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The Origins Of Misleading Texts, Social Media Posts In San Diego Mayoral Race

In this Feb. 28, 2018 photo, Matty Nev Luby uses a cell phone.

Photo by AP Photo/Jessica Hill

Above: In this Feb. 28, 2018 photo, Matty Nev Luby uses a cell phone.

San Diego voters are seeing text messages and social media posts about San Diego mayoral candidate Todd Gloria that say he "supports sex offenders" or has "put our kids at risk by voting to shield sex offenders."

The ads, sent by radio host and former San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio, refer to Gloria's vote in support of SB 145.

Listen to this story by Claire Trageser.

The law, passed in September, gives judges expanded discretion to determine whether an adult must register as a sex offender. The previous law allowed judges to make that decision in cases of voluntary, but illegal, vaginal sex with a minor age 14 to 17 and an adult within 10 years of the minor’s age. The new law expands the discretion to include cases involving oral or anal sex.

Photo credit: KPBS Staff

A text message with a baseless claim about San Diego mayoral candidate Todd Gloria, Oct. 20, 2020.

For example, before the law change, a judge would have no choice but to require that an 18-year-old man who had sex with a 17-year-old man be registered as a sex offender. But he or she had leeway in deciding whether a 24-year-old who had vaginal sex with a 14-year-old would have to register.

The new law gives judges this leeway no matter the genders of the people, as long as the people are within 10 years of age and the minor is at least 14 years old.

The bill was endorsed by victims' rights and law enforcement groups such as the California Police Chiefs Association and the Crime Victims Action Alliance, and Gloria said he stands by his vote, even though it's led to backlash.

That includes a Facebook post from DeMaio that simply says "Todd Gloria Supports Sex Offenders," with a picture of Gloria appearing to wear a skin-tight shirt.

"That was from a Pride Parade a couple years ago when we had a rainstorm come in and disrupt the parade and the community still marched by the thousands," Gloria said in an interview with KPBS. "It's particularly I think intentionally piercing to try to take a moment of some community solidarity and overlay it onto this patently homophobic and false allegation."

Photo credit: Chris Stone, Times of San Diego

Todd Gloria appears in the 2015 San Diego Pride Parade.

Both Gloria and DeMaio are openly gay. DeMaio did not respond to requests for comment from KPBS.

Barbara Bry, Gloria's opponent in the mayoral race, was asked in a KPBS mayoral debate whether she disavows these attack ads.

"You have acknowledged you didn't create these attacks, but do you condemn them?" moderator Andrew Bowen asked.

"I condemn any information that is inaccurate that goes out into the public," Bry said.

Photo credit: KPBS Staff

A campaign mailer from a group supporting mayoral candidate Todd Gloria states his opponent, Democrat Barbara Bry, is "the Republican choice for mayor," Oct. 1, 2020.

Bry also posted on Twitter that DeMaio was attacking Gloria because of a long-standing feud between them, but Gloria said he doesn't know what that feud is.

"I almost feel like that had to have been coordinated with the disc jockey," Gloria said, referring to DeMaio. "We served on the City Council for four years, we voted very differently. The term feud is very laughable."

Bry has her own complaints about mailers sent out by an independent political group supporting Gloria.

The group has sent mailers that call Bry "the Republican choice for Mayor" to Democratic households. Meanwhile, mailers calling Bry a "progressive" have been sent to Republican households. Bry called those mailers deceptive.

In the KPBS mayoral debate, Gloria said he doesn't control what outside groups send, but also did not condemn their message.

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Claire Trageser
Investigative Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksAs a member of the KPBS investigative team, my job is to hold the powerful in San Diego County accountable. I've done in-depth investigations on political campaigns, police officer misconduct and neighborhood quality of life issues.

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