Former state Sen. Joel Anderson and Poway Mayor Steve Vaus / Photos by Adriana Heldiz and Vito Di Stefano

It is Monday night. The Republican Party of San Diego County’s Central Committee is considering making an endorsement in the race to represent District 2 on the County Board of Supervisors. The seat, held by Dianne Jacob now for decades, is relatively safe for Republicans. But a heated fight for it has broken out between Poway Mayor Steve Vaus and former state Sen. Joel Anderson.

Vaus is a gentleman cowboy. Anderson is a brawler.

Guess who won?

We got the full story. The proceedings were confidential, but it’s not like, illegal, to tell us confidential things. Three people did. You should all do it.

Quick background: Vaus has Jacob’s full support and Jacob has a lot of campaign money left over from her tenure. She plans to spend it on Vaus’ behalf. She does not care for Anderson. Vaus also has the support of San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and about all the top-name groups, like the Deputy Sheriffs Association.

Anderson, however, also has money. People know his name. He worked with the Republican Party before to intimidate Jacob into backing off campaign finance restrictions.

Back to the endorsement: After the first vote, Anderson had a solid majority but not the two-thirds needed for an endorsement.

The Central Committee decided to vote on whether it should reconsider — to see if anyone would change their vote. The vote to reconsider passed overwhelmingly, like more than 80 percent.

Unlike Congress, you can’t really think of the vote to reconsider as equal to how the next vote was going to go. But Vaus apparently did. He got up and asked Chairman Tony Krvaric if he could say a word. Krvaric agreed, and Vaus told the committee he was conceding.

The next tally gave Anderson the few votes he needed to get a supermajority. Several people reported to your Politics Report team that Vaus’ move was shocking. Vaus wasn’t going to get the endorsement, but he plainly could have stopped an endorsement from happening.

We asked Vaus why he did it. He was traveling and sent us a statement:

“All candidates agreed to maintain the confidentiality of the endorsement process, so I’ll keep that commitment and won’t comment on the discussion. But I am certain that the endorsers of my campaign are important and persuasive to voters.  The endorsement of Supervisor Dianne Jacob and all the Republicans on the Board of Supervisors, the Deputy Sheriffs’ Association, San Diego Police Officers Association, multiple mayors and councilmembers sends an unmistakable message to voters that the leaders they know and trust, support Steve Vaus.”

Why it matters: Anderson and the party have worked together before and now, should he be able to help direct major donors to the party, some of that money could come in to benefit him. It was a big win for him to be able to say he’s the party’s choice and any communications where the party highlights its choices will include him.

Anderson was not gracious about the gift Vaus gave him.

“In a big blow to the San Diego’s downtown establishment and politicians, the San Diego County Central Committee endorsed Senator Joel Anderson (Ret.) over Poway Mayor and SANDAG chairman Steve Vaus,” his press release said.

That may be the first recorded account of someone calling the cowboy hat-wearing Poway conservative Vaus a part of the “downtown establishment.”

Leventhal Nabs Republican Nod

Another fierce Republican vs. Republican battle locally is who will advance through the March primary for the San Diego City Council District 5 race.

None of us can remember an interesting race in this most conservative district within city limits. And yet not only is it an interesting contest between two Republicans, but the Democrat, Marni Von Wilpert, has an actual shot at winning the runoff. There’s a non-zero chance there could only be one Republican on the San Diego City Council after 2020. And he wouldn’t be from this district.

But that’s not the case yet. Joe Leventhal and Pat Batten are jousting for Republican support.

The party chose to endorse Leventhal on Monday in a mild surprise. Batten is a Marine and has worked for many Republican campaigns.

“Batten had the ideological background and the biographical advantage but Joe outhustled him,” said Stephen Puetz, Leventhal’s consultant.

Batten wasn’t impressed.

