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Local Democratic Party leader Jess Durfee sent a stern warning to San Diego elected officials: Stop endorsing Republican candidates for San Diego mayor in 2012.

“I will do everything in my power to see that any Democratic elected official or candidate in the county who endorses a Republican for mayor will not receive the endorsement or support of the Democratic Party in the future,” Durfee wrote in a letter to local Democratic elected officials.

Durfee’s letter comes on the heels of Republican District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis’ announcement that influential local Democrats are supporting her mayoral bid, which sparked further angst over the party’s troubles winning San Diego’s top elected office. Two elected Democrats, Lemon Grove Mayor Mary Sessom and Solana Beach Councilman Dave Roberts, were on Dumanis’ list.

Durfee mentioned both by name in his letter.

Their decision to play Republican politics in a priority race for Democrats will not be forgotten by our Party leaders, volunteers, and voters throughout the county. We have not seen a Democrat on a general election ballot for this office in two decades. Now that we outnumber Republicans by nearly 50%, there is no excuse for us not to have a Democrat as the elected mayor of California’s second-largest city. Our expectation is simple: you should be supporting a Democrat in this race. If you can’t do that, then support no one at all.

Democratic Congressman Bob Filner has officially declared for the race and Democratic state Sen. Christine Kehoe is considering a bid.

In an interview, Sessom, who has run Lemon Grove since 1996, said she hadn’t seen Durfee’s letter.

“It’s a nonpartisan race,” Sessom said. “Why are we pulling partisan politics? That’s nuts.”

Sessom said she has known Dumanis since the 1980s and volunteered her support for her mayoral campaign. Sessom believes Dumanis’ management style makes her the best candidate.

She added she understands Durfee’s solidarity message, but that it doesn’t bother her.

“Frankly, what has the Democratic Party done for me in the last 10 years?” she said. “I would have to say nothing.”

Roberts, who was briefly a candidate for Republican Brian Bilbray’s congressional seat in the 2010 election, said he didn’t think Durfee’s letter would have any effect on his future plans. He received the letter Monday.

Roberts said he always chooses the candidate, not the party in nonpartisan races.

“I think a lot of people are disappointed to see the partisanship in a race like this, this early,” Roberts said.

He added that if Kehoe formally announced a bid, he would consider supporting her, too.

Durfee didn’t embellish much on his letter in an interview.

“It’s not unusual for the party to communicate to their folks just to keep them up to date on what’s going on and what their options are,” Durfee said.

Told that Sessom and Roberts said they endorsed Dumanis in part because the race was nonpartisan, Durfee replied, “If that’s the case, they’ll be running nonpartisan races without the support of the party.”

Durfee said he believed the local Republican Party would feel the same way about its elected officials endorsing Democrats.

Please contact Liam Dillon directly at or 619.550.5663 and follow him on Twitter:

Liam Dillon

Liam Dillon was formerly a senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He led VOSD’s investigations and wrote about how regular people...

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