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Months ago, San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio took issue with the suggestion that he had endorsed Lorie Zapf for City Council, saying he only introduced her at a campaign event.

Today DeMaio made it formal, trumpeting his endorsement of Zapf on television. The councilman said of all the candidates only Zapf, a fellow Republican, would stand with him on his pet issues such as pension reform and outsourcing city jobs.

But to do so, DeMaio had to overlook a number of issues with Zapf’s candidacy. She’s sent anti-gay e-mails, saying they aren’t fit for public office (DeMaio is gay). She’s fallen behind on her home mortgage payments (DeMaio has compared city budgeting to people’s budgets at home). And another candidate in the race, Steve Hadley, is the chief of staff and endorsed candidate of outgoing District 6 City Councilwoman Donna Frye, a DeMaio friend and key ally on many issues.

All these things mattered less to DeMaio than an advertisement he saw from Howard Wayne, the Democratic Party’s endorsed candidate, saying that Wayne was for pension reform. Wayne’s record as a former state assemblyman, DeMaio said, belied that characterization.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” DeMaio said.

And DeMaio had ready answers for all the obvious questions.

He hadn’t planned on making an endorsement in the primary, but DeMaio cited polls indicating Hadley was lagging behind Zapf and Wayne. So he praised Hadley’s integrity, but said he needed to jump in on Zapf’s side and back a candidate that had a better chance of winning.

“I certainly don’t want Howard winning the seat outright in the primary,” DeMaio said.

On the anti-gay e-mails, DeMaio said he confronted Zapf and said she apologized to him.

He believed that she had changed her views on gays, likening it to Mayor Jerry Sanders’ change of heart on same sex marriage during a tearful press conference.

DeMaio called Zapf’s home loan problems a personal issue, one important for her to correct. But he said Wayne’s fiscal policies in office would make things worse for other San Diegans.

“The fact is if we elected Howard Wayne, a lot more people are going to be shorting on their mortgages,” DeMaio said.

DeMaio’s decision did put him at odds with Frye.

DeMaio’s response to Zapf’s actions show that he is willing to trade his core values for political expediency, Frye said. If DeMaio had decided to stay neutral before, she said, then an explanation that Hadley was behind in the polls shouldn’t make a difference.

Frye said she sent DeMaio an e-mail suggesting he change his slogan from “taxpayer watchdog to political lapdog.”

“As far as my relationship with Carl, it doesn’t affect our friendship,” Frye said. “What it does affect is what to believe of what he says he stands for.”

DeMaio downplayed the impact of his endorsement on his relationship with Frye. He said Zapf would follow in Frye’s footsteps on fiscal and open government issues.

“I think at the end of the day, Donna and I have agreed to disagree on the race,” he said.

— LIAM DILLON

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