“I knew Joe Leventhal’s conventional ideology was a better fit for Republican Party Central Committee members. This race will be decided by the diverse communities of District 5. I am confident that my military leadership, civic experience and community focus will better resonate with voters in this election,” said Batten in a written statement.

3 Moments From an Environmental Mayoral Debate

Assemblyman Todd Gloria and San Diego Councilwoman Barbara Bry / Photos by Dustin Michelson and Vito Di Stefano

It’s debate season. Every community and special interest group in the city will have one or more debates – nay, forums – for races up and down the ballot.

It drives politicos nuts, but it’s just how we do things.

Tuesday the League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club hosted a mayoral forum on environmental issues.

Community activist Tasha Williamson wasn’t there, but Councilwoman Barbara Bry and Assemblyman Todd Gloria squared off on a range of environmental issues.

Here are three moments that stood out.

Retrofitting Buildings

Moderator Matt Strabone asked whether the candidates would commit to forcing all new buildings to reach zero emissions, including a requirement that they not include gas hookups.

Gloria, who elevated an early draft of the Climate Action Plan that was later adopted by the City Council when he was interim mayor, pointed out that his version of the plan included a requirement for old buildings to be retrofitted whenever they were sold.

“New construction, that’s a far easier conversation, but I was willing to have a different conversation,” he said. “When I proposed the draft climate action plan, we talked about energy retrofits in existing buildings. That wasn’t necessarily well received in every corner, but I think this group of voters here tonight are looking for a true environmental champion.”

He’s right — he proposed it, and the real estate industry pushed back hard. When Faulconer became mayor and proposed the final plan, that was the one big item he killed.

Bry didn’t exactly jump on the question, instead arguing transportation was the No. 1 emission source, so helping people live closer to work was more important.

“As we know transportation creates … the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions,” she said. “So getting people out of their cars, moving good jobs closer to where people live, and having more people live closer to good jobs, will do a lot to get us closer to our climate action plan goals.”

She touted her recent support to make way for thousands of new homes along the Mid-Coast trolley line, and her support for redeveloping Horton Plaza into a tech employment center.

Fixing Park Deficiencies in Low-Income Neighborhoods

On how to make sure low-income neighborhoods have broad access to well-funded parks, Bry said her budget committee audited park funding citywide and found parks in low-income areas have less revenue coming in.

“So now I’m leading an effort to make sure that spending across the city is equal,” she said.

Gloria took exception to that response, arguing that North of I-8 communities have long benefited from robust development that paid into park facilities that hasn’t been reciprocated elsewhere.

“It is in those south-of-8 communities where equity is so very important, and that is not the same as equal, I humbly point out to you, compared to my opponent’s answer,” he said.

Transit Past and Future

There was perhaps no bigger champion for Measure A, SANDAG’s failed transportation measure in 2016, than Gloria. After it failed, he went to Sacramento and the measure became the entry point of a years-long scandal, ultimately leading to the ouster of the SANDAG’s director, state legislation reforming the agency and the hiring of a new director proposing a much more transit-oriented vision for the county.

Gloria said he is on board with that vision – referred to as The 5 Big Moves – pointing to a recent VOSD op-ed.

He said as mayor he would use the city’s strengthened authority from AB 805, which gives its vote more weight on SANDAG than any other city, to push that vision.

“Use that authority at SANDAG to make sure we’re driving an agenda that gets San Diego to San Diego’s climate goals regionwide, because I don’t believe that the transit, biking and walking is unique to the city limits of San Diego,” he said.

But Bry hit him for his vocal support for Measure A, which was opposed by many of Gloria’s supporters in labor and the progressive community for spending too much money on transit. It has since also become clear that the measure would not have raised as much as its proponents said, and that the money it did raise would have gone to paying for other highway projects SANDAG had promised in TransNet.

“We have to think 10 to 20 years out, but we also have to think about today,” she said. “In 2016 Mr. Gloria supported Measure A, which if it had passed we would have been building a lot of the wrong things. Fortunately it didn’t pass and now we have an opportunity to get it right.”

