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Tuesday, May 20, 2008 | Featured prominently on City Councilman Brian Maienschein’s latest campaign mailer in his run for city attorney is a logo of a blue and red elephant with two stars on its back.

It looks a lot like the official Republican Party logo. It’s not.

The real GOP logo is a very similar elephant, but with three stars on its back. It might seem like a minor distinction, but in a heated battle for Republican votes in the city attorney’s race, Maienschein and Judge Jan Goldsmith are both looking for ways to assert themselves as the bona fide Republican among a high-profile group of contenders.

The official party logo can be found on the campaign mailers attacking Maienschein and supporting Goldsmith, the party’s chosen candidate.

The battle of the Republican mailers marks a new phase in a campaign that so far has mostly been defined by how much each candidate can attack incumbent City Attorney Mike Aguirre. With the June 3 primary rapidly approaching, the two Republican candidates could very well be battling for a spot in the November runoff election.

The local GOP has taken issue recently with Maienschein’s insinuation in his mailers that he is associated with the Republican Party. The party is even less happy with a recent Maienschein mailer that attacks Goldsmith’s GOP credentials and his record as a state legislator, and last week sent out a scathing mailer to its members challenging Maienschein’s own record and integrity. Maienschein’s political consultant said the mailers are part of a fair and reasonable campaign aimed at reminding San Diegans that Goldsmith’s not the only Republican in the race.

Local GOP officials have been seething at the possibility that the Republican vote could be split against Aguirre ever since Maienschein, a sitting city councilman and a Republican powerhouse in conservative northeastern San Diego, jumped into the race earlier this year.

If no candidate garners more than 50 percent of the vote in the primary, the top two vote-getters advance to a November runoff election.

“There aren’t enough votes to ensure a runoff place unless one of the candidates gets ahead, so it’s understandable that they’re attacking each other,” said local Republican political consultant Tom Shepard, who isn’t involved in the race.

Local GOP Chairman Tony Krvaric said Maienschein upped the ante on May 6 when his campaign sent out a mailer comparing Maienschein’s stances and achievements to moments in Goldsmith’s career. The mailer paints Goldsmith as weak on immigration issues and picks on his record as a state legislator.

Goldsmith said some of the claims made on the mailer are untrue. He said he’s used to political attacks, something he dealt with during two heated campaigns for the state Legislature in the 1990s. “It’s the old style of campaigning,” Goldsmith said. “This kind of stuff is just ridiculous and untrue.”

Krvaric said the party had hoped Maienschein would refrain from making such attacks. He said Maienschein approached the GOP for an endorsement after they had already decided to back Goldsmith, and said he had hoped Maienschein would focus his publicity efforts on ousting Aguirre.

“Instead, now there are two mail pieces that came out of the Maienschein campaign which proceed to attack Judge Goldsmith and proceeded to wrap him (Maienschein) in the suggestion that he was the endorsed Republican candidate,” Krvaric said. “We were hoping that wouldn’t happen.”

Chris Wysocki, Maienschein’s Sacramento-based political consultant, said the mailers were designed to remind San Diegans that Goldsmith isn’t the only Republican in the race for city attorney. He said the use of the quasi-Republican logo and the criticisms of Goldsmith are entirely fair game in a heated political campaign.

“I don’t think he’s bent noses out of shape,” Wysocki said. “Campaigns are about sharing ideas with people and they’re very personal matters. The heat of the rhetoric that’s come out of the Republican Party on this has been surprising to me.”

But Duane Dichiara, a Sacramento-based Republican political consultant, lambasted Maienschein for associating himself with the Republican Party via the mailers.

“I think it’s wrong to imply that you got the Republican endorsement when you didn’t,” Dichiara said. “When you call yourself the Republican candidate, you have the Republican elephant, or something that looks just like the Republican elephant, on your mailer, that’s like having the Sierra Club logo on there and saying ‘I’m the Sierra Club candidate,’ even if you didn’t get the Sierra Club endorsement.”

The animosity between Maienschein and the local Republican Party could come back to haunt both sides of the argument if Maienschein makes it through June 3rd’s primary election.

Krvaric wouldn’t say what the party would do in a Maienschein vs. Aguirre battle, saying he won’t engage in hypothetical discussions.

“Let’s put it this way,” Krvaric said, “Maienschein’s candidacy, and the way he’s chosen to conduct himself has certainly upset a lot of people in Republican Party circles.”

Please contact Will Carless directly with your thoughts, ideas, personal stories or tips. Or send a letter to the editor.

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