Democrats would be motivated to stop him.

A loss would have been devastating, and it would have left his movement crippled.

Now he can hope to serve as Faulconer’s conscience with a title of congressman to back it up.

And he offered a lesson for Republican leaders:

“First, we must become more inclusive – and reach out to all communities to listen to their struggles and represent their hopes and dreams. Republicans can no longer be the party of old white men – they must win the trust and support of Latinos, African Americans, Asians, women, youth, working families and gays,” he said.

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Scott Lewis

Scott Lewis

I'm Scott Lewis, the CEO of Voice of San Diego. Please contact me if you'd like at scott.lewis@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0527 and follow me on Twitter (it's a blast!): @vosdscott.

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102 comments
Don Blucher
Don Blucher

The sausage-making isn't very pretty, usually... Many of your commenters forget that the business of the City should be run like a business, not as a day-care center for the progressive Left.

Don Blucher
Don Blucher subscriber

The sausage-making isn't very pretty, usually... Many of your commenters forget that the business of the City should be run like a business, not as a day-care center for the progressive Left.

Richard Ross
Richard Ross subscribermember

Sounds like Weil would prefer one with Todd Gloria.

Richard Ross
Richard Ross

Excellent report Scott. You identified all of this city's downtown Mafia their cohorts and sycophants. They couldn't stand the fact that someone who represented the broad spectrum of the residents had been elected as mayor. Of course Dougy wouldn't mention in the U-T that Mayor Filner had accomplished in Balboa Park (eliminating parking in the Plaza de Panama) for about $300,000 what Jacobs/Sanders plan would have added maintenance wise to the $240 million already in arrears plus an unneeded and underfunded (see IBA report) parking garage. Need one mention that Filner tried to protect the city from the liabillities of the ill conceived TMD only to get lambasted by the downtown Mafia's media (U-T) and TMD's beneficiaries.

Richard Ross
Richard Ross subscribermember

Excellent report Scott. You identified all of this city's downtown Mafia their cohorts and sycophants. They couldn't stand the fact that someone who represented the broad spectrum of the residents had been elected as mayor. Of course Dougy wouldn't mention in the U-T that Mayor Filner had accomplished in Balboa Park (eliminating parking in the Plaza de Panama) for about $300,000 what Jacobs/Sanders plan would have added maintenance wise to the $240 million already in arrears plus an unneeded and underfunded (see IBA report) parking garage. Need one mention that Filner tried to protect the city from the liabillities of the ill conceived TMD only to get lambasted by the downtown Mafia's media (U-T) and TMD's beneficiaries.

Don Blucher
Don Blucher

So tell us, Scott, when will we see the eye-opening "exposé" on all the back-room discussions and deals involving Big Labor, Union Reps, Democrat Operatives, and other progressive Bureaucrats??? Your piece would lead one to believe that the Conservative Folks are the only ones to organize their support behind a candidate of their choice. Filner is a prime example of the Left's efforts to back a person of THEIR choosing and we all know where THAT got us.... In my humble opinion, what took place at Sudberry's home reflects a common sense solution trumping irrational political fervor.

Don Blucher
Don Blucher subscriber

So tell us, Scott, when will we see the eye-opening "exposé" on all the back-room discussions and deals involving Big Labor, Union Reps, Democrat Operatives, and other progressive Bureaucrats??? Your piece would lead one to believe that the Conservative Folks are the only ones to organize their support behind a candidate of their choice. Filner is a prime example of the Left's efforts to back a person of THEIR choosing and we all know where THAT got us.... In my humble opinion, what took place at Sudberry's home reflects a common sense solution trumping irrational political fervor.

John Falchi
John Falchi

When the power elite of San Diego reach a consensus in a private gathering in San Diego, you can bet your bottom dollar that it results in a dictate that all are expected to follow, including the UT Publisher!

John Falchi
John Falchi subscriber

When the power elite of San Diego reach a consensus in a private gathering in San Diego, you can bet your bottom dollar that it results in a dictate that all are expected to follow, including the UT Publisher!

Joe Weil
Joe Weil

Oh Come on!!! No Show Nathan can't show up again!!!! This guy is useless to the city of San Diego. He needs lame excuses to cancel town hall meetings and fails to show up at town council meetings where he was slated to talk only to burn the council presidents. Then there is the No Show Nathan's assembly record of this lazy fool. Would you hire someone that only shows up to work 60% of the time?

Robert Cohen
Robert Cohen

What is with Manchester's obsession with a football stadium? Does he really feel that is the most pressing issue the city has? Guess he has an "edifice complex".

