San Diego Democrats Battling For Gloria's Seat Have Few Distinctions
The two Democrats running to replace San Diego City Councilman Todd Gloria are aiming to model themselves after him.
They both say they want to carry on his legacy of advocating for the neighborhoods in District 3, including North Park, Hillcrest, University Heights and downtown.
Bernal works for Gloria as the director of business and community projects.
"So I feel I have a good grasp of the issues facing our city now," he said. "And so I believe I can hit the ground running on Day One."
Ward is chief of staff for state Sen. Marty Block, whose district covers all of San Diego.
"While my opponent is a really great guy, he’s been a representative for one neighborhood," Ward said. "I’ve tried to make sure that we are simultaneously representing all the neighborhoods of the center city of San Diego."
Bernal and Ward also are running against independent Scott Sanborn, an Army Special Forces veteran and lawyer.
Because the district is heavily Democratic, the race is expected to end in June with either Ward or Bernal getting a majority of the votes. If no candidate gets a majority, the top two vote-getters will face off in November.
Family: Wife Amy, mother Connie and father Tony, older sister Valerie, and nephews Shaun and Connor
College: University of the Pacific
Hometown: Wasco, California
Career History: Project manager for El Concilio (Council for the Spanish Speaking); project manager for Richard Brady and Associates; and director of Business and Community Projects for Councilman Todd Gloria
Other Interests: Spending time with my wife, exploring Balboa Park trails, training for half-marathons, watching the Chargers, Lakers, Padres and tennis, and trying new restaurants throughout the district
Fun Fact: Plays competitive tennis and was a roof mechanic and later worked in a department store selling women's shoes.
Bernal had raised $107,655 as of the last election filing; Ward had raised $150,081. While some Democrats have criticized Bernal for accepting contributions from people who also donated to Republican groups, Bernal defended himself in an editorial in the online news website Voice of San Diego.
Ward has been endorsed by the San Diego County Democratic Party and a number of big-name Democrats, including his boss Block; Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, who also used to represent the district on the City Council; Rep. Scott Peters; and Democratic council members David Alvarez, Myrtle Cole and Marti Emerald.
While Ward's original campaign kickoff announcement said he'd been endorsed by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, Gonzalez's office said she hasn't made an endorsement in the race.
Ward's campaign manager said Gonzalez withdrew her endorsement in December because Ward opposed her bill putting state regulations on the city's redevelopment nonprofit Civic San Diego.
Ward's view on "civic restructuring is that rules on local land use planning are best determined at the local level," his campaign manager said.
The big name that neither candidate has on their side is Gloria's. He said he's not making an endorsement in the race. Gloria is termed out and is running for state Assembly.
No matter who is elected, "I think it’s safe to say that District 3 will be in good hands," he said.
A picture on Bernal's website shows him and Gloria together with a quote from Gloria reading, "Nobody works harder for District 3 than Anthony Bernal." But Bernal said the image isn't meant to imply an endorsement. He said he's not disappointed he didn't secure the endorsement from his boss.
"Very early on I sat down with Todd and he’s been nothing but encouraging of me running for City Council," Bernal said.
But Ward said the absence of support is telling.
"I think it says more that he’s not actually chosen to endorse his own staff member, whereas I have the endorsement of my boss," Ward said. "That says it all."
Ward couldn’t name any ways he stands apart from Gloria. When asked the same question, Bernal paused for several seconds and then called out to campaign spokesman Nick Serrano, who was watching the interview.
"Hey, Nick. Is there an issue I could have dealt with differently than Todd?" he asked.
Gloria said the challenge for the winner will be to transition from campaign promises to actual governing.
Family: Domestic partner Thom, 2-year-old daughter Betty
College: Bachelor's degree from Johns Hopkins University; master's degree from Harvard Kennedy School of Government
Hometown: Grew up in military family, 10 locations
Career History: Chief of staff for state Sen. Marty Block; urban and environmental planner, EDAW.
Other Interests: Hiking, national parks, gardening, community organizing
Fun Fact: Grows his own hops in his backyard.
"The next person to sit in this chair will not have been here during the Great Recession," he said.
That means his replacement won’t know what it’s like to tighten belts during bad budget times, Gloria said.
"Those rainy days will come, and the decisions to make adjustments should be done in a really thoughtful way because those reductions literally have the ability to impact people’s lives," he said.
The candidates aren’t focusing on budgets right now. They first need to get elected — which involves making promises to spend money on everything from road repairs to affordable housing.
Ward said the biggest issues facing the district are homelessness, neighborhood infrastructure and fixing Balboa Park.
"It’s the city’s crown jewel, it could be a better economic engine, and we need a little more TLC and attention into the park," he said.
Bernal is also focusing on homelessness, supporting small businesses, boosting public safety and making infrastructure repairs.
Both Bernal and Ward say they're the one most qualified to sit in Gloria’s chair. Bernal lives downtown and said he’d represent that neighborhood, but would also bring his experience representing the other neighborhoods in the district.
"If you’re in North Park, if you’re in Normal Heights, if you’re in University Heights, I’ve worked in all of those neighborhoods, and I’d be ready to hit the ground running on Day One," he said.
Ward said he’d hold himself to a high standard.
"Are you going to have somebody with a strong work ethic, who’s in it for the right reasons, who has something to give back, who wants to use the limited time we have?" he said. "It’s only going to be four to eight years to really make a difference for these communities and leave your mark."
Both candidates will be talking to voters and making their cases until the June 7 election.