District Attorney Summer Stephan / Photo by Megan Wood

District Attorney Summer Stephan’s interview with us this week on the podcast was notable, obviously, for the very significant comments she made about the San Diego Police Department’s crime lab. Our story about the lab and how it cut corners to process rape kit analysis has had some major immediate impacts.

But Stephan had a lot more to say on the podcast that was interesting. At the end, we asked her if she still felt comfortable identifying as a Republican. In the last year, City Councilman Mark Kersey and Assemblyman Brian Maienschein left the Republican Party. Stephan has expressed so much discomfort with being identified as a Republican that we thought maybe she may be next.

She didn’t say no.

She said the office is nonpartisan and that she won the support of Democrats, independents and Republicans. She was never partisan, she said.

Let’s let her say the rest:

I continue to be this way. But since I always answer truthfully, you know, I think a lot about something I’d never thought about before, which is, I never thought that having a party, which is how I grew up and that’s the — but I always voted my conscience and based on issues and based on people. But now being the head of the office of a nonpartisan office, being the head of that office, I want to make sure every person out there knows that I’m their people’s prosecutor. And if having a party makes one person out there feel that they can’t get a fair justice, that worries me. And I actually think a lot about it and I think, ‘Do I have a responsibility as the head of the office to not have a party so that it can really accurately represent this fair and equal justice for all, a place where victims can feel comfortable and offenders that their justice will be completely without consideration for a party?’ That’s what I am doing. That’s what my team, that’s composed of all parties does. But is that, you know, is that the perception? And so, I talked to a lot of people about it. I’ve been taking feedback to see, at the end of the day, whatever decision I make will be based on what I think is best in representing me as the people’s prosecutor, the DA for everyone.

Watch this portion of the interview here.

Nobody Knows Where the 50th District Is

Darrell Issa kicks off his congressional bid at a press conference. / Photo by Megan Wood

Darrell Issa could not have rolled out his campaign for the 50th Congressional District better. He leaked it to generate national coverage. He got several rival candidates not only to drop out of the race but to show up at his announcement to endorse him effusively. And he got tons of coverage.

“Today I’m announcing that I will be, I will be the next congressman from the 50th Congressional District. I’m dedicated to do that because I believe that I have the history, the skills, the seniority, and the capability to hit the ground running, not just for this district, but for California,” he said.

It was such a big show, rival Carl DeMaio decided to troll it and host a press conference of his own to deride Issa as a quitter (Issa, of course, declined to run for re-election in the 49th Congressional District because, he said then, he wanted to retire). Our Megan Wood had an excellent dispatch from the scene.

There’s only one problem: Issa was not actually in the 50th Congressional District when he made the announcement about representing “this district.” Both he and DeMaio were rallying at El Cajon City Hall, which is located in the 53rd Congressional District. That’s the district currently represented by Rep. Susan Davis and the one for which they are not running. Had they gone just three blocks to the east, they would have been in the 50th.

DeMaio and Issa are already battling concerns that they don’t live in the district and aren’t familiar with it. In an open letter, state Sen. Brian Jones trolled them both with an offer to give them a tour.

We asked Barry Jantz, a former La Mesa city councilman and pundit of the parts, whether the carpetbagging drag will have much effect.

“It only matters if there’s someone who has enough money to make it matter,” Jantz said. “It’s maybe not the first thing you campaign on but if Jones has enough money to message on it, that’s always effective.”

The GOP nightmare scenario: Jantz said it is very much on locals’ minds that the three Republicans not named Duncan Hunter could split up the vote and leave Hunter in position to make the runoff election against Democrat Ammar Campa Najjar.

There was one other hitch in Issa’s launch: Matt Rahn, a Temecula city councilman who had also announced his intention to run for the seat, was supposed to be at the event but he couldn’t make it through traffic.  Issa addressed the absence and complained about the state of San Diego freeways. “So it’s no surprise that to get from the north part of this district in Temecula down to here takes longer than it should,” he said.

By here, he of course meant the 53rd Congressional District, not the 50th.

  • Modern campaigning is very much this weird dance between projecting power and strength but then also trying to terrify your supporters into giving you more money. DeMaio’s last three email subject lines demonstrate he’s really focused on the latter these days: “a crushing blow” “I’m worried” “Have you given up?”
  • One of the things Issa and his supporters at the press conference said repeatedly is that, if he is elected, he will have seniority in the House of Representatives and that would be an immediate benefit for the district. We poked around a bit to see if that was true and it is. Two experts confirmed for us that if Issa went back to Congress, his experience from before would carry over and he would indeed be among the most senior of Republicans in the House.