Robert Cohen
Robert Cohen subscriber

What is with Manchester's obsession with a football stadium? Does he really feel that is the most pressing issue the city has? Guess he has an "edifice complex".

Susan Harrigan
Susan Harrigan

Wow, what an unholy crew that is. The usual back room deals--Democracy in action.

Judith Swink
Judith Swink

I hope everyone will give a fair look at Bruce Coons' campaign for mayor. He's the only one among the better-known candidates who will continue to pursue the Progressive vision that Bob Filner began. Bruce Coons has an excellent record of working successfully with disparate and often oppositional groups on a range of issues to achieve positive compromise, and he does not hesitate to "go to the wall" when the opposition refuses to negotiate an acceptable compromise. Bruce has had extensive experience in business management in the private and public sector prior to becoming Executive Director of SOHO, which you can read about at his website; click on Biography. I urge all of you to give him a close look before deciding who to vote for in the Primary Election.Bruce Coons for Mayor of San Diegohttp://www.brucecoonsformayor.comA San Diego resident since 1958, Bruce Coons officially announced his candidacy for San Diego Mayor over Labor Day weekend. He is best known as the man behind Save Our Heritage Organisation (SOHO). Indeed, he is the executive director of San Diego Co...

Judith Swink
Judith Swink subscriber

I hope everyone will give a fair look at Bruce Coons' campaign for mayor. He's the only one among the better-known candidates who will continue to pursue the Progressive vision that Bob Filner began. Bruce Coons has an excellent record of working successfully with disparate and often oppositional groups on a range of issues to achieve positive compromise, and he does not hesitate to "go to the wall" when the opposition refuses to negotiate an acceptable compromise. Bruce has had extensive experience in business management in the private and public sector prior to becoming Executive Director of SOHO, which you can read about at his website; click on Biography. I urge all of you to give him a close look before deciding who to vote for in the Primary Election.Bruce Coons for Mayor of San Diegohttp://www.brucecoonsformayor.comA San Diego resident since 1958, Bruce Coons officially announced his candidacy for San Diego Mayor over Labor Day weekend. He is best known as the man behind Save Our Heritage Organisation (SOHO). Indeed, he is the executive director of San Diego Co...

Don Blucher
Don Blucher

I always love a spirited discussion...Even when I'm on the other end of the debate. Keep up the good work... :-)

Randy Dotinga
Randy Dotinga

NBC San Diego reported on a similar Democratic confab a few weeks ago. We mentioned it in the Morning Report then, and I linked to it again in today's Morning Report in reference to this story. http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/Power-Players-Meet-On-Filner-Situation--216046761.html Power Players Meet to Pick Recall Candidatehttp://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/Power-Players-Meet-On-Filner-Situation--216046761.htmllocal Several of the region's top Democratic elected officials held a meeting Sunday evening in the Golden Hill home of Congressman Juan Vargas to discuss the situation with embattled Mayor Bob Filner, and to pick a candidate should a recall effort b...

Scott Lewis
Scott Lewis

"Your piece would lead one to believe that the Conservative Folks are the only ones to organize their support behind a candidate of their choice." Why? That would not be a smart conclusion to make from anything I've written. It was an interesting scene I was able to confirm with sources. I don't have as great of sources among labor and Democrats, to be frank.

Don Blucher
Don Blucher subscriber

I always love a spirited discussion...Even when I'm on the other end of the debate. Keep up the good work... :-)

Randy Dotinga
Randy Dotinga memberauthor

NBC San Diego reported on a similar Democratic confab a few weeks ago. We mentioned it in the Morning Report then, and I linked to it again in today's Morning Report in reference to this story. http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/Power-Players-Meet-On-Filner-Situation--216046761.html Power Players Meet to Pick Recall Candidatehttp://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/Power-Players-Meet-On-Filner-Situation--216046761.htmllocal Several of the region's top Democratic elected officials held a meeting Sunday evening in the Golden Hill home of Congressman Juan Vargas to discuss the situation with embattled Mayor Bob Filner, and to pick a candidate should a recall effort b...

Scott Lewis
Scott Lewis administrator

"Your piece would lead one to believe that the Conservative Folks are the only ones to organize their support behind a candidate of their choice." Why? That would not be a smart conclusion to make from anything I've written. It was an interesting scene I was able to confirm with sources. I don't have as great of sources among labor and Democrats, to be frank.

Richard Ross
Richard Ross

Right on Judith. The Strong Mayor advocates wanted to return to the 1920's corruptable control form of government little did they forsee a mayor representing a broad spectrum of the public's best interests would be elected. Unfortunately that mayor had O.Ded on Senior Testosterone.

