Carl DeMaio built his reputation in San Diego on trashing insiders for causing San Diego’s woes. Now as he’s attempting to go from outsider city councilman to the city’s mayor, he’s switching a lot of his positions. And some of his shifts on issues have been far from subtle.

Here are five top DeMaio flips.

Balboa Park

During the primary, DeMaio went back-and-forth over philanthropist Irwin Jacobs’ $45 million proposal to refashion Balboa Park’s Plaza de Panama.

He told us he supported it.. He told an anti-Jacobs plan activist he was against it. By the end of the campaign, he started indicating that he definitively opposed it.

But then two weeks ago, when the plan came before the City Council for a final vote, DeMaio fawned over the proposal, as well as Jacobs and his wife. He even referenced folk singer Joni Mitchell.

“On the vision, I can’t help but quote the lyrics, Big Yellow Taxi: ‘They paved paradise to put up a parking lot,’” DeMaio said. “Today we’re going the opposite direction. We’re getting some paradise from where we currently have a parking lot.”

DeMaio voted in favor of the plan.


The unofficial beginning of DeMaio’s mayoral campaign came in November 2010. He helped kill a sales tax hike at the ballot box and then released his major financial reform plan in the days after the tax’s defeat.

DeMaio wanted to cut the $6 million the city allocates to arts and culture groups by a quarter. Then, 16 months later, at a candidate forum hosted by local nonprofits, DeMaio went in the opposite direction.

“I actually intend to double the funding for arts and culture during my two terms as mayor,” he said.

He explained the shift by saying the city’s economic condition had improved so cuts no longer were necessary.

Social Security

Proposition B, the successful pension initiative DeMaio championed, gives most new city workers 401(k)-style retirement plans instead of guaranteed pensions. He sold it by saying that city workers should receive the same retirement package as the private sector.

But unlike those in the private sector, city workers don’t receive Social Security. New San Diego employees will decide whether to re-enter the system. At first, DeMaio argued that workers might want to opt-out and manage all their retirement funds themselves. Our Scott Lewis called this Social Security privatization scenario “a conservative’s fantasy.”

Yet DeMaio soon backtracked. He now says under his administration that new city workers will get Social Security as a guaranteed benefit.


DeMaio likes to run for office alongside ballot measures. It fits his populist image and helps him spread his government-reform message. His yard signs even carried both messages: They said Carl DeMaio for Mayor on top and Yes on B: Pension Reform! at the bottom.

So when DeMaio announced in the weeks before the primary that a road repair plan would be his ballot partner for the general election, the claim was believable. He wants the city to lock down future tax revenue growth for the next five years for infrastructure. DeMaio’s pitch was for the City Council to put the measure on the ballot without the need to collect signatures. But if the council didn’t act, DeMaio pledged he’d gather the signatures.

A week after the primary, the council didn’t act. A council committee, including two council members who endorsed DeMaio’s mayoral bid, unanimously rejected the plan.

DeMaio’s response? He wasn’t going to collect signatures, but instead implement the infrastructure plan in his first budget as mayor.


Two special interests caused San Diego’s decade of financial problems, DeMaio has said. He blames municipal labor unions and “downtown insiders.”

Here’s 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.”

Since the primary, he’s gone the other way on downtown. He’s aggressively courting downtown players and interest groups and has welcomed them into his campaign.

He explained the change by saying that he needs these relationships to win a campaign and govern. And he maintained that downtown is moving more toward him than the other way around.

But given how core his prior anti-downtown stance has been to his political identity in San Diego, it’s worth wondering what else he’ll be willing to change before Election Day and beyond.

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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