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Right before I spoke with the mayor’s former campaign manager about his resignation, I had a chance to chat with Eric Bidwell, the self-proclaimed “revolutionary” candidate whose encounter with Michael McSweeney led to the staffer’s departure from the campaign.

Bidwell said that when McSweeney handed him a statement last night to read at a televised debate, it was not the first time the two had met.

He claims that the mayor’s campaign manager asked him to meet late one night recently at campaign headquarters. During that meeting, Bidwell said, McSweeney showed him “a $15,000 private political investigative report” that detailed Francis’ weaknesses as a candidate and “key flip flopping points,” that was “a little more robust in places like environmentalism.”

Bidwell described the report as a well laid-out document that included news articles, financial analyses and a political biography of Francis. It was “a real simple, crisp, clean thing,” he said. “Political, private-eye stuff.”

McSweeney contends that he did not show Bidwell a report, saying that the two “had a cup of coffee once — talked on the phone a couple of times.”

“I thought I was helping Eric out,” he said. “It was incredibly stupid on my part.”

The irony of McSweeney, a vice chairman of the San Diego County Republican Party, trying to persuade the young, dreadlocked candidate to aid his client’s campaign was not lost on Bidwell.

“The mayor’s campaign was just grasping at straws,” Bidwell said. “Francis uses millions of dollars to try to do crooked stuff and the mayor tries to do grassroots crooked stuff.”

Steve Francis’ campaign sent out a news release this morning titled “Mayor Sanders’ Dirty Tricks at KUSI Debate.” It detailed how McSweeney handed over a statement to Bidwell, which was also sent to his e-mail that attacked Francis’ vision plan and his credibility.

Bidwell said he found it ironic that Francis’ campaign is now trying to use the news to their advantage.

“That it happened to help out Francis’ campaign is a bit of irony or coincidence and definitely nothing I’m in for,” Bidwell said. “I definitely like Francis and his campaign even less than the mayor’s even after this.”

Describing Francis, Bidwell said: “He’s definitely a cruddy guy and he’s definitely a liar but I don’t want to limit my critique of the other candidates to Francis and be a cheerleader for the mayor.”

SAM HODGSON

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