Joe Leventhal, a candidate for San Diego City Council, at an election night event hosted by the San Diego County Republican Party. / Photo by Megan Wood

There’s no more closely followed race for the San Diego City Council than the traditionally most conservative district in the city, District 5. It covers Rancho Peñasquitos, Rancho Bernardo and Scripps Ranch.

Democrat Marni Von Wilpert Friday released a poll that has her up 5 percentage points on Republican Joe Leventhal but then a lot more (12 points) “after voters hear positive, even-handed introductions of both candidates,” as described by her campaign consultant, Dan Rottenstreich.

Leventhal’s team pointed out a crucial potential flaw, though. The polling firm wrote this about what moved voters: “The undecided vote shrinks to 12%, showing that many undecided voters move toward von Wilpert when presented with her record as a prosecutor in the City Attorney’s Office and her issue priorities.”

Marni Von Wilpert, a candidate for San Diego City Council, attends a San Diego County Democratic Party event on Election night. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Von Wilpert is a deputy city attorney at the city of San Diego who files lawsuits on the public’s behalf. She’s part of the team, for example, that is challenging Instacart under controversial new state employment laws. She described herself on the ballot as a prosecutor. But the Leventhal campaign challenged that description in court. Friday, a judge tentatively ruled Leventhal’s team had a point.

“While Ms. Von Wilpert’s current position is prosecutorial in nature, the term ‘prosecutor’ colloquially means criminal prosecutions. Defining her occupation as ‘prosecutor’ is misleading because it implies criminal experience that Ms. Von Wilpert does not have,” wrote Judge Richard E.L. Strauss.

His ruling is tentative so von Wilpert could persuade him to change his mind.

Bizarre Video of GOP Chair With Nazi Images Gains Notice

Tony Krvaric, chairman of the Republican Party of San Diego County, at an election night event. / Photo by Megan Wood

Thursday, Tony Krvaric, the chairman of the Republican Party of San Diego, tweeted something that looks a bit different a couple days later.

“The left’s playbook is to call anyone on the right a ‘Nazi.’ I remember it as far back as George W. Bush. It’s their way to shut down debate and deflect from their own fascistic behavior,” he wrote.

He had also been tweeting negatively about KPBS for a few days, which was a kind of new target for him.

Friday, it all made a bit more sense. KPBS published a story about a video that had been discovered on YouTube featuring Adolf Hitler and swastikas and a picture of a youthful Krvaric. It referenced the Swedish hacker group Fairlight, with which Krvaric had been associated.

“The group broke into video games, a practice called ‘cracking,’ which at the time was legal in Sweden. The 49-year-old Krvaric has previously acknowledged that he was at one point a leader of the group,” KPBS’s Amita Sharma wrote.

Rivals pounce: The video is old and hard to understand. But some of Krvaric’s Republican rivals were not going to let him get off easy.

KPBS quoted Darrell Issa, who is running for Congress. “This video was inappropriate, just plain wrong then and now and Mr. Krvaric has to explain why it doesn’t represent who he is today.”

Issa has long feuded with Krvaric. In January, Issa demanded Krvaric step down from his post because he had tried to help Carl DeMaio, who was then running against Issa. Issa had been under fire for anti-gay messaging in his advertisements against DeMaio. Krvaric was one of those criticizing Issa.

Also hitting Krvaric: County Supervisor Dianne Jacob, whom Krvaric has challenged for years. She said she had long had concerns about him and his background.

Totally unrelated, obviously: Krvaric often refers to his car as the “Panzer,” a reference to German army tanks from World War II.

Response: Krvaric didn’t deny the video’s authenticity. He tweeted his response: “To go back 30 years to when I was a teenage computer nerd to smear me is low, running a shopped around story, rejected by more reputable outlets, about a computer animation programmed by someone else on a computer that’s been defunct for three decades.”

Krvaric has already said he’s retiring from the volunteer chairmanship at the end of the year.

Online Education: Kinda Good?

San Diego Unified Trustee Richard Barrera made a significant point at our town hall event about how school may be replaced in the fall by private full-day educational programs and the implications of that.

We’ve talked a lot about this phenomenon of private “not schools” emerging to fill the space for parents who still want a place for their kids to go during the day.

Barrera is facing a challenger for the first time this year: Camille Harris.

But the point that caught my eye after I reviewed a transcript of the event was when Barrera began talking about something else: the benefits of the online educational efforts they were creating. He said this:

“We had seven students who wanted to sign up for an AP calculus class at Lincoln High School, and we couldn’t provide the class because it was too few students. Well, now what this creates is an opportunity to create AP calculus classes or other classes for students across the district.”

The district, including Barrera, has tried for several years to rein in liberal school choice policies and culture hoping that more people would stay in their neighborhood school.

Barrera’s comment was an admission of a significant, existing inequity and how it may be addressed by providing access to educators outside a student’s neighborhood.

Not unrelated: U-T reporter Joshua Emerson Smith wrote a long first-person account of his family’s struggle to care for their two children during the pandemic and his decision to take leave for three months. He and his wife had to give up something to help their children get through remote schooling and it made more economic sense for him to take emergency leave, with assistance from his employer and federal relief programs.

I suspect he will be one of perhaps hundreds of thousands of parents in San Diego who will not be able to work, even if they have a job, in coming months.

If any political or business leader has any plans to recover, this is going to be an obstacle.

