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KPBS Midday Edition

Carl DeMaio Says His Support For Same-Sex Marriage Separate From Role As Mayor

Carl DeMaio, San Diego Mayoral Candidate
Carl DeMaio Talks About His Bid For The Mayor's Office In San Diego
GuestCarl DeMaio, San Diego City Councilman, district 5 and candidate for mayor in the City of San Diego.

CAVANAUGH: Our top story on Midday Edition is the San Diego mayor's race, the avalanche of TV ads and political mailers has begun from the candidates. The primary vote on June 5th is around the corner, and mail-in ballots are already being sent in. Today as it is campaign enters its final stages, we hear from each of the candidates, the order selected by random draw. First, Carl DeMaio who currently serves as San Diego City Councilman. Welcome back to the show. DEMAIO: Good afternoon, thanks for having me. CAVANAUGH: The polls indicate you're the frontrunner in this race. But your signature issue, comprehensive pension reform, gets about 50% of the vote in these polls, and I wonder why you think that is, that you're less popular than your signature issue. DEMAIO: Because pension reform is so popular. And I'm proud of the fact that we've built a bipartisan coalition of Republicans Democrats and independents to fix the citiay pension crisis, and ultimately I think that's going to power us to victory. It shows that I bring together San Diegans, rank and file San Diegans behind our agenda. Our agenda to fix city finances and put moneys back into our neighborhoods, the neighborhood services that we've lost over the past decade, and ultimately repair our infrastructure. So it's a very common sense agenda that Unights rather than divides. CAVANAUGH: And yet you don't seem to be able to get all the people who do support the way you think on board on your campaign. Why is that gap is there? DEMAIO: Well, I still have 22 days. [ LAUGHTER ] DEMAIO: It looks look we're going to be heading into a runoff. And I great respect district attorney Bonnie Dumanis, she's done an exceptional job as our district attorney, and I'm looking forward to working with her. At the end of the day, we have a choice in this election. Do we want to go forward or do we want to step back? By going forward what I mean is that we've been able to work over the past several years to advance city perform, getting pension reform on the ballot, poised to be implemented, making sure that we really focus on reform and streamlining our city departments. Unfortunately there are forces that like the status quo that are lining up to try to get their candidate elected for mayor, and that's why I'm hoping San Diegans will continue the course of reform so we can finish the job and move forward. CAVANAUGH: Let me ask you a question. Media outlets have reportod several half-truths in your statements and mailers. You didn't cut your salary at City Hall. You opted out of some benefits. On Convention Center expansion, are the use of TOT taxes would be public money, not private financing, as you imply. If you've got the strongest plan for San Diego, why make misleading statements? DEMAIO: Well, I would challenge the assumption that you're misleading. On day 1 in office, I cut my compensation 22% MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: CAVANAUGH: Not your salary. DEMAIO: I gave up the auto allowance which has always been added into the salary. So I cut my compensation 22%. I gave up my pension which is is the equivalent of giving up $800,000 in lifelong payments. I felt it was the right thing to do. If I want to lead on pension reform and other awe stairity measures. Second -- CAVANAUGH: You cut your benefits and not your salary, though. Why not just say that? DEMAIO: Well, I think I talk about compization and pay, the pay being the auto allowance and the ways sallar. And total compensation would include the pension that was given up which is very expensive for lected officials. They've set their retirement age at zero, and voted themselves the richest benefits. And also on the Convention Center, my plan has always been, and I've never been anywhere else besides talking about making sure that the hoteliers pay for the expansion. Just last week, I found $3.5 million in the Convention Center budget which would basically eliminate the need for any TOT funding. And that's always been my position, and my position has been that we should have private financing of the Convention Center, and the hoteliers have chosen to assess themselves. We're going to take the entire package to a court to make sure everything is fine CAVANAUGH: But those tot funds would go into the general funds. DEMAIO: No, I have to correct you. The tot is not being increased. If you show me the transient occupancy tax is being increased anywhere in this deal, I will absolutely come out with a public apology, because you won't find it. The reality is, it's not a tot increase. It is a self-assessment by the hoteliers. And we're taking this to court. Whereas otheredeck others would like to mince words and split hairs, the mirror important thing are the thousands of jobs that are on the line. Hotel jobs, construction jobs, restaurant job, why don't we talk about things that actually matter to San Diegans? Why this project is so important, why we have to move it forward, and why we should be ashamed of any political group that tries group that tries to divert attention from the important issue of creating jobs. CAVANAUGH: Councilman, do you support same-sex marriage? DEMAIO: I do. CAVANAUGH: Now, as a gay man, you've accepted endorsements in this race from people who supply finance the prop 8 campaign against gay marriage. How can you accept support from people who would deny you equality? DEMAIO: I've made it clear I'm not running on a social agenda, I'm running on a fiscal agenda, and that's an agenda that unites people that balances our budget, getting pension reform done, gets managed competitions rolling. So that we can put these moneys back into our services, our after-school programs for our kids, our roads. My agenda focuses on those core issues. I think that's what your next mayor ought to focus on, and I'm thrilled with the fact that we have a diverse coalition we've built, across the political spectrum, from every socioeconomic group. CAVANAUGH: But doesn't it give you -- give the implication that you are so determined to be mayor of San Diego that you'll take support from anybody? Even those people who would deny you full equality as a citizen of the United States? DEMAIO: Well, I obviously disagree with them on that issue, but the focus of my campaign, the focus of my role as mayor, my accomplishments have all related to fixing the city's financial problems, getting San Diegans back to working getting our services restored, our infrastructure rebuilt. That's an agenda that should be the focus of your next mayor. I said to both sides, the far left, and the far right, that if you're looking for a social issue candidate who's going to beat the drum on social issue, I'm not your guy. If you want a mayor to focus on job creation, fiscal reform, services and infrastructure, then I'd like your spot. And that's uniting San Diegans. CAVANAUGH: I've received several mailers from you, all of them have been directed against Nathan Fletcher. Why do you consider him your main rival in this race? DEMAIO: Well, I don't necessarily see any of the individual candidates as my main rival. I see the downtown backers, the powerful enter groups, the lobbyists as a major opponent, and the government employee unions. These are the big groups that have controlled San Diego politics for decades, they've created the financial mess that we're in, and they always seem to crowd out the voice of the taxpayer, and the resident of San Diego. And that's why I'm running to, bring a taxpayer perspective back to City Hall, and get us focused back -- the People's business. CAVANAUGH: Then why so many mailers against Fletcher? CAVANAUGH: I've been speaking with San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio. Thanks so much. DEMAIO: Thanks for having me in.

