San Diego City Council President Georgette Gómez / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Local politics hounds put an oddly specific tweet on our radar earlier this week.

Dan Sena, a D.C.-based political consultant who helped orchestrate the 2018 blue wave at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, broadcast his support for Council President Georgette Gómez’s congressional bid, but it would have been indecipherable for casual political observers.

He was excited that a political action committee for the Committee for Hispanic Causes was spending money on mailers for Gómez. Specifically, the PAC was sending four mailers to 58,000 households of Democrats and independent voters who participated in two recent primary elections. The mailers would be about health care and housing. They’d drop on Wednesday, Friday, next Monday and next Wednesday.

Again, very specific.

Local Democrats wondered if the real intent was to tell the Gómez campaign when the mail was going out, who and how many people were getting it and what they were being told. The idea being the campaign could then choose to spend its limited resources to target other voters, or to message on different issues.

Candidates, of course, like having PACs support their candidacies. But they are not allowed to coordinate with each other during the campaign.

We asked an expert whether there was a case that a public tweet outlining a voter outreach strategy like this could be said to violate that prohibition on coordinating with a PAC.

Nope, said Erin Choplak, director of campaign finance strategy at the Campaign Legal Center in D.C. and a former employee of the Federal Election Commission. In fact, she said it wasn’t really a close call.

The FEC’s prohibition on coordination, she said, focuses on the content of a communication. PACs and a campaign, she said, can’t coordinate on what they should say, or how they should say it. Choplak didn’t think a tweet like this could be said to meet the standard.

“Just posing information about plans to run ads wouldn’t fall into any of the categories,” she said. “It’s arguably coordination about when future advertising hypothetically wouldn’t need to take place.”

There’s another way it would fall short of coordination. It’s just a one-way communication. Choplak said there’d need to be some indication that the candidate campaign was responding to constitute coordination.

“An outside group announcing something it’s planning to do – there’s no clear involvement from the candidate there,” she said.

Regardless, the FEC does not have a quorum right now, so it can’t enforcement federal campaign finance laws even if there was a violation.

“The FEC isn’t doing much of anything right now,” Choplak said.

Sherman Easily Dispenses Tough Immigration Questioning

Councilman Scott Sherman outside of City Hall on Dec. 19, 2019. / Photo by Megan Wood

Rep. Darrell Issa has been a big fan of Voice of San Diego’s coverage of immigration.

Well, at least one story. He has been relentlessly sharing this 2012 piece about former San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio’s thoughts on immigration and particularly what role San Diego police should have in enforcing immigration laws.

DeMaio was running for mayor and had a pragmatic view.

“The trust of the community in our local law enforcement is vital to maintaining public safety,” DeMaio said. “It is not the job of San Diego police to enforce federal immigration laws.”

That is correct. San Diego is teeming with immigration enforcement officers and agencies. It is not the job of San Diego police to enforce federal laws. There are many – many, so many, like a lot – of public employees paid to do that. And there’s more than enough crime and quality of life issues to occupy SDPD’s full attention.

But to Issa it’s obvious perfidy. The Border Patrol Union, which endorsed Issa, picked up the baton and began spreading DeMaio’s comments as well. The separation of federal and local law enforcement is the essence of the sanctuary city debate. There is no sanctuary in San Diego or anywhere for unauthorized immigrants – they get deported a lot. But somehow that word has come to mean “separation of duties between federal law enforcement and state law enforcement.”

The 10th Amendment to the Constitution provides for separation between the states and federal government and the Supreme Court has ruled it prohibits the federal government from requiring states to enforce federal laws.

While DeMaio has decided not defend his comments, the issue came up Thursday night at a mayoral debate KUSI hosted. And another Republican, Councilman Scott Sherman, had to grapple with the same question.

Sherman didn’t have any problem handling it. He said he was on the same side as Assemblyman Todd Gloria and Councilwoman Barbara Bry.

“San Diego is not a sanctuary city,” he said. “We have several agencies here that deal with immigration. Our job for our police is to enforce the laws that are required of us legally — no more, no less. I don’t want our police officers enforcing immigration laws.”

