Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

KPBS Midday Edition

San Diego Mayor's Race Sees A Mayor Endorsement And New Poll

San Diego Mayor's Race: An Endorsement And New Poll
GUESTS:Carl Luna, political science professor, Mesa College Katie Orr, KPBS Metro reporter

Our top story on Midday Edition is Tuesday's endorsement and the new poll out in the San Diego mayor's race. Despite public disagreements with City Councilman Carl DeMaio, Jerry Sanders has announced his support for candidate DeMaio. A new poll out yesterday shows a widening lead for candidate Bob Filner over DeMaio. We'll talk about those events and the possibility of connections between the two, with my guests, KPBS metro reporter, Katie Orr. Welcome. ORR: Thanks Maureen. CAVANAUGH: And Carl Luna, welcome to the show. LUNA: Nice to be here. CAVANAUGH: Now, Katie, tell us about the news conference called by mayor Sanders to announce his dormant. What were the reasons he gave for supporting DeMaio for mayor? ORR: Well, I think your description of Sanders and DeMaio being frienemies is spot on. That's the perfect word for it because they really are. The relationship between these two men has not always been great. And Sanders acknowledged as much at this news conference yesterday saying that they haven't always agreed on things, they're not good friends. And he said though in the end he thinks that DeMaio is the man that shares his vision, Sanders' vision, for the city and would thus position San Diego to keep going financially in the next eight years and keep getting stronger. CAVANAUGH: Didn't he also say that he was originally not going to endorse a candidate? ORR: Well, he never said he said he was not sure. He endorsed district attorney Bonnie Dumanis in the primary. And she did not she finished fourth. A reporter yesterday asked him whether or not he was going to be more active in Carl DeMaio's campaign, the implication being that Sanders was not in Dumanis's primary campaign. He said he felt he was very active in Dumanis's campaign, and once he supports a candidate, he's there for them all the way. So we should maybe expect to see more of Sanders as the election drawings closer. But he had said there was a possibility he wasn't going to endorse anyone in the general election. But he said all the years he's worked at the city, he's been the police chief, the mayor, decades of experience in San Diego. And his love for the city prompted him to get into the race, he said. That it didn't allow him to just sit back and watch, which he says would have been the easier course of action for him. CAVANAUGH: Now, Carl Luna, the track record between mayor Sanders and councilman DeMaio, this has been characterized by some as a surprising endorsement. LUNA: I was surprised by it. I thought particularly after the Tampa commercial the mayor did dealing with including gay and lesbian in the Republican coalition, she was beginning to make that transition to senior statesman above the fray, but what apparently has happened is his supporters, the close personal confidante, the power structure of the city, a lot of them dated Fletcher or Dumanis, but they're going to end up marrying Carl DeMaio, and the mayor felt the need to support them and endorse Carl. CAVANAUGH: Some of the surprise element was in the fact that you were alluding that that it's been a rocky road between the mayor and DeMaio. We have a clip from last May when Sanders criticized DeMaio for taking credit for the city's fiscal reforms. NEW SPEAKER: He probably takes credit for my weight loss, for the weeds I pulled in the backyard last week. It's all bull****. ORR: That was last May in the budget process. And DeMaio voted against the mayor's project because he believed it made the city's budget balance forward several years, Carl DeMaio disputed that. And yesterday at the press conference, he was pressed by reporters saying you have said that the mayor's budget is basically a lie, you know. He says it's balanced, you say it's not. Do you take back your no-votes, and he said no, I don't. So it's an interesting dance because Jerry Sanders is very well liked across party lines in San Diego. He's embraced by many people in the community. So his endorsement is something that was really coveted by both candidates. So you could tell yesterday that DeMaio was tremendously pleased to be getting this endorsement. He stood behind Jerry Sanders, and I think the correct word is beaming. He was beaming to get this endorsement. It could go a long way to broaden his appeal to moderate voters. CAVANAUGH: Let me take a sidestep and talk about the poll that came out yesterday. Channel ten released a new election pole and it showed Filner with a widening lead. Can you break down the numbers? LUNA: Pick a group, and that group is breaking for Bob Filner. Even people over sixty-five are split forty-four to forty-four in the poll. I found it very interesting that the Dumanis and particularly the Nathan Fletcher supporters in the primary are breaking heavily for Bob Filner, even if people with higher visibility like Jerry Sanders and other interests in the city have been breaking toward Carl DeMaio. So even though male, white males in particular, that you would think he'd be breaking for a Republican candidate aren't breaking for him. And margins with other groups, Latino, Ericians, African Americans, education for everybody but just for some college, all the groups are breaking fairly significantly for Filner. Including, I was surprised, to see income, Carl. They break income into three different category. And they were all supporting Filner, which I thought was interesting especially for those on the top of the categories because traditionally you think of wealthier people being more Republican fiscally conservative, and they were in larger numbers supporting Bob Filner. LUNA: And it would have been interesting had they broken it down farther from just the eighty-thousand dollars a year