City Councilman and mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio is an openly gay man and has accepted more than $100,000 in donations from new U-T San Diego owner Doug Manchester. In 2008, Manchester donated $125,000 to Proposition 8 to ban same-sex marriage in California.

DeMaio said he "obviously" supports gay marriage, but said he views his role as mayor as separate from that.


"Obviously I have strongly held personal views, the issues that are important to me as Carl, an individual, a private citizen, but my role as mayor is quite different," he said. "My role as mayor is to stay focused on the issues, the crisis that the city faces."

"What's more important, the mayor beating the drum on social issues that really don't have anything to do with city government, or the mayor staying focused on resolving the fiscal crisis and restoring important neighborhood services?" he asked.

DeMaio said Manchester supports him because he gets pension reform and fiscal reform results.

DeMaio, who is the front-runner in the mayor's race, has sometimes been criticized for not being completely upfront with voters.

During KPBS' mayoral debate, DeMaio said the Convention Center expansion would be funded by private investment from the hotel owners. Voice of San Diego fact checked this statement and called it "Huckster Propaganda," the lowest rating on their lie detector scale.


DeMaio defended his statement to KPBS.

"What the hoteliers are doing is not raising the TOT (Transient Occupancy Tax) tax, which would be a general fund tax, they're creating a self-assessment district, and my point is, Mr. Filner, earlier in the debate, had said 'let's use that money for public purposes,'" DeMaio said. "It's not allowed to be used for public purposes because like a Mello-Roos, it can only go to the communities or the individuals that raise it."

DeMaio said the point to focus on is the importance of the Convention Center to San Diego's economy.

"In politics, instead of focusing on what the people want, jobs, an important expansion to our Convention Center which supports a key part of our economy, these politicians in the political debate are about splitting hairs," he said.

"The point was being made that you could use it for public purposes, and the reality is, and you'll find that the city attorney agrees with me, that the money can only go to the Convention Center if it's being raised by the hoteliers," he said.

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith has told KPBS that passing a tax on hotel rooms without a public vote “tests the boundaries of the law,” but that he will file a validation lawsuit to test the plan's legality.

Also during KPBS' debate, DeMaio questioned fellow candidate Nathan Fletcher on whether he was under investigation by the city's Ethics Commission. The complaint against Fletcher with the Ethics Commission had been dismissed the previous day, and critics said DeMaio was aware of that when he made that claim.

But DeMaio said his campaign did not know about the dismissal and wanted to question why Fletcher's campaign had spent a large amount of money on ethics lawyers.

"Nobody knew that it had been resolved and the ethics commission confirmed that," he said. "We were asking a legitimate question, why do you have so much, how many bills do you have for ethics lawyers?"