Judith Swink
Judith Swink

Pretty much like the initial "Strong Mayor" ballot measure.

Richard Ross
Richard Ross subscribermember

Right on Judith. The Strong Mayor advocates wanted to return to the 1920's corruptable control form of government little did they forsee a mayor representing a broad spectrum of the public's best interests would be elected. Unfortunately that mayor had O.Ded on Senior Testosterone.

Judith Swink
Judith Swink subscriber

Pretty much like the initial "Strong Mayor" ballot measure.

Don Blucher
Don Blucher

You guys are correct about the CITY making money....I said that stadiums bring in revenues and benefits for its citizens, meaning, added jobs, tourist dollars for restaurants & stores, tourist dollars for the Zoo, Sea World, LEGOLAND, etc. Stadium financing and the return on investment is another matter, entirely.

Bruno Behrend
Bruno Behrend

Stadia are massive waste of time, money and merely pile debt on an already overtaxed populace. They benefit only fat union contractors and municipal debt merchants. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/08/sports/08stadium.html http://thinkprogress.org/alyssa/2012/09/07/814991/should-taxpayers-subsidize-sports-stadiums/ http://dontmesswithtaxes.typepad.com/No_Public_Money_for_Stadia.pdfAs Stadiums Vanish, Their Debt Lives Onhttp://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/08/sports/08stadium.htmlIt's the gift that keeps on taking. The old Giants Stadium, demolished to make way for New Meadowlands Stadium, still carries about $110 million in debt, or nearly $13 for every New Jersey resident, even though it is now a parking lot.

Don Blucher
Don Blucher

Robert, you may be distrustful of wealthy, successful, well-connected Business People, but Manchester knows what makes money for the City's coffers. Stadiums bring in HUGE revenues and benefits(jobs) for our citizens. Sure, he'll make money with his hotels, but a far greater benefit will be gained by all of us in San Diego.

Pat Seaborg
Pat Seaborg

Doug Manchester is first and foremost a developer and many have suggested that he plans to do major development in Mission Valley. He already owns the land where the UT buildings stand and would no doubt like to turn the current stadium land into development as well. I believe that is the reason why he believes the football stadium is so important.

Robert Cohen
Robert Cohen

Oh, I get that. But you would think that at a meeting like the one in La Jolla with all the other Republicans he could at least make an argument about how the city can be improved and how Candidate A or B could further that purpose. But hey, I'm just naive and thought that people who get involved in politics whether it is running for office or being a backer of one would give at least some thought to the "greater good". But you're right Erik, when you have so much invested in a business it becomes all about the business.

Erik Hanson
Erik Hanson

Robert: well, there is that. Also, he is a self-proclaimed "cheerleader" and you have to have a team for that. And sports coverage is what keeps his paper going. Now that the Filner things is mostly blown over, look at the stats about "most commented stories, it's all about the football. Local sports coverage is one of the few areas that they have not cut back on, and one of the hardest to replace with another medium.

Don Blucher
Don Blucher subscriber

You guys are correct about the CITY making money....I said that stadiums bring in revenues and benefits for its citizens, meaning, added jobs, tourist dollars for restaurants & stores, tourist dollars for the Zoo, Sea World, LEGOLAND, etc. Stadium financing and the return on investment is another matter, entirely.

Bruno Behrend
Bruno Behrend subscriber

Stadia are massive waste of time, money and merely pile debt on an already overtaxed populace. They benefit only fat union contractors and municipal debt merchants. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/08/sports/08stadium.html http://thinkprogress.org/alyssa/2012/09/07/814991/should-taxpayers-subsidize-sports-stadiums/ http://dontmesswithtaxes.typepad.com/No_Public_Money_for_Stadia.pdfAs Stadiums Vanish, Their Debt Lives Onhttp://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/08/sports/08stadium.htmlIt's the gift that keeps on taking. The old Giants Stadium, demolished to make way for New Meadowlands Stadium, still carries about $110 million in debt, or nearly $13 for every New Jersey resident, even though it is now a parking lot.

Don Blucher
Don Blucher subscriber

Robert, you may be distrustful of wealthy, successful, well-connected Business People, but Manchester knows what makes money for the City's coffers. Stadiums bring in HUGE revenues and benefits(jobs) for our citizens. Sure, he'll make money with his hotels, but a far greater benefit will be gained by all of us in San Diego.

Pat Seaborg
Pat Seaborg subscribermember

Doug Manchester is first and foremost a developer and many have suggested that he plans to do major development in Mission Valley. He already owns the land where the UT buildings stand and would no doubt like to turn the current stadium land into development as well. I believe that is the reason why he believes the football stadium is so important.

