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Picking winners and losers this year was pretty easy. The clear results on consequential city of San Diego issues made it so. Those who opposed Proposition D’s combination of a tax increase and financial reforms won big. Those who supported it lost. Onto the line!
City Councilman Carl DeMaio:
Take a moment to ponder this one. In June, DeMaio had one of the most unexpected and dramatic political failures in recent San Diego history. The big issue on the November ballot was supposed to be an outsourcing initiative that the councilman had worked on for six months. Poof. DeMaio screwed up and gathered too many duplicate signatures. His issue was dead.
But negotiations between city political power players about DeMaio’s measure morphed into the first serious discussions about a sales tax hike. DeMaio found a new cause.
DeMaio became the tax increase’s most outspoken opponent — a position that allowed him to disparage the ballot measure without having to produce a plan during the campaign. Now, as the only one to release a comprehensive financial plan after Prop. D’s failure, he’s primed to lead the city on fiscal issues for the first time.
In short, DeMaio won big without risking nearly as much as if his ballot measure had gone forward.
The idea of Lorie Zapf:
The calculus was so simple that local Republican Party Chairman Tony Krvaric didn’t mind sharing it before Election Day. Republicans could take control of city politics two years from now, Krvaric said, if the party held onto the Mayor’s Office and won one out of three competitive City Council races.
The key to this grand plan was Lorie Zapf. A businesswoman and political neophyte, Zapf needed to become the first Republican in more than 20 years to capture the City Council seat in District 6 to make the 2012 scenario even possible. Zapf also had to overcome lapses in her personal finances and past disparaging comments about gays.
But with substantial support from the business community, Zapf eked out a tight win over former Democratic state Assemblyman Howard Wayne. More than just burnishing Republican chances in 2012, her victory helped erase memories of the party’s poor performance two years ago.
The Lincoln Club and other lower profile business organizations:
The San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and San Diego Economic Development Corporation are the city’s legacy business organizations, drawing their support from downtown establishment types. They extracted promises of financial reform from Mayor Jerry Sanders in exchange for their endorsement of Prop. D. Their backing provided the final link to the measure’s broad based coalition of support. Business, organized labor, Sanders and prominent Democratic Councilwoman Donna Frye all were on the same side.
None of it mattered.
Instead, less heralded business groups such as the Lincoln Club and local California Restaurant Association led the anti-Prop. D charge. They helped provide the campaign strategy and finances to combat the Yes on D campaign’s coalition. In the process, they had no qualms about thumbing their nose at the chamber.
The Lincoln Club didn’t stop with its victory on Prop. D. This election cycle it provided key backing for Zapf and successfully challenged the city’s campaign finance rules.
This election proves the Lincoln Club has enough bona fides to score major victories even when it takes on its business brethren.
This time last year, the Powegian businessman was drafting a report arguing the city should file for bankruptcy unless draconian cuts were made to the budget. The Mayor’s Office, which had given, at the least, tacit approval to the efforts of Mudd and his task force of business leaders, disparaged Mudd’s report once it read its conclusions.
But during the Prop. D campaign, Mudd and his task force re-emerged as a force. The Yes on D side relied on a new report from Mudd’s group to argue Prop. D’s combination of a tax increase and financial reforms could solve the city’s financial problems. The No on D campaign never took direct aim at Mudd.
With Prop. D’s failure, Mudd has become even stronger. The mayor wants Mudd’s group to vet all potential solutions to the city’s financial problems. Others like the San Diego County Taxpayers Association and former City Attorney Mike Aguirre have reached out to Mudd to evaluate plans.
Mayor Jerry Sanders:
Sure, the margin of defeat was so great that Prop. D would have been tough to pass no matter what mayor was in charge of the city. But Prop. D’s failure marks the first major electoral defeat for Sanders, who was riding a big re-election victory two years ago and another thumbs up from voters when they made the strong-mayor form of government permanent in June.
With only two years left in his term, Prop. D’s loss makes it hard to imagine how Sanders will solve the city’s fiscal problems permanently. That means he’d leave office without fixing the issue he was elected to address in 2005.
A united effort behind Prop. D and Wayne, and a divided effort in the District 8 City Council race, left the city’s labor unions worse for the wear. After years of pushing city leaders to go after a tax increase, labor couldn’t get Prop. D past voters. Still, labor’s financial support for Prop. D wasn’t as much as some in the Yes campaign wanted.
Also, labor in-fighting in the District 8 race between Democrats David Alvarez (backed by the fire and white-collar unions) and Felipe Hueso (backed by the police union and the Labor Council) could have diverted financial resources away from the tight Zapf-Wayne election.
Fairbank polling firm:
Both the city of San Diego and the San Diego Unified School District decided to go for tax increases after polls taken months ago showed they could pass.
On Election Day, voters smashed them both.
A Santa Monica firm, Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates, conducted both of the initial polls. The polling missteps continued during the campaign. A much maligned poll from the Union-Tribune showed Prop. D was in a dead heat a couple weeks before the election. A Fairbank poll completed around the same time showed the Yes campaign was down just 3 percent. At the same time, a No on D pollster had Prop. D losing by almost 30 percent.
That was only 5 percent away from the final margin.
Reform and revenue:
San Diego has a reputation for being anti-tax. But for years, many pundits, including those that work for this news organization, have argued that the city’s financial problems could be solved through a combination of financial reforms and new revenue. Prop. D was such a plan. Its broad base of support from different sectors of the city’s political establishment certified that.
Maybe Prop. D could have worked two years ago when a wave of Democratic voters came to the polls. This time, voters’ overwhelming message was that the city should solve its financial problems without any more money from them.
For now anyway, both revenue and reform and revenue are dead. Long live reform.