Geneviéve Jones-Wright speaks to the progressive People Over Profits group at Border X Brewing. / Vito Di Stefano

The Real Justice super PAC, which supports Genevieve Jones-Wright for district attorney, this week turned its fire not just on her rival, Summer Stephan, but also on Democrats supporting Stephan — specifically Rep. Juan Vargas and San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott.

Shaun King, the writer/activist who helps lead Real Justice and has a massive social media following, blasted Vargas and Elliott on Twitter. He wrote that local Democrats should pressure them to withdraw their support of Stephan. “This DA is about as much as a reformer as Jeff Sessions,” he wrote.

That brought a rebuke from Gil Cabrera, a Democrat who ran against Elliott and chairs the Convention Center Corp. The resulting exchange between Cabrera and others, including Real Justice’s Max Cotterill (whom we interviewed last week), was interesting.

Why Carpenters Support Stephan

Another liberal group supporting Stephan is the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters. A video touting the union’s endorsement ran endlessly as an ad on Facebook for several weeks.

We asked the carpenters why they support the Republican in this race. John Hanna, the director of government affairs for the union, said it was largely about the district attorney’s office’s long-term support for investigating payroll, wage and workers’ compensation fraud. Hanna and Alexis Olbrei, the chief of staff, said one deputy district attorney in particular has been a leader on the issue: Dominic Dugo.

The district attorney received a grant from the $35 million worth of funds for this work issued by Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. You might have seen some of the ads and billboards.

Hanna said they’re constantly battling contractors who misclassify workers as contractors or lie about the number of workers on a job.

“In Southern California, Republican district attorneys have been much more aggressive on this issue than Democrats,” Hanna said.

Outside PACs Get Big Labor Money for Fletcher-Saldaña Showdown

Nathan Fletcher, Ken Malbrough, Omar Passons and Lori Saldaña / Photo by Scott Lewis

There’s going to be plenty of money flying around in the 4th District county supervisor race, which has become a proxy for ongoing disputes in San Diego’s organized labor community.

A campaign committee supporting former Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña’s bid got a $50,000 donation from the Laborer’s International Union of North America Local 89.

A committee supporting former Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, meanwhile, took in $20,000 from the local United Domestic Workers of America chapter.

That’s enough money to turn the race into an ugly fight, with Fletcher and Saldaña standing in as the avatars for each side of the labor split.

Without the help from outside groups, it would’ve been tough for Saldaña to make it through the June primary. In the first quarter of the year, she raised $17,000 and reported just $726 in cash on hand as of last week.

All of the other Democrats have brought in more. Fletcher, the party’s endorsed candidate, has $256,000 in the bank. Attorney Omar Passons brought in another $70,000 so far this year, bringing his fundraising total to $285,000 – though he has only $13,000 left. Former fire chief Ken Malbrough has raised nearly $30,000 and has $15,000 left to spend.

The labor proxy war: Fletcher and Saldaña are at the center of a long-running, escalating feud between factions within organized labor.

If you’re not up to speed on that dispute, read this and this. We can’t bring ourselves to describe it again.

Anyway, it’s the union-funded PACs that are worth watching.

Those outside groups are well-funded and will have an easier time going negative against the other candidates.

Rachel Laing, a spokeswoman for the PAC supporting Fletcher and a staffer on Fletcher’s 2013 mayoral run, said they’ll start getting involved next week.

The Good-Bad News on San Diego’s Gas Tax Haul

The Metropolitan Transit System Green Line goes from Santee to downtown San Diego, cutting through Mission Valley. / Photo by Sam Hodgson

On Wednesday, proponents of an initiative to overturn last year’s gas tax increase announced they had enough signatures to reach the ballot.

On Thursday, the California State Transportation Agency announced $2.6 billion in funding for local transit and rail projects across the state paid for through that gas tax.

The good news is that San Diego got some of that money.

And, to be sure, the money will go to worthy projects that will improve San Diego’s transit system.

Here’s what San Diego got from the state:

$40.4 million in improvements for the Pacific Surfliner and Coaster rail corridor. We’ll have to pay for the remainder of the $65.5 million project.

$5.7 million for improved bus stations along University Avenue. The project will cost $7.2 million overall.

$40 million to improve frequency on the trolley’s Blue Line, create a new rapid bus service from Imperial Beach to the Otay Mesa border crossing and buy 11 new zero-emission buses. It’s a $50.2 million project overall.

Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins issued a press release celebrating San Diego’s take.

“This funding will help make San Diego’s public transit system safer, faster and more accessible,” she said in the statement.

The bad news is that compared with what you’d expect San Diego to get, purely based on its population, we did not do very well at all.

The $86 million heading here is just 3.2 percent of the $2.6 billion the state awarded overall.

Yet, San Diego represents about 8.4 percent of the state’s 39.5 million people.

The upshot: It’s better to get $86 million for regional transit projects than $0. MTS will be unquestionably be able to provide better service to South Bay residents by increasing Blue Line frequency and adding a new high-quality bus line from Imperial Beach to Otay Mesa than it can today.

But once you put the numbers in context, San Diego punched below its weight on this round of gas-tax funding.

Lisa Halverstadt contributed to this week’s Politics Report. If you have any tips or feedback, email or 

Scott Lewis oversees Voice of San Diego’s operations, website and daily functions as Editor in Chief. He also writes about local politics, where he frequently...

Andrew Keatts is a former managing editor for projects and investigations at Voice of San Diego.

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