3 Reasons Dumanis Faces a Tough 2014

3 Reasons Dumanis Faces a Tough 2014

Photo by Sam Hodgson

Robert Brewer, a candidate for district attorney, kicks off his campaign at the home of Craig Irving, president of The Irving Group.

Ten-year District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis sailed through two previous elections without a challenger. Next year, she will face a living, breathing opponent – one who’s already making an impact in the race, eight months ahead of the primary.

Former prosecutor Bob Brewer formally announced his effort to unseat Dumanis on Wednesday night, and Deputy District Attorney Terri Wyatt has also made her bid official by filing paperwork with the county.

Though Dumanis maintains a high-profile list of endorsers, there are signs the political newcomers, particularly Brewer, could give her a serious challenge.

Here are a few reasons Dumanis should be prepared for a grueling race.

In more than a decade as district attorney, Dumanis has become one of the region’s most powerful politicians but that didn’t translate into a strong showing in the mayor’s race.

Photo by Sam Hodgson

Photo by Sam Hodgson

Bonnie Dumanis speaks alongside fellow mayoral candidates Carl DeMaio (left), Nathan Fletcher and Bob Filner.

Dumanis came in fourth last June, drawing just 13 percent of the vote. That was despite years in the public eye and big endorsements, including former Mayor Jerry Sanders and the entire County Board of Supervisors.

Dumanis billed the votes against her as a sign that voters preferred her as district attorney.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that people are glad I’m staying the DA,” Dumanis told Voice of San Diego days after the mayoral primary. “I don’t take it as a loss, but as more of a re-election to DA.”

Dumanis’s failed mayoral bid and perceived politicking put more attention on her political positions and created an opening for a challenger.

Dumanis was elected in 2002 after narrowly defeating incumbent District Attorney Paul Pfingst. She hasn’t had an opponent since her election in 2002.

But since the last election, Dumanis’ mayoral bid and perceived political actions have provided easy bait for rivals.

For example, long before she decided to run for mayor, Dumanis said she’d stop endorsing political candidates. VOSD contributor Kelly Thornton wrote about that promise in 2010:

Dumanis made the pledge to stop endorsing at a 2007 press conference in which she announced the creation of a public integrity unit that would take on political corruption. She made an exception for judicial and public safety-related races, a category so broad she even included San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, since he makes police-related budget decisions.

A major law enforcement group later said it wasn’t endorsing Dumanis in the 2010 district attorney’s race. At the time, the local chapter president of Police Officers Research Association of California told VOSD that some of her prosecution decisions “seemed more politically motivated versus to serve justice.”

Dumanis, who ran unopposed in that race, easily kept her post. But in March 2011, just two months after being sworn into her third term as district attorney, Dumanis announced she’d run for mayor.

Brian Marvel of the San Diego Police Officers Association, which recently endorsed Brewer, said he and other union leaders saw that move as proof Dumanis wasn’t committed to the district attorney’s office.

“We had some issues regarding, ‘Do you want to be the DA or to be the mayor?’” Marvel said. “You really want the job to be the DA?”

Brewer has tried to harness that sentiment in his campaign. He’s said he won’t seek higher office or endorse political candidates. His campaign slogan emphasizes those positions: “Public safety … without politics.”

Wyatt also appears to hint at similar concerns on her campaign website.

“Be a leader who is present and committed to this office,” Wyatt wrote in a list of goals for the district attorney’s office. “Be a leader that does not increase or add stress to employees.”

Brewer has already racked up endorsements — and money.

Photo by Sam Hodgson

Photo by Sam Hodgson

The crowd at the campaign kickoff for Robert Brewer, a candidate for district attorney.

On Wednesday night, more than 350 San Diegans packed high-power real-estate executive Craig Irving‘s Point Loma home for Brewer’s campaign kickoff. Supporters openly acknowledged the tests ahead.

They’ll need to raise significant cash to spread the political novice’s name and message across a large county that’s repeatedly re-elected Dumanis. Not only will Brewer need to prove he’s the better choice for district attorney, but he’ll also need to introduce himself to voters with ads, mailers and major events.

Brewer hired well-known political consultant Tom Shepard, who helped catapult four of the last six San Diego mayors into office, to run his campaign.

Key endorsements may also help Brewer’s cause.

On Wednesday night, leaders of the city’s police union and the county sheriff’s deputies union hailed Brewer’s promises not to play politics and to deepen the office’s partnerships with law enforcement. Both are among 11 police unions – including, most recently, the statewide California Coalition of Law Enforcement Associations – that have already endorsed Brewer.

