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With the primary a month away, the race to replace former Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez has already gotten mean. Mailers have flooded the district portraying former City Council President Georgette Gómez as a “tax cheat who wants to raise our taxes.”
The mailers come from a PAC called San Diego Families Opposing Georgette Gómez for State Assembly 2022. But the funding isn’t coming from San Diego families. The bulk of funding for the group has been provided by Ramos Towing LLC.
The Politics Report set out to find what beef this Sacramento-based towing and trucking business had with Gómez but it was not so easy.
The owner of the company, Henry Ramos, was not interested in talking.
“No comment,” he said when we first got on the line with him. He confirmed, though, that this was his company. When we asked why he opposed Gómez he repeated himself.
“Like I said, no comment at this time. I’m right in the middle of a meeting so …” and that was all we got.
The issue: The mailer focuses on the October 2020 story first reported by the Union-Tribune’s Andrew Dyer. Gómez had released her taxes to the public as she ran for Congress in a tense race against now U.S. Rep. Sara Jacobs. But the taxes revealed that Gómez had bizarrely reported no income in 2017 despite earning more than $90,000 from her job on the San Diego City Council.
She quickly corrected it and blamed her accountant.
It has dogged her a bit, though. The U-T editorial board cited the “lingering questions” about her taxes this week in its decision to endorse Gómez’s rival, former City Councilman David Alvarez in the race.
“I didn’t know there was a mistake on my 2017 taxes,” she told the paper in the editorial board interview. “I was shocked as much as everybody else because I take my own responsibilities very seriously. I owned up to my mistake immediately and my accountant owned up to not filing it correctly.”
More: The “San Diego Families” opposing Gómez also got a small $15,000 of funding from Californians for Jobs and a Strong Economy, a PAC with a long list of business group support. Business interests seem to be lining up for Alvarez while progressive leaders, including former Assemblywoman Gonzalez, seem to be showing up for Gómez.
Alvarez hasn’t always been a favorite of the right-of-center folks. His 2014 run for mayor against former Mayor Kevin Faulconer was fueled almost entirely by millions of dollars of support from the San Diego Imperial-Counties Labor Council.
But he’s taken a decidedly more conservative tone into this race. In his interview with the U-T, he highlighted his partnership with former Councilman Scott Sherman, a Republican, when they worked on housing issues. He said that children should have gone back to school sooner after COVID-19-related shutdowns.
And he wants to get tougher on homeless people who are living in the streets. This week, activist and civil rights leader Shane Harris along with La Mesa City Councilman Colin Parent and National City Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis all endorsed Alvarez.
Gómez got the endorsement this week of longtime labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta. And Gonzalez’s wide network of political supporters have rallied on Gómez’s behalf.
The other message of the mailer: One of the mailers referred to Voice of San Diego reporting from 2020 about Gómez’s “top priority in the 2020 election” being a sales tax increase.
That’s not quite right. Her top priority as City Council president was pursuit of a sales tax increase to support transit and to put that on the 2020 ballot. But the story was, in part, about how she had dropped it to run for Congress.
“That was about a month before Rep. Susan Davis announced she wouldn’t seek re-election. Gómez announced her congressional run about 10 days later, and just a month after that she stepped down from her role as MTS chair, leaving that top priority in the hands of County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, who succeeded her on the board. The COVID-19 pandemic ultimately killed the measure before the agency had a chance to put it before voters.”
Despite Incumbent Campbell, Dems Won’t Endorse in D2 Primary
Four years ago, the local Democratic Party overhauled itself after an election cycle that suggested, if not outright confirmed, that the party apparatus had lost the pulse of its voters.
The party endorsed then-Council President Myrtle Cole, and watched as now-Councilwoman Monica Montgomery Steppe rode a wave of community support to a landslide victory in District 4. No incumbent councilmember had lost a re-election bid since 1992, let alone to someone in their party.
That same cycle, the party endorsed Antonio Martinez’s bid for District 8, before Councilwoman Vivian Moreno won the race against her fellow Democrat.
The party now has a field of candidates running in District 2 – including an incumbent, Councilwoman Jen Campbell – and it’s instead opting not to endorse anyone ahead of the June primary.
After Campbell couldn’t generate the supermajority support required at the party’s governing body this week, the party instead declined making any endorsement in the race. The campaign for Joel Day, a UCSD professor who worked in City Hall, touted the delay in a release titled, “San Diego County Democratic Party refuses endorsement to incumbent.” Former Democratic Assemblywoman Lori Saldana is also running.
Campbell herself defeated an incumbent in 2018, but she then defeated Montgomery Steppe to become Council president in 2020, upsetting many progressives who thought she should have stood aside for Montgomery Steppe. She also faced an unsuccessful recall effort last year.
Party Chair Will Rodriguez-Kennedy publicly supported Montgomery Steppe in the Council president’s race, but said it’s hard to connect the bruising Council president race to the party’s decision not to endorse an incumbent.
“There are a number of Democrats in the race, so it’s natural for people to want to consider options,” he said. “There’s no significant threat that we’ll get shut out of the general election, so I think it’s OK to wait until after the primary in this situation, since there’s nothing at stake yet. This is one of the few times that the party not weighing in isn’t necessarily a bad thing.”
But is it fair to look at the lack of endorsement as a rebuke of Campbell?
“Let me think about this,” he said. “I think, first of all it’s important to remember that the faction that pushed the endorsement back were her supporters. If it seems by the argument they presented, that they didn’t have a supermajority of support, so let’s just talk about this after primary and not put the party through drama. Frankly I wish electeds would more often save the party from going through drama. But no one is entitled to the party’s endorsement, and we can decide to push off a decision.”