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For someone who has made a non-endorsement pledge, Bonnie Dumanis loves to endorse people.
The district attorney announced her support for fellow Republican Carl DeMaio for mayor Monday, despite being critical of the city councilman in the wake of her failed mayoral primary campaign and after pledging not to endorse in political campaigns except in extreme circumstances.
But beyond her backing DeMaio, the reasoning Dumanis gave for her decision is telling. Her support came with an extra punch against DeMaio’s opponent, Democratic Rep. Bob Filner. Dumanis hammered Filner on his relationship with women, providing powerful back-up to a line of attack DeMaio has been using with more frequency lately.
Here are three takeaways about what Dumanis’ endorsement means.
1. The endorsement departs dramatically from Dumanis’ previous public statements on the mayor’s race.
Both Dumanis and Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher fit in the middle of the political spectrum during the primary. Their messages didn’t resonate with voters like DeMaio’s and Filner’s did. That concerned Dumanis. Here’s what she said about the choice for mayor a few days after the primary in a candid Q-and-A with us:
I’m worried about San Diego.
Because I think we have two extremes that are running for election.
Dumanis said her opinion of DeMaio changed based on his actions.
“Carl DeMaio has maintained a mayoral temperament during the entire campaign,” Dumanis said.
She cited DeMaio’s embrace of folks he’s quarreled with before (read: downtown powerbrokers, Mayor Jerry Sanders, Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs). Filner, she said, hasn’t changed.
“Bob Filner has continued in each one of these debates to have a short fuse,” she said.
2. Dumanis’ “no endorsement” pledge becomes even more meaningless.
The district attorney wasn’t supposed to do these sorts of political things any more.
In 2007, Dumanis she announced that she would no longer endorse candidates because she didn’t want her office to become a political “pawn.” She said, however, that she would endorse in special circumstances and in races impacting public safety.
But two years ago, Dumanis had endorsed so many candidates that we labeled her original pledge “Huckster Propaganda” in our Fact Check. Insiders had labeled her no endorsement promise “a joke.”
Dumanis referred to the pledge when I asked about a potential mayoral endorsement after the primary:
No decision on an endorsement or anything like that?
No. I’m more inclined not to endorse because as I’ve said in the past as the DA …
(Laughs.) But you endorsed Jerry (Sanders)?
But Jerry I knew for 20 years. It’s different. But you never know who I’m going to have to investigate in this race. (Laughs.) That was a joke.
On Monday, she said San Diego’s mayor impacts public safety because the mayor has responsibility for the Police Department. And she said her former supporters in the mayor’s race have asked for her opinion.
“I find that this is one of those extraordinary occasions where I can’t afford to sit by and watch,” she said. “That people are looking to me for who I’m supporting.”
3. Dumanis boosts DeMaio’s closing argument.
In the last couple weeks, DeMaio’s attacks on Filner have taken a female-centric turn.
Recent public polls show Filner is doing better among women than men and women make up the larger percentage of undecided voters.
DeMaio has a television ad in rotation with the female baggage clerk from Filner’s 2007 run-in at Dulles airport.
The clerk speaks directly to the camera and says of Filner: “His actions toward me were scary and hostile,” “I’ll never forget, he told me, ‘You can’t stop me’,” “I was afraid for my safety” and “Worst of all, he said it never happened.”
The ad doesn’t make clear that the dispute between the clerk and Filner was over late luggage. Filner pleaded to misdemeanor trespassing in the incident.
Dumanis followed DeMaio’s lead Monday, and referenced the altercation with the baggage clerk as one of the reasons she endorsed the councilman. Dumanis said that Filner didn’t treat her with respect as a woman during the primary.
“During the campaign as the only female in the race I felt that Mr. Filner was especially demeaning towards me,” she said. “He was dismissive when he spoke to me, and very rarely did he speak to me. He was condescending. He was arrogant. And he was a bully.”
DeMaio denied that he was trying to send any particular message to women about Filner beyond the congressman’s general temperament.
“I don’t have a gender-specific policy,” DeMaio said. “My approach is to advance policies that benefit all San Diego’s neighborhoods and communities. I think that the issue that the district attorney has very eloquently pointed out is that Bob Filner lacks the temperament to be a good mayor. Whether it’s disrespecting women or anyone, frankly, who disagrees with him, we need a mayor who’s going to be able to bring people together.”
In his response to the Dumanis endorsement, Filner released a list of prominent women political supporters including Rep. Susan Davis, former City Councilwoman Donna Frye and two state legislators, Christine Kehoe and Toni Atkins.
“The nearly unanimous support Bob has received from San Diego’s women, elected officials and women’s organizations shows that Ms. Dumanis’ personal attack — parroting the DeMaio party line — has more to do with currying favor from far-right elements in the Republican Party than it does with the reality of Congressman Filner’s long record of support for women and women’s issues,” said Filner spokeswoman Lená Lewis in a statement.
Our media partners at NBC 7 San Diego quoted me talking about the effect that Dumanis’ endorsement could have on the race.
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 email@example.com or 619.550.5663.
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