Brewer’s early fundraising efforts have been impressive, too.

County records show Brewer also outraised Dumanis in the first six months of this year, bringing in more than $281,000. (He loaned himself about $36,000.) Dumanis received about $213,300 during the same period.

Still, Brewer will need to raise far more in the next several months to pose a serious threat to Dumanis come Election Day.

♦♦♦

But Dumanis has plenty of factors working in her favor.

County voters have known Dumanis for more than a decade and she’s a shrewd politician with countless supporters.  She’s also served in key posts that have given her national and statewide exposure, and makes frequent media appearances and cameos at community events, all of which give her big-time name recognition with voters.

And county voters have repeatedly shown they heavily favor incumbents.  Last year, county voters elected the first new county supervisor in almost 20 years.

Dumanis’ office also hasn’t seen major scandals on her watch, something that plagued her predecessor and contributed to her 2002 victory.

The district attorney’s race is still Dumanis’ to lose.

Voice of San Diego is a nonprofit that depends on you, our readers. Please donate to keep the service strong. Click here to find out more about our supporters and how we operate independently.


Lisa Halverstadt

Lisa Halverstadt

Lisa Halverstadt is a reporter at Voice of San Diego. Know of something she should check out? You can contact her directly at lisa@vosd.org or 619.325.0528.

  • 412 Posts
  • 0
    Followers

Show comments
Before you comment, read these simple guidelines on what is not allowed.

15 comments
chimichanga
chimichanga subscriber

I'm stunned to see signs supporting Dumanis around Chula Vista!  How can anyone in the South Bay even consider voting for Dumanis?  She tried to make such a big name for herself regarding breaking up corruption by "busting" the criminals at Sweetwater Union High School District and Southwestern College.  


However, the flimsy cases she made allowed those criminals to get off with gentle slaps on the hands, after they did much harm to those educational districts.  Dumanis is unequivacolly ineffective!!

Eddie Vedder
Eddie Vedder

My problem with Bonnie Dumanis is not that she harasses ill medical marijuana patients as part of a political modus operandi but her callous disregard of the plight of single Hispanic mom Diana Gonzales of National City. Bonnie makes a big deal about supporting the Family Justice Center and helping women struggling with domestic violence situations yet wouldn't lift a finger to assist this City College student with an abusive ex-husband. She is all talk and no action. A phony; a hypocrite; and (hopefully) a soon-to-be-ex District Attorney!

Michael Peddecord
Michael Peddecord

Here is another question Bonnie Dumanis should face in her bid for another term. Flying under the radar is what may be one of the most expensive, and questionable trials in San Diego County history. I think the sooner the voters understand this, the better. Here is a start to the story. The DA is trying 2 convicted kidnappers, Jorge Rojas Lopez and Juan Francisco Estrada-Gonzalez, in a death penalty trial (Murder trial could top a year: Pursuit of death sentence against 2 linked to drug gang might be longest in county, San Diego U-T 04/02/13 page B1). Surprisingly, there has not been more reported in the UT or other media since the start of the trial. Here is a twist in this story. These two gang members are already currently serving life-in-prison-without-possibility-of-parole for that kidnapping. All death penalty trials cost in excess of a million dollars and this trial could cost twice as much. Yes, there needs to be accountability for the 9 murders that are being prosecuted, if they are guilty, these guys are as the DA states “the worst of the worst”. But is this the best way to spend scarce prosecutor resources? This is a very complex case, as best I can observe from my time in the courtroom, it is based mostly on the testimony of other gang members who have opted for plea bargains. Death penalty trials have two jury phases, one for guilt or innocence and if that finds the defendants guilty, then the death phase and a second jury deliberation to determine death or life-in-prison-without parole. This death penalty trial is a lose-lose situation. If these convicts are found not guilty in the guilt phase, all the trial and pre-trial costs of a death penalty trial go down the drain. If found guilty and the trial goes to the death phase and the jury cannot agree on death, all this tax money is wasted. If they are found guilty in the guilt phase and the jury agrees unanimously in a death sentence, then it is back to prison on death row with a lifetime single cell and almost unlimited legal appeals as provided by California’s death penalty law. Of course, taxpayers pick up this tab too. California has 741 death row inmates, we have not had an execution since 2006 and there is no prospect that the de-facto moratorium will ever end. In short men and women on California’s death row will eventually die by suicide or natural causes. These are expensive deaths and California will spend a billion dollars in the next 5 years to maintain this “hallow promise”.