Some Voting Facts

This week we had Michael Vu, the county’s registrar of voters, on our Voice of San Diego at Home program. We took a ton of questions from the audience. Some facts that came out may be of interest:

  • About 76 percent of registered county voters already do mail-in voting. This year, all the rest will receive their ballots in the mail as well.
  • You can mail them back in. If they’re postmarked by Election Day, they’ll be counted no matter when they arrive (up to 17 days after the election).
  • There are normally 1,600 polling stations. There will be now 235 super polls where voters can take their ballots.
  • Those super polling stations will be open from Oct. 31 through Nov. 3, Election Day.
  • The registrar has a new system that you can sign up for at to track your ballot and be alerted when it arrives.
  • They’ll announce those locations soon and the public can give feedback before they’re made official.

Oh ’96: When National Media Defined S.D. Beyond the Sunshine

Dispatch from History Man Randy Dotinga: A bit dull, to be totally honest, but on the rise. Troubled by homelessness, the divide between rich and poor, and threats to progress like a small airport and an unreliable water supply. And run by a Republican moderate with eyes on higher office.

Sound familiar? These descriptions of San Diego aren’t new. Newspaper reporters spouted them 24 years ago this month when the media descended to cover the 1996 GOP National Convention, more than two decades after our first bid for a Republican confab went kablooey.

I was on the scene back then as a local reporter (an extraordinarily young one). I recall scurrying around the warren of makeshift media tents in the parking lot under the Convention Center and braving the August heat to report on the protesters banished to a barren, fenced-in parking lot. Here’s how out-of-town journalists portrayed San Diego as they parachuted in.

We’re mighty pretty …

“You said it Larry, San Diego is the most beautiful city in the country,” declared George Stephanopoulos, then an adviser to President Bill Clinton, in an interview with Larry King. The New York Times was less impressed, merely calling us “pleasant,” while The Washington Post chimed in with “lovely” and “idyllic.”

… and pretty boring too.

Pizzazz? In San Diego? Get outta here! We’re a “somewhat bland town of sailors, tourists, retirees and military industrial workers,” the Times snorted, while the Post fileted us with an observation that our “ambiance is small-town and even vaguely Rotarian, with a strong accent on wholesome, traditional American values.” (Never mind that “an enterprising escort service has even changed its name to Good Old-Fashioned Pleasure Escort in honor of the GOP.”)

We’re about as Republican as you can get …

San Diego is “oh-so-Republican,” the Times explained to its readers, and a “Republican bastion.” At the convention, Mayor Susan Golding told a national television audience that “here in San Diego, we did what [nominee] Bob Dole wants to do for all of America … [it] is a place where Republican ideas really do work and have worked.”

… but not paradise, at least not yet.

We’re home to a strain of “innocent optimism,” the Post insisted. But the local newspaper columnist Neil Morgan, who co-founded Voice of San Diego, told the Times that we needed more work. “Life can be so pleasant in San Diego that we sometimes tend to forget or gloss over that we’re not in heaven, not yet. People are still people hurting. There is still pressing work to do.”

The Washington Post ran a photo of a homeless man in the Gaslamp Quarter, and the Times published a whole story about the challenges of immigration. In the early 20th century, the Latino president of the San Diego Greater Chamber of Commerce said business leaders were eager to woo the Navy to town because it was the “whitest” military branch.

As for the Los Angeles Times, it quoted a failed candidate for office named Peter Navarro who described “the dark underside of the economy that the media doesn’t talk about … in Clairemont, Serra Mesa and North Park, people are feeling real pain.”

And we’re also … Wait, we’re what?!

Things also got weird.

The Post noted our city motto but added that “More modest types opt for the homespun motto, ‘It’s a Nice Place to Live” (catchy!), while “in private, some worried Anglos refer to San Diego disparagingly as ‘Border City.’” Fact check! Some cities like Escondido, Rancho Peñasquitos and Santee have derogatory or naughty nicknames, but “Border City” is not – and has not ever been – a thing.

San Diego Reader, the alternative weekly, greeted Republicans to the “City of Shame” and, as is still its wont, published an endless article bashing a long list of politicians and media outlets while providing uncomplimentary tidbits about our city (“Clairemont was San Diego’s methamphetamine lab capital at one point,” a police lieutenant says).

Meanwhile, alternative journalist Dan Savage wandered around downtown, stopping by the bizarre fenced-in protest corral (“it looks like the playground where Tony died in Maria’s arms at the end of West Side Story”) and creepily noted how close he got to politicians outside the high-security Convention Center (“I kept a list of VIPs I could’ve easily assassinated … had I been so inclined”).

Where are they (and we) now?

Bob Dole lost the 1996 presidential election to Clinton in a landslide, both nationwide and in California. San Diego County threw its support to Dole but just barely thanks to tens of thousands of votes for independent Ross Perot. Now, nearly a quarter century later, Dole is 97, likes Trump and can’t stand Ted Cruz. Stephanopoulos is a TV newsman, and Savage is a sex columnist. Navarro, who went 0-for-5 after losing two more local elections, is a top Trump adviser.

As for San Diego itself, we’ve gone blue big-time but still have a mild, moderate Republican mayor who’d like to move up in the political world, (Golding, touted in 1996 as a possible national GOP star, saw her career fizzle amid our usual municipal debacles). And, after enduring scandal after scandal after scandal, we’re still grappling with nearly every single major challenge that occupied our attention nearly a quarter-century ago. But a grand new library finally got built, voters keep rejecting boondoggle spending and the 2020 mayor’s race will make national history no matter who wins. And oh yeah, grand slams! Morgan, who died in 2014, liked to say that San Diego is a “stumblebum with character.” Maybe he was onto something.

Correction: A previous version of this post incorrectly described Richard Barrera’s re-election situation. He is facing a challenger named Camille Harris.

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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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