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San Diego Council Candidate Falsely Advertised Endorsements

Photo caption: City Council candidate Anthony Bernal talks in Balboa Park's sculpture garden...

Photo by Matthew Bowler

City Council candidate Anthony Bernal talks in Balboa Park's sculpture garden, April 5, 2016.

Anthony Bernal, who is running to replace Todd Gloria on the San Diego City Council, published a lengthy list of people who he said endorsed him, but some of those people say they made no such endorsement.

Bernal, a Democrat running for the District 3 council seat, secured the endorsement of Republican Mayor Kevin Faulconer last week. Bernal is running against fellow Democrat Chris Ward and independent Scott Sanborn.

Anthony Bernal published a lengthy list of people who he said endorsed him, but some of those people say they made no such endorsement.

Photo by Susana Tsutsumi

This map shows the location of the San Diego City Council's District 3. It includes Old Town, Mission Hills, Middletown, Bankers Hill/Park West, Little Italy, Balboa Park, Downtown, Golden Hill, South Park, North Park, Hillcrest, University Heights and Normal Heights.

Bernal put a list of endorsements, including Faulconer's, on his website. The list also includes state Sen. Ben Hueso, former Councilman Tony Young and 10 pages of names of lesser-known San Diegans.

A handful of people from that list told KPBS they never endorsed Bernal. They include:

• Kathleen Ferrier, director of advocacy at Circulate San Diego

• Lynn Susholtz, executive director of Art Produce

• Howard Blackson, an urban designer

• Alma Rodriguez, director of Queen Bee's Art & Cultural Center

• Andy Hanshaw, director of San Diego County Bicycle Coalition

Ferrier, Susholtz, Blackson and Rodriguez said they asked Bernal's campaign to be taken off the list. As of Monday, their names were still there.

None of the people who contacted KPBS about the list had donated to Bernal's campaign. Ferrier gave Bernal's opponent $150.

Bernal's campaign said in a statement:

"Since the outset of our campaign, Anthony has received an outpouring of support from a number of individuals and organizations, and we have various mechanisms in place for them to indicate their support. We understand that there might be confusion as to what constitutes support and what constitutes endorsement; however, we also know that our opponent has aggressively sought out those who have indicated their support of Anthony and tried to intimidate them into changing their position. While it's unfortunate that a candidate would resort to these kinds of tactics, it remains consistent with the divisive and highly politicized campaign he's been running."

Bernal's campaign spokesman did not respond to questions about how the endorsement list was made.

Ward's campaign sent a statement saying Bernal was "responding to questions about lying with another lie."

"Chris has worked hard to gain the trust and support of residents throughout in District 3, and through a positive, substantive grassroots campaign, he has earned the endorsement of about 500 community leaders and neighbors. Trust and integrity are important, and deceitful actions like Anthony's, whether willing or through neglect, undermine citizens' trust."

District 3 includes North Park, Hillcrest, University Heights and downtown. Their race is expected to be settled June 7, which will happen if one person gets more than 50 percent of the vote.

Bernal is a registered Democrat, but his voter records show he was registered as a nonpartisan in 2004, 2008 and 2010. In the 2004 primary, he asked for the Republican ballot to vote, according to the registrar of voters.

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After receiving Faulconer's endorsement, Bernal answered criticisms that he took support from a Republican.

"Mayor Faulconer’s endorsement is not about partisan politics," he wrote in an email to supporters. "In truth, it’s a recognition from the Mayor that I am the best candidate to lead District Three and to help continue the progress of our city."

A Democrat in another council race responded to support from the mayor differently. Faulconer is making robocalls to support Ricardo Flores, who is running to replace Councilwoman Marti Emerald in District 9.

Audio

A robocall from Mayor Kevin Faulconer supporting City Council candidate Ricardo Flores.

"I've worked with Ricardo Flores and trust his commitment to protecting our neighborhoods," Faulconer said on one call. "Ricardo Flores will always put neighborhoods ahead of partisan politics."

The call said it was paid for by Urban Neighbors United supporting Ricardo Flores for City Council, a political action committee funded by the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Flores wrote in a Facebook post that he "did not seek or have knowledge of in advance" Faulconer's calls.

"I have not met with him or sought out his endorsement," Flores wrote. "As a lifelong Democrat, my goal is to further our Democratic values and improve the lives of all San Diegans, especially our working families. I look forward to earning the votes of residents in D9 whether they are democrat, republican, independent, etcetera and working with them to improve my community and our City."

The San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce's political action committee spent $45,000 supporting Flores as of the last campaign contributions filing deadline.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Bernal was a registered Republican in 2004. In fact, he was a nonpartisan in 2004 and asked for the Republican ballot to vote in that year's primary. The story has been updated.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified one of the people who did not endorse Anthony Bernal. It has been corrected.

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