Can You Win Without Major Endorsements?

In 2016 and 2018, Democratic candidates showed you could win contested races in San Diego without much at all in the way of institutional backing or high-profile supporters.

City Attorney Mara Elliott bested a crowded Democratic field in 2016 with far fewer big-name endorsements than her opponents. Council President Georgette Gómez did the same in a Council race where one opponent had major labor support and another had the Chamber of Commerce.

It was even more pronounced in 2018. Councilwoman Monica Montgomery beat the incumbent Council president, Myrtle Cole, despite Cole having the support of the party, labor and just about every other vested interest in City Hall. Councilwoman Vivian Moreno likewise beat a Democratic rival who had party and labor support.

It’s looking like 2020 will really put the trend to the test.

In the mayoral race, Assemblyman Todd Gloria has lined up support from elected officials at all levels of government, the party and labor unions. He’s facing Councilwoman Barbara Bry, who is trying to build a coalition around community leaders, business figures and groups organized around specific issues like fighting short-term vacation rentals.

And unlike four years ago, Gómez, in her race for the 53rd Congressional District, has consolidated the support almost everyone. She got endorsements this week from Assemblywoman Shirley Weber and Chula Vista Mayor Mary Salas. As far as major Democratic figures still up for grabs, it’s basically Rep. Scott Peters, Rep. Mike Levin and County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher.

Sara Jacobs, Janessa Goldbeck (who scored some nice campaign announcement coverage in BuzzFeed), Jose Caballero and Joaquín Vásquez could be looking for ways to best a Democratic rival without any significant institutional support. (Or maybe typical right-leaning groups like the Chamber of Commerce, Restaurant Association, Lincoln Club or Building Industry Association will take a shine to one of them … )

The state Democratic Party will hold a pivotal endorsement vote for CA-53 on Oct. 5. It would formally ratify any decision at the state conference in Long Beach in mid-November.

Gómez isn’t the only person from the Council president’s office in campaign mode. Marcus Bush, Gomez’s policy adviser, announced this week that he’s running for City Council in National City. Bush, a former National City planning commissioner, is running for the seat held by Gonzalo Quintero, who was appointed by the Council in February to fill the seat National City Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis vacated when she became mayor.

More in Politics

  • We have released the lineup for Politifest 2019 and we are very excited. Get tickets here, Voice of San Diego members get a discount. It’s taken many years for us to get our footing with this event but don’t wait on this year. We have already sold almost as many tickets this year as last year and we’re still a month away. Turns out to have been a good decision to focus on housing, transportation and homelessness. Also, our good buddy Liam Dillon, now with the Los Angeles Times, is coming down. If that’s not enough to get you to come, well, we just don’t know what can possibly please you.
  • Check out Sara Libby’s conversation with Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner Horvath about her first year in the Legislature. Teaser: Boerner Horvath did not like Libby’s suggestion that her most high-profile legislative effort was the one that would have wiped out vacation rentals on San Diego’s coast.

Finally, Just One More Chargers Note

This week Scott couldn’t help himself and wrote about the Chargers and their now legendary ability to swing sweet tenant agreements. Rams owner Stan Kroenke, even with his many billions of dollars, is getting a little uncomfortable with his burn rate these days. This week, Rams COO Kevin Demoff appeared on XTRA 1360 with Mike Costa and Judson Richards. The radio station is now the official partner of the Rams in San Diego. They asked him if the cost of the Inglewood stadium was really more than $5 billion (Costa: “You guys went ahead and put in the solid gold toilets, didn’t you?”)

Demoff laughed and joked the golden toilets are heated but he didn’t deny the cost. “A lot has been made about the price tag, but it shows the commitment Stan Kroenke has to build the world’s greatest stadium. You’re talking about a 3.1 million square foot stadium — bigger than any stadium that has ever been built. It has three times the technology and fiber infrastructure of any stadium that has ever been built.”

And Chargers owner Dean Spanos isn’t paying for much of it at all.

If you have any feedback or ideas for the Politics Report, email scott.lewis@voiceofsandiego.org or andrew.keatts@voiceofsandiego.org. 

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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