Michael Peddecord
Michael Peddecord

Here is another question Bonnie Dumanis should face in her bid for another term. Flying under the radar is what may be one of the most expensive, and questionable trials in San Diego County history. I think the sooner the voters understand this, the better. Here is a start to the story. The DA is trying 2 convicted kidnappers, Jorge Rojas Lopez and Juan Francisco Estrada-Gonzalez, in a death penalty trial (Murder trial could top a year: Pursuit of death sentence against 2 linked to drug gang might be longest in county, San Diego U-T 04/02/13 page B1). Surprisingly, there has not been more reported in the UT or other media since the start of the trial. Here is the other twist in this story. These two gang members are already currently serving life-in-prison-without-possibility-of-parole for that kidnapping. All death penalty trials cost in excess of a million dollars and this trial could cost twice as much. Yes there needs to be accountability for the 9 murders that are being prosecuted, these guys as the DA states are “the worst of the worst”. But is this the best way to spend scarce prosecutor resources? This is a very complex case, as best I can observe from my time in the courtroom, it is based almost exclusively on the testimony of other gang members who have opted for plea bargains. Death penalty trials have two jury phases, one for guilt or innocence and if that finds the defendants guilty, then the death phase and a second jury deliberation to determine death or life-in-prison-without parole. This death penalty trial is a lose-lose situation. If these convicts are found not guilty in the guilt phase, all the trial and pre-trial costs of a death penalty trial go down the drain. If found guilty and the trial goes to the death phase and the jury cannot agree on death, all this tax money is wasted. If they are found guilty in the guilt phase and the jury agrees unanimously in a death sentence, then it is back to prison on death row with a lifetime single cell and unlimited legal appeals as provided by California’s death penalty law. Of course, taxpayers pick up this tab too. California has 741 death row inmates, we have not had an execution since 2006 and there is no prospect that the de-facto moratorium will ever end. In short men and women on California’s death row will eventually die by suicide or natural causes. These are expensive deaths and California will spend a billion dollars in the next 5 years to maintain this “hallow promise”.

Todd Cardiff
Todd Cardiff

Bonnie Dumanis prosecuted Steve Castaneda (City Council of Chula Vista) DURING the 2008 elections for perjury for....get this.... lying about THINKING about purchasing a condominium. Actually purchasing the condo would have been legal. Apparently, Steve asked in casual conversation, "how much do these condos go for?" (He was renting at the condo complex at the time). Castaneda later denied THINKING about purchasing the condominium. I read the criminal complaint myself. The complaint was patently frivolous. A politically motivated abuse of power designed to tarnish Mr. Castaneda's reputation while he ran for office.

Todd Cardiff
Todd Cardiff subscribermember

Bonnie Dumanis prosecuted Steve Castaneda (City Council of Chula Vista) DURING the 2008 elections for perjury for....get this.... lying about THINKING about purchasing a condominium. Actually purchasing the condo would have been legal. Apparently, Steve asked in casual conversation, "how much do these condos go for?" (He was renting at the condo complex at the time). Castaneda later denied THINKING about purchasing the condominium. I read the criminal complaint myself. The complaint was patently frivolous. A politically motivated abuse of power designed to tarnish Mr. Castaneda's reputation while he ran for office.

Jim Abbott
Jim Abbott

I was recently called to jury duty on a criminal matter. During the selection process I voiced my concerns about my inability to render an unbiased decision based solely on the facts of the case. The judge pulled me and the attorneys into chambers where I confessed that I couldn't see myself EVER being able to set aside the facts that on multiple occasions, Ms. Dumanis refused to allow any cases to be assigned to judges where she felt her prosecutors weren't treated adequately - read: They lost cases repeatedly in certain courtrooms. Her actions in essentially side-lining judges cast a pall on the rest of bench in San Diego County courtrooms - not to mention taxpayers who continued to pay the salaries of the black-balled adjudicators. For me, the lowly juror, I must enter the sacred process of jurisprudence with an obligation to overcome the undue pressures the Ms. Dumanis has placed on judges. In this instance, I told the judge and the attorneys that I could not look at the smallest procedural ruling favoring the prosecution and not wonder whether the judge was more concerned for a fair trial or his continued employment. I actually started to weep at this point. I was dismissed from service and the wise and wonderful judge invited me back for civil matters where unanimous jury votes aren't as important. For me, that's the legacy of Bonnie Dumanis.