Robert Cohen
Robert Cohen subscriber

Oh, I get that. But you would think that at a meeting like the one in La Jolla with all the other Republicans he could at least make an argument about how the city can be improved and how Candidate A or B could further that purpose. But hey, I'm just naive and thought that people who get involved in politics whether it is running for office or being a backer of one would give at least some thought to the "greater good". But you're right Erik, when you have so much invested in a business it becomes all about the business.

Erik Hanson
Erik Hanson subscriber

Robert: well, there is that. Also, he is a self-proclaimed "cheerleader" and you have to have a team for that. And sports coverage is what keeps his paper going. Now that the Filner things is mostly blown over, look at the stats about "most commented stories, it's all about the football. Local sports coverage is one of the few areas that they have not cut back on, and one of the hardest to replace with another medium.

Richard Ross
Richard Ross

Sounds like Weil would prefer one with Todd Gloria.

Joe Weil
Joe Weil

What would you prefer? a group grope with Filthy Filner?

David Crossley
David Crossley

If you are going to push Mr Coons for mayor, you might want to consider NOT using the names Coons and Filner in the same sentence, for Mr Coons' sake.

David Crossley
David Crossley subscriber

If you are going to push Mr Coons for mayor, you might want to consider NOT using the names Coons and Filner in the same sentence, for Mr Coons' sake.

Ken Brucker
Ken Brucker

...and then you run in to the realm of Funny and Fuzzy Accounting.

Judith Swink
Judith Swink

...while we, the taxpayers, continue to pay off bonds for the Qualcomm expansion, Petco Park (plus having given JMI development rights for multiple blocks surrounding Petco), and for the first Convention Center expansion. The only reason we're not on the hook (yet) for bonds, backed by the General Fund & approved by City Council for building a Balboa Park paid-parking structure, is because opposition led by SOHO (Bruce Coons) was able to halt the Jacobs plan progress. And it's not dead yet! Who we elect as the next mayor is crucial - there's no question that Fletcher will revive it for post-2015 Celebration. Why else do you think Irwin Jacobs hired him?

Richard Ross
Richard Ross

Cohen's correct Blucher needs to check his facts. Stadiums are loosers to the taxpayers.

Robert Cohen
Robert Cohen

Actually, cities don't make money on stadiums. Every study that's been done not paid for by the NFL or other sports league show quite the opposite. Cities like Baltimore and Cincinnati go further into debt to pay off the bonds. And have you taken a walk east of Petco Park on a non game day. That part of East Village is dead.

Judith Swink
Judith Swink

Pat - he already has plans developed for the UT site in Mission Valley. I've seen a presentation of it and, if approved & constructed as presented, I hate to say... it looks like a good plan. As for the current stadium land, it belongs to the City of San Diego. We must elect a mayor who will not just hand it over to the private sector for development without extensive and honest public discussion of ways to best to use that land (IF there's a football stadium built elsewhere, which I don't expect in the foreseeable future).

Judith Swink
Judith Swink subscriber

...while we, the taxpayers, continue to pay off bonds for the Qualcomm expansion, Petco Park (plus having given JMI development rights for multiple blocks surrounding Petco), and for the first Convention Center expansion. The only reason we're not on the hook (yet) for bonds, backed by the General Fund & approved by City Council for building a Balboa Park paid-parking structure, is because opposition led by SOHO (Bruce Coons) was able to halt the Jacobs plan progress. And it's not dead yet! Who we elect as the next mayor is crucial - there's no question that Fletcher will revive it for post-2015 Celebration. Why else do you think Irwin Jacobs hired him?

Richard Ross
Richard Ross subscribermember

Cohen's correct Blucher needs to check his facts. Stadiums are loosers to the taxpayers.

Robert Cohen
Robert Cohen subscriber

Actually, cities don't make money on stadiums. Every study that's been done not paid for by the NFL or other sports league show quite the opposite. Cities like Baltimore and Cincinnati go further into debt to pay off the bonds. And have you taken a walk east of Petco Park on a non game day. That part of East Village is dead.

Judith Swink
Judith Swink subscriber

Pat - he already has plans developed for the UT site in Mission Valley. I've seen a presentation of it and, if approved & constructed as presented, I hate to say... it looks like a good plan. As for the current stadium land, it belongs to the City of San Diego. We must elect a mayor who will not just hand it over to the private sector for development without extensive and honest public discussion of ways to best to use that land (IF there's a football stadium built elsewhere, which I don't expect in the foreseeable future).