Usually, you have to wait a while for some revisionist history to kick in. Not so for Carl DeMaio and San Diego’s 2014 special mayoral election.

DeMaio decided to run for Congress this year, and stuck with that decision even after the job he originally wanted became vacant again at City Hall. If he had made the leap into the special election, DeMaio would be in the mayor’s office right now, DeMaio told the National Journal for a recent lengthy profile:

DeMaio would have won the resulting special election easily, he says, but by then he had already begun a campaign for Congress …

To make what would seem a tough choice, he began a pro/con list last fall, intending to lay out all the reasons for continuing the push to Washington, and those in favor of scrapping that effort and staying in San Diego. He never made it to the second list. By then, the political power on the City Council had shifted toward the Democrats, and the city had entered into a five-year binding contract with its labor unions. He didn’t see how he’d be able to get much done in that environment. Even with the gridlock in Washington, DeMaio decided to push ahead with his congressional bid.


DeMaio is misrepresenting the reality of last summer’s mayoral candidate jockeying. His closest supporters told him not to run and he faced a tough fight no matter what.

The city’s Republican power brokers strongly discouraged DeMaio from jumping in the race. The group picked someone else as its candidate – the ultimate winner, Kevin Faulconer. If DeMaio had decided to run, the most natural coalition to support him would have been with Faulconer, not him.

Even if local GOP leaders had backed him over Faulconer, there was no sure bet he’d win. At the time DeMaio made his decision to stick with the House race,  he was neck-and-neck in the mayoral polls with Qualcomm executive Nathan Fletcher.

DeMaio may well have made a pro/con list about running for mayor versus staying in the House race. But by leaving out key factors that shaped the mayoral election landscape DeMaio presented a distorted view of his decision.

The National Journal story did reveal new and fascinating details about DeMaio’s difficult childhood and insight about some of his struggles with the LGBT community, of which he’s a part. The tragedy of his mother’s death and father leaving the family when he was 15 helped shape his politics:

Even as a youngster, DeMaio had shared his father’s conservative worldview rather than his mother’s liberal one, he says, but being orphaned thoroughly cemented that philosophy. It taught him that people should rely on themselves. “I think I’ve always been a Republican,” he says. “I believe government can be a part of the solution, but big government is as bad as big business. My core philosophy is about trusting individual freedoms. For me, those values I see more in line with Republican ideology than the Democrats.”

The story also quoted the publisher of a local LGBT magazine that has been critical of DeMaio saying he couldn’t understand why DeMaio could be a member of the GOP when the party opposed same-sex marriage.

That’s a position held by many gay people, says Donald Haider-Markel, a political-science professor at the University of Kansas and the author of Out and Running, a book on openly gay candidates seeking public office. The common view is that it doesn’t help to elect gay candidates if those candidates don’t prioritize gay rights. “They want policy results,” Haider-Markel says. “To stay away from certain kinds of issues, they see it as a kind of self-loathing.”

You Don’t Know SD is an occasional series designed to correct factual errors and add important context to coverage of the high-profile 52nd District House race between Rep. Scott Peters and Carl DeMaio.

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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