City Councilwoman Barbara Bry attends a CCA press conference in downtown San Diego. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

This week, City Councilwoman Barbara Bry entered the mayor’s race officially.

She was upfront with us earlier that the idea really crystallized for her after the outpouring of support she got, even from some very conservative quarters, after she became one of the first politicians to loudly denounce the SoccerCity proposal and support SDSU’s initiative instead.

Taps longtime mayor-maker: To run her campaign, Bry tapped Tom Shepard as her top consultant. Shepard has orchestrated the campaigns of many San Diego mayors, including Roger Hedgecock, Susan Golding and Jerry Sanders.

But they were all Republicans. Shepard seems to be continuing a transition to Democratic consultant after a short war with the chairman of the local Republican Party, Tony Krvaric.

He has kept business going over the past couple years. In 2018, he helped coordinate the SDSU West success, the campaign for Measure D, which will give Democrats more chances to win seats in county government, and the campaign of Carlsbad Mayor Matt Hall, a Republican.

Shepard had previously consulted on Scott Peters’ campaign for City Council. Now, obviously, he won’t be helping Peters.

Bry’s Full of STEAM

In her announcement, Bry laid out a talking point:

One of my priorities for San Diego is to move Full STEAM Ahead by expanding access to Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math opportunities in every neighborhood.

We’re not quite sure what a “math opportunity” is in a neighborhood. Maybe like a poker game? So we’ll have to ask her about it when we sit down with each candidate.

But the staff here at the Politics Report hopes it’s not the latest in a long line of mayoral and city candidates cynically appealing to worries about, and interest in, local schools without actually wanting to dive into the difficult world of K-12 politics.

When Mayor Kevin Faulconer ran for re-election in 2016, he sent mailers in Spanish and English with the message that he was “assuring that our children receive the education they need to get ahead.” Faulconer, of course, has stayed as far away from K-12 politics as possible. His team defended the message by pointing to his support for libraries.

Faulconer’s predecessor, Bob Filner, also played education notes on his campaign with an assist from the teachers union, the American Federation of Teachers. He didn’t have much time to pursue an educational agenda, but he never articulated a coherent one.

This makes sense of course. On the one hand, people care about education, so politicians know they should talk about it. On the other hand, the city of San Diego, unlike New York or Los Angeles, doesn’t have direct control over city schools.

The City Charter, though, is also the charter for the San Diego Unified School District. Thus, the City Council and mayor can put forward major changes to governance of the district for voters to consider. For example, they could ask voters to change the way district elections work or add more members to the district Board of Education.

Bry didn’t want to change the way elections at the district are done, though. In 2017, she said it was “not our business.”

Bry and VOSD

A note on Bry: When Buzz Woolley and Neil Morgan (RIP, you old poet. I miss you.) founded Voice of San Diego in 2004, they tapped Bry as the first CEO and editor in chief. She recruited me for a job as a reporter. While I didn’t take the job immediately, I did recommend my friend, Andrew Donohue, for it. And I did freelance for her. Both actions later put me in position to take a job with VOSD soon after she left the organization in the summer of 2005.

(It’s incredible how time flies. I was in my 20s! Now I’m not even in my 30s!)

A few months later, when the next editor flamed out, Donohue and I took over management of the organization.

Bry was a pretty natural choice for the role to start VOSD. She had been a journalist for the Sacramento Bee and Los Angeles Times. She was a successful entrepreneur and started an important nonprofit in CONNECT. A resume like that has gotten her a lot of great opportunities and obviously continues to deliver.

I’m happy to answer any questions I can about her time at VOSD. I wasn’t in the office, though, when she was here.

I remain grateful that she brought me into VOSD’s orbit. But I do not have any preference in the mayor’s race. I look forward to angering all the candidates.

South Bay’s Next Big Contest

San Diego Port Chairman Rafael Castellanos / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Port Commission Chairman Rafael Castellanos became the first to officially jump into the race to replace County Supervisor Greg Cox in 2020.

The lawyer has been methodically building a big network of support since his loss in the 2016 race for San Diego city attorney. He had proved himself a solid fundraiser then and he has got everything lined up now.

Like Bry, he’s announcing now because the first votes aren’t that far away. The 2020 primary in California is in March. So we’re just a bit more than a year away from the first votes in these races, and the primaries will be important. Getting out in front early will be critical for the early elite primary: the race to secure major donors and endorsements.

Castellanos won’t be alone in the race. Also Friday, Nora Vargas filed the forms to create her own committee. Vargas is the vice president for government relations at Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest.

She hasn’t made an official announcement but she’s got a donation page set up.

Then there’s former San Diego City Councilman David Alvarez, who opened a committee, raised a bunch of money and made it known he would run for this seat long ago but then told us in November he was reconsidering. He put the chances he would run at a three out of 10 (10 being he would certainly run).

Also, state Sen. Ben Hueso’s name keeps coming up for the seat, but we haven’t heard anything from him. Also mentioned a lot in Democratic circles is former City Councilwoman Marti Emerald.

We had heard that former Chula Vista Police Chief David Bejerano, who used to be the U.S. marshal for the Southern District of California, was going to run for the seat as a Republican, but that doesn’t seem so clear anymore. Since the day I began covering San Diego politics, in 2003, Bejarano’s name has been mentioned for all kinds of major political positions but it’s never actually happened.


  • If you haven’t read this bananas story by Jesse Marx about what happened to Republican Phil Graham’s race for the Assembly last year, you should. If you prefer to listen to it, we had Marx on this week’s podcast to talk about it.
  • On Facebook, a regular commenter in labor and Democratic groups named Matthew DeHaviland used to light up some discussions. But this week, various people working with the new leadership of the United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 135 realized that nobody knew who DeHaviland was even though he was friends with dozens of San Diego’s most political activists. When they reverse image-searched his photos, they found they were stolen from someone else’s pictures. Now the profile has been taken down. But the hunt to figure out who “DeHaviland” was continues.
  • Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez revealed a new idea. She reported on Twitter that she had told Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom she wants to make public transit free for all riders under 25. “He didn’t say yes, but he didn’t say no either,” she wrote.

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Scott Lewis

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...

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