(Clockwise from top left) San Diego County Board of Supervisors District 1 candidates Rafael Castellanos, Nora Vargas, Ben Hueso and Sophia Rodriguez / Photos by Vito Di Stefano

For nearly a year, Democrats have been engaged in a bitter dispute over the way candidates are elevated in South Bay political races.

Just last week, the party’s top leaders stripped a dozen clubs of their ability to vote on endorsements. Activists alleged that the clubs only existed on paper and that a political consultant had created them to steer financial resources toward his friends and clients.

Nora Vargas, a Planned Parenthood official, was considered the most likely candidate to win the party’s endorsement for the District 1 County Board of Supervisors. But with the 12 clubs out of the picture, no candidate was able to consolidate enough support Tuesday when all the South Bay clubs met to weigh in on the race.

Instead, party leaders in the South Bay deemed all four Democratic contenders, including Vargas, “qualified” going into the March primary.

In a new story, Jesse Marx and Maya Srikrishnan shed more light on the ways in which all the candidates have attempted to use the club system to improve their own chances. The presidents of several South Bay clubs that weren’t stripped of their endorsement authority complained that Vargas’ opponents were infiltrating and upending their process. 

The D1 race is an important one for the South Bay. With Republican Greg Cox about to step down, the seat is up for grabs for the first time in a generation. 

The Fake Assault Claim-Robocall Story Somehow Got Even Weirder

A San Diego man is facing a nearly $10 million fine for spoofing political robocalls that spread a fake assault claim about Republican Assembly candidate Phil Graham just days before the 2018 primary.

Kenneth Moser, the owner of a local telemarketing company, has been accused by the Federal Communications Commission of making the calls that helped take down Graham’s campaign.

You may remember that in May 2018, a woman accused Graham of groping her in an Encinitas bar. Political opponents jumped on the news despite authorities determining that the woman’s claim had been disproven.

But then came the robocalls. As Marx reported earlier this year, voters in the 76th Assembly District race began receiving robocalls citing press coverage of the allegation, and asked why Graham was out harassing a woman when he should have been at home sleeping.

The phone number listed on voters’ caller ID traced back to HomeyTel Network, a Ensenada-based telemarketing company founded by Conrad Braun in San Diego. Turns out Braun and Moser have a long history. The FCC says Moser used Braun’s number “with the intent to cause harm to HomeyTel and others.”

In a statement released after our story published, Graham said he was pleased that the agency had found multiple violations committed against his campaign and hopeful that all the participants would be held to account. 

Brian Hildreth, his attorney, added: “While there has rightly been a significant focus on election interference at the national level, we respectfully ask that the USDOJ apply the same level of scrutiny at the state and local level to prevent any new illegal acts.”

School Safety in the Age of Gun Violence

In the age of gun violence, schools and students are facing a new normal. School shootings are all too common, and so is fear among students who worry their school may be next.

Most schools across the country now do active shooter drills. Some pre-schools do, too.

For this week’s episode of Good Schools for All, we hear from two San Diego students who have experience with these drills, and our own managing editor, Sara Libby, who found out her 1-year-old son took part in a shelter-in-place drill only after it had happened.

Listen here or wherever you get podcasts.

In Other News

Correction: An earlier version of this post mischaracterized a lawsuit challenging the ballot language for a measure to raise the hotel room tax. The lawsuit was filed by a board member for the group Alliance San Diego, which supports the suit. Alliance San Diego did not file the lawsuit.

The Morning Report was written by Megan Wood, and edited by Sara Libby.

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