The decade that mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio has spent in San Diego has coincided with the city’s financial turmoil. DeMaio, who has sounded the alarm as much as anyone, consistently has blamed two special interests for San Diego’s woes: labor unions and “downtown insiders.” It’s right there on his candidate statement for the primary.

“Carl is the only candidate who stands up to Government Unions and the downtown insiders who are squandering our taxpayer dollars,” the statement reads.

But now, with DeMaio in a runoff election for the Mayor’s Office, one of those groups isn’t looking so bad to him.

Since the June 5 primary, DeMaio, a Republican, has aggressively solicited supporters of his defeated opponents, Bonnie Dumanis and Nathan Fletcher. Many of those supporters are the downtown business leaders and other boosters that DeMaio has long railed against.

Six days after the primary, DeMaio held what he called a “Unity Breakfast” for those who didn’t back him previously. At the breakfast, he announced that Kris Michell would be helping with his campaign. If you looked up “downtown insider” in the dictionary, you’d find Michell’s picture. She served as current Mayor Jerry Sanders’ chief of staff and now heads the Downtown San Diego Partnership, an organization that exists to lobby for downtown interests. (We’ve written a lot about Michell, who didn’t respond to a request for comment for this piece. If you’re interested in learning more about her, start with this story about her leaving the Mayor’s Office in 2010.)

In an interview, DeMaio said he didn’t see his prior criticisms of downtown folks at odds with his current effort to court them.

“My goal has always been to build a coalition with a lot of different voices and perspectives not only to win an election, but I need those relationships to govern,” DeMaio said.

DeMaio’s rise has mirrored that of the more hard-line wing of the local Republican Party. It has relied on the support of organizations like the Lincoln Club of San Diego County, restaurateurs, builders and realtors instead of the more moderate Republican-leaning, downtown-centered groups, such as the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Corporation.

With DeMaio squaring off against Democratic Congressman Bob Filner in the runoff, it’s the first time in at least four decades downtown interests don’t have a natural mayoral candidate to support. It’s expected for both DeMaio and Filner to seek their favor as they work to attract the moderates they didn’t need to make it past the primary.

DeMaio contended that the people he’s now courting are moving more toward his perspective than he is to them.

“If people want to come and help me implement my vision for San Diego, which is a neighborhood-oriented vision of reforming our city finances and getting our programs in our neighborhoods restored, then I’ll accept their help,” he said. “I’ve been very clear about the direction that we’re going to take.”

Liam Dillon is a news reporter for Voice of San Diego. He covers San Diego City Hall, the 2012 mayor’s race and big building projects. What should he write about next?

Please contact him directly at or 619.550.5663.

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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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