She said she’d focus on expanding telecommuting to ease congestion.

She also said she was shocked to learn upon taking office in 2016 that MTS and SANDAG had done so little to connect the UTC employment area to the new trolley station set to open there in 2021.

“Before I got there, they were not even thinking about it,” she said. “I could not believe it. Here we are the No. 1 employment center and the trolley is coming in 2021, and they weren’t thinking about how to connect people from the trolley to their place of work. They are now thinking about it, and there will be transit, other means of transportation in place, micro-mobility solutions and eventually autonomous vehicles.”

Bry Explains Scooter Fixation

One more moment that stood out for us in the debate was Bry’s closing statement. She seemed to be aware of the not-subtle snarking about her obsession with scooters and she had an explanation of why she finds the topic so indicative of a bigger difference between her and Gloria.

I believe the diversity of my life experiences has prepared me to be your next mayor and I’m just going to take scooters as one example because it’s really more than just about scooters. When I saw the scooter industry descend on San Diego, I looked at the fast money behind these scooters and I realized that their success was dependent upon getting state legislation to exempt them from requirements to wear a helmet and to prohibit cities from having any local control over helmet usage. Mr. Gloria supported this legislation and as you know we in San Diego cannot require helmet usage and the number of head injuries is tragically increasing. He will tell you he did this because it puts us in sync with bicycle regulations. But scooters are not bikes. They are flimsy electric vehicles and people literally just get on them and then fall off for no reason. Your choice in this election is clear between more of the same or a change agent with a track record of success.

While this is a surprisingly compelling take given our unabashed shillery for scooters, it feels like it’s missing one line about exactly what she’s saying here: that by virtue of her broader set of life experiences, she can see the bigger system at work, or something.

Gloria responded to the career-politician attack that we suspect we’ll be hearing quite a bit throughout the race.

“You have seen me do it for years, and I will never apologize for spending my career serving my hometown,” he said.

OK, Fine. One More Debate Moment.

Gloria got the crowd going at one point when he was asked about how he’d deal with sewage flows out of the Tijuana River.

Believe me, if I get a chance to sit down with President Trump, we’re not just going to have happy talk. We’re going to have a conversation about the Tijuana River Valley, and then we’re going to get to the kids in cages and some of the other bullshit that he’s been pushing on this community.

A Facebook Scam Hits Home

You don’t want to miss this incredible Buzzfeed story about a former local political operative, Asher Burke, who made millions before dying in a tragic helicopter crash in Kenya. The title: “How A Massive Facebook Scam Siphoned Millions Of Dollars From Unsuspecting Boomers.” The company, San Diego-based Ads Inc., shut down right when the story came out. The story describes Burke as a former “deputy political director of the Republican Party of San Diego.”

San Diego GOP Chairman Tony Krvaric was not pleased with us when we described Burke earlier this week as a former Republican official. Krvaric told us Burke worked for the party for just three months from September to November of 2008. He said Burke probably just walked precincts for the party.

“If you’re walking for us you’re a deputy something or other,” Krvaric said.

But Burke was more prominent than that in local conservative circles. He had a long contract with the Lincoln Club. He helped state Sen. Brian Jones in his initial Assembly race. When Burke died, Jones was effusive in his praise after describing Burke’s help on his 2008 congressional race.

“We didn’t end up winning that one, but we won many others together and their leadership and hard work helped get me where I am today,” Jones wrote on Facebook. Mason Herron, a political consultant, also wrote about Burke.

“As the years passed, Asher pivoted away from politics and toward building his own business – an operation which grew and grew, both in size and success,” wrote Herron.


Two things you don’t want to miss: Assemblywoman Shirley Weber tackled a big, gnarly issue last year and struck a deal with police in a dramatic climax this summer. See what she has planned next. And this interview Andy did with Tasha Williamson is really good.

If you have any feedback or ideas for the Politics Report, send them to 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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