The moderator, Paul Rudy, was somewhat taken aback.

“So if Mr. Trump comes along and said, ‘Hey, I want you to work with my ICE officials,’ you would say, ‘Mr. Trump …’”  Rudy said.

“That’s not our job,” Sherman said, almost laughing at the question. “You have your ICE people who are supposed to do those types of things.”

Endorsement Week

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, the congresswoman from New York City, endorsed a slate of progressive women Friday, including San Diego’s own Gómez. Here’s the New York Times on Ocasio Cortez’s plans.

Gómez has also gotten the endorsement of Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is going to be spending a lot of time in coming days in California along with all the Democratic presidential hopefuls. But Gómez has not endorsed in the presidential race.

When Sanders endorsed her, we asked Gómez’s consultant Dan Rottenstreich, if that meant Gómez had also endorsed Sanders.

“Georgette is thrilled that her broad grassroots coalition continues to grow with an endorsement from Sen. Bernie Sanders today,” he wrote. “She is not making an endorsement in the presidential race at this time.”

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez has backed Sen. Elizabeth Warren. State Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins had previously endorsed Sen. Kamala Harris, but on Friday she made a new endorsement: former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

The Union-Tribune’s editorial board also endorsed Buttigieg.

A New Debate Approach for Bry?

City Councilwoman Barbara Bry at Politifest / Photo by Vito Di Stefano

Councilwoman Barbara Bry has had no problem going negative in her mayoral run, but that might be changing down the stretch.

In a televised debate Thursday night, she made a positive case for her policy preferences and life experiences, and only briefly directed remarks at one of her opponents.

A week earlier, at a debate hosted by the San Diego Association of Realtors, both her opening and closing remarks were directed at her opponents.

She started by criticizing Gloria for a since-pulled TV ad attacking her record on short-term vacation rentals.

“My Valentine’s day started with a second series of TV ads funded by a committee supporting Mr. Gloria, a committee funded by three labor unions, attacked me for my vote to support legislation on short-term rental legislation, and then to rescind it,” Bry began. “I call on Mr. Gloria today to denounce this deceptive ad.” Gloria ignored the prompt.

She closed the debate by arguing unions were attacking her because they’d rather face Councilman Scott Sherman in a November runoff.

“They don’t want me to come out of the March primary because they know in a race against Mr. Gloria, just the two of us, I have a chance to win,” Bry said. “That may be why Mr. Sherman got into the race late.”

Recent polls give Gloria a sizable lead in first place, with Bry and Sherman in a dead heat to advance into a November runoff.

In Thursday’s KUSI debate, Bry stuck to her policy preferences and professional credentials, with one brief exception on short-term vacation rentals.

“As mayor, I would simply enforce our existing code, and I’m tired of hearing my opponents say, ‘Oh, we just need to pass a new law. We need to enforce,’” Bry said. “We have a law on the books, it’s a very good law, that protects our neighborhoods. As mayor, I’m going to enforce that existing law.”

Bella Ross

Bry Also Wants to Talk About AB 5

Bry jumped into the AB 5 fray Monday, calling to repeal the controversial law limiting the use of independent contractors in an email to supporters arguing Gloria co-sponsored the bill because he “never held a job outside politics or government.”

Thursday, without attacking Gloria, she outlined her opposition to the bill and how she’d fix it.

“Yes, we do have a Supreme Court decision, and we have to do something, we have to pass some sort of legislation,” she said. “But I think it’s time to re-write the employment code and address that we have a different kind of economy than we had 50 years ago … the intent of Dynamex is to protect people who are dependent on one employer who were being taken advantage of, and I certainly appreciate the importance of worker protection, and I think we do need legislation. AB 5, by setting up exemptions, and not stepping back and doing an overall framework, was the wrong approach. If you were a doctor or a lawyer, you had lobbyists who could get your point of view across, and perhaps other professions didn’t have as much power to lobby.”

Friday, Bry blasted a clip of her response to her supporters.

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

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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