Jim Abbott
Jim Abbott subscribermember

I was recently called to jury duty on a criminal matter. During the selection process I voiced my concerns about my inability to render an unbiased decision based solely on the facts of the case. The judge pulled me and the attorneys into chambers where I confessed that I couldn't see myself EVER being able to set aside the facts that on multiple occasions, Ms. Dumanis refused to allow any cases to be assigned to judges where she felt her prosecutors weren't treated adequately - read: They lost cases repeatedly in certain courtrooms. Her actions in essentially side-lining judges cast a pall on the rest of bench in San Diego County courtrooms - not to mention taxpayers who continued to pay the salaries of the black-balled adjudicators. For me, the lowly juror, I must enter the sacred process of jurisprudence with an obligation to overcome the undue pressures the Ms. Dumanis has placed on judges. In this instance, I told the judge and the attorneys that I could not look at the smallest procedural ruling favoring the prosecution and not wonder whether the judge was more concerned for a fair trial or his continued employment. I actually started to weep at this point. I was dismissed from service and the wise and wonderful judge invited me back for civil matters where unanimous jury votes aren't as important. For me, that's the legacy of Bonnie Dumanis.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

The abysmal callousness and lack of due diligence and subsequent questionable ethics that Dumanis showed in the entire Cynthia Sommer's debacle should keep her out of office forever. Not to mention she declined to charge Arevalos years ago, letting him continue to prey on young women, and in the ticket fixing scandal her behavior before and after could easily bring one to believe she is OK with corruption that stays under the radar. Dumanis needs to go. We deserve better.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

The abysmal callousness and lack of due diligence and subsequent questionable ethics that Dumanis showed in the entire Cynthia Sommer's debacle should keep her out of office forever. Not to mention she declined to charge Arevalos years ago, letting him continue to prey on young women, and in the ticket fixing scandal her behavior before and after could easily bring one to believe she is OK with corruption that stays under the radar. Dumanis needs to go. We deserve better.

BonnieDaMantis
BonnieDaMantis

"Dumanis billed the votes against her as a sign that voters preferred her as district attorney." - It had more to do with the anti-Dumanis campaign that was launched against her... facebook.com/pages/Not-Dumanis-San-Diego-Citizens-Against-Bonnie-Dumanis-for-Mayor-in-2012/129674723757629 "Dumanis’ office also hasn’t seen major scandals on her watch, something that plagued her predecessor and contributed to her 2002 victory." But then there are the issues of; - - Medical Marijuana persecutions - - Cynthia Sommer case and subsequent, costly civil lawsuit - - School board case - announced simultaneous with her bid for mayor ... and many more, all of which are seen as major scandals by many voters. 3 Reasons Dumanis Faces a Tough 2014http://voiceofsandiego.org/2013/10/03/3-reasons-dumanis-faces-a-tough-2014/Ten-year District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis sailed through two previous elections without a challenger. Next year, she will face a living, breathing opponent - one who's already making an impact in the race, eight months ahead of the primary.

Chris Brewster
Chris Brewster

Mr. Jones: I agree entirely. The Cynthia Sommer case was going to be my 4th reason. The woman was pilloried and jailed, without cause it turns out. Outrageous. Dumanis and her minions denied almost endlessly and obstructed Ms. Sommer's right to a fair trial, as well as right to a fair appeal. Justice was denied by Dumanis, but ultimately carried out by the courts.

BonnieDaMantis
BonnieDaMantis subscriber

"Dumanis billed the votes against her as a sign that voters preferred her as district attorney." - It had more to do with the anti-Dumanis campaign that was launched against her... facebook.com/pages/Not-Dumanis-San-Diego-Citizens-Against-Bonnie-Dumanis-for-Mayor-in-2012/129674723757629 "Dumanis’ office also hasn’t seen major scandals on her watch, something that plagued her predecessor and contributed to her 2002 victory." But then there are the issues of; - - Medical Marijuana persecutions - - Cynthia Sommer case and subsequent, costly civil lawsuit - - School board case - announced simultaneous with her bid for mayor ... and many more, all of which are seen as major scandals by many voters. 3 Reasons Dumanis Faces a Tough 2014http://voiceofsandiego.org/2013/10/03/3-reasons-dumanis-faces-a-tough-2014/Ten-year District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis sailed through two previous elections without a challenger. Next year, she will face a living, breathing opponent - one who's already making an impact in the race, eight months ahead of the primary.

Chris Brewster
Chris Brewster subscribermember

Mr. Jones: I agree entirely. The Cynthia Sommer case was going to be my 4th reason. The woman was pilloried and jailed, without cause it turns out. Outrageous. Dumanis and her minions denied almost endlessly and obstructed Ms. Sommer's right to a fair trial, as well as right to a fair appeal. Justice was denied by Dumanis, but ultimately carried out by the courts.