District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis has endorsed her employee, Deputy District Attorney Robert Hickey, to be San Diego’s next city attorney.

Dumanis, a Republican, made her decision after sitting out the race for months, even though Hickey works in her office and is the only Republican in the race.

Her announcement comes five days after a committee supporting Hickey’s opponent, Democrat Mara Elliott, put out a YouTube ad attacking Hickey for failing to garner Dumanis’ endorsement.

Hickey and Dumanis have had a rough few years. Two people familiar with the situation told me last year that Dumanis reprimanded a local elected Republican for endorsing Hickey.

During her 2014 re-election campaign, Hickey refused to endorse either Dumanis or her opponent Robert Brewer, who had hired Hickey into private practice years earlier.

Hickey was president of the union for deputy district attorneys at the time. In that role, he pushed the union to hold a groupwide endorsement vote, rather than limiting the decision to the group’s leadership, as some Dumanis supporters had hoped. Ahead of the groupwide vote, some deputy district attorneys said they were pressured to support Dumanis, and Hickey forwarded those complaints to human resources.

In 2012, while Hickey was union president, he turned down a $100,000 donation to the union’s political action committee to support Dumanis’ mayoral campaign, Hickey told me in 2014. That offer came from Ernesto Encinas, the right-hand man for the Mexican businessman Jose Susumo Azano Matsura, who was recently convicted of illegally funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars into San Diego political races, including Dumanis’ mayoral run.

After Dumanis won re-election, she demoted Hickey and two other deputy district attorneys who didn’t support her re-election bid.

In an email notifying me of Dumanis’ endorsement, Jennifer Tierney, Dumanis’ political consultant, said Dumanis never demoted Hickey. He had simply been re-assigned.

That’s been the position from Dumanis’ office since Hickey went from the department’s gang crimes unit to work in the South Bay office.

But the change dropped Hickey out of a management position, although it didn’t come with pay or benefits cuts.

In an interview last year, Hickey didn’t dispute the characterization of the reassignment as a demotion – and his former supervisor said it would have been perceived as one within the department. Nonetheless, he said it couldn’t have been based on merit, because he was still handling a murder case, the most serious kind the office handles.

Andrew Keatts

I'm Andrew Keatts, a managing editor for projects and investigations at Voice of San Diego. Please contact me if you'd like at andrew.keatts@voiceofsandiego.org...

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