category to the five percent and one percent. You might have seen a little more of a break toward DeMaio. But across the board, the general population is not particularly warming up to him. CAVANAUGH: And the overall numbers are Filner polls at about 50percent, and Carl DeMaio polling at about thirty-eight percent. And the undecideds were twelve percent, which of course is the exact amount that is between those two candidates. So that's food for thought, isn't it? LUNA: Yeah. When you're down by twelve percent, and the undecided is twelve percent, and you have to pick up one-hundred percent of the undecided, that becomes far more problematic. How well will the poll hold over the next month? If I was Bob Filner, I would be taking some comfort from it. ORR: Especially if you look at the trends. Throughout the primaries, DeMaio stayed sort of level. He took a bump up in this last one, but now he's dropped down again. Where's Filner has just, if you look at the numbers, just consistently gone up in the polls, whereas we see DeMaio staying flat and now going down a little bit. If that trend continues, that would certainly be good news for Filner. CAVANAUGH: I'm wondering, Carl, do you think there is a connection between the release of that poll and yesterday's endorsement by the mayor? LUNA: I don't know if they're directly tied together. Carl DeMaio knew that he needed extra help because he's been trending behind, having a hard time breaking into the forty's. He needed the help he could get, and Jerry Sanders was a loyalty employer to him. For the mayor, people will look at him and say, you said you weren't going to defect and endorse somebody, most of the supporters for Dumanis are going for Filner. He may look like he was swayed too much by interests, and if DeMaio loses, they're going to have to ask why did he put himself out on a limb for that? CAVANAUGH: You were asking questions at the news conference yesterday, Katie. Was there speculation that the mayor was making this endorsement of Carl DeMaio to preserve his own legacy? ORR: Yes, I directly asked him that. There was thought that maybe this was an endorsement against Bob Filner more than for Carl DeMaio. Because a lot of the projects that the mayor has supported, are the Convention Center expansion, Balboa Park, are things that Bob Filner has not been warm to. He says he does support the Convention Center expansion but doesn't support the financing scheme for it. He was famously against Balboa Park bringing a woman dressed to the plan like Kate sessions to the City Council meeting to speak against it. Now he has said he supports that measure. So there may have been a concern that Bob Filner would undo a lot of these projects. But Jerry Sanders told me he doesn't believe he has any legacy projects, that this is something that is for other people to decide. And this was a decision because he believes that Carl DeMaio is the best candidate. It's interesting. There was a lot of speculation that was pressured into this. Again, he says no. Dave Rolland from CityBeat flat out said who got to you? Who got to you to make you support Carl DeMaio? He said I can't think Sanders replied he does have a mind of his own. He's reminded us of the times he broke from the Republican party, supporting gay marriage, supporting a sales tax increase when he faced off against Carl DeMaio a couple years ago. So he says he's an independent person, this was fully his decision. But there is that speculation out there that he was pressured into it want. CAVANAUGH: Why do you think councilman Carl DeMaio is going to get out of this endorsement? LUNA: It may add a few points to his campaign. He may be able to sway some people from voted for Fletcher or Dumanis. San Diego mayors, politicians in general, have not had tremendous coattails for leading legacies for bringing in people they necessarily prefer. And I don't know that that's it's significant to Carl DeMaio, but I don't think in and of itself and a game-changer for him. CAVANAUGH: And what was Bob Filner's reaction to this endorsement? ORR: He basically said he believes Jerry Sanders was pressured into this vote. Sanders completely denies that. But Filner issued a statement saying that it's sad, basically, that he believes Sanders had to support someone who Filner says he has no little respect for. In that same statement, Filner reiterated the poll, which is I believe how most people got ahold of it, really. We here at KPBS, 10 news does these polls, and when they issue one, they send us e-mails. Of the the first time I heard about it yesterday was through Bob Filner. So he was basically saying, fine, you have this endorsement, but look at these numbers. CAVANAUGH: Carl, let's talk a minute about the San Diego mayor's race in general. It strikes me that there's been an awful lot of debates between Carl DeMaio and Bob Filner. Have you ever witnessed so many debates in a San Diego mayor's race? LUNA: If both of them were to somehow lose this election, they could go to Vegas with a traveling act. They've got their routine down fairly well. I think it was an example of both candidates who are Bob Filner, relatively new to local audiences out north of his district, and Carl DeMaio with that likability deficit reaching out to as many different groups as possible, doing for basically grassroots retail politics. ORR: I would agree. Some of these debates are televised, but not all of them are, and your never going to reach anyone on one channel. They really are making an effort. It seems like if a group wants a debate and ask them, they go ahead and do it. That's the impression that I get. Back in the beginning of September, we said oh, they have twenty debates between now and the end of October. I just got a revised schedule today, and they still have twenty debates to go. So that means significantly more debates have been added. They're both really good sports about it, I have to say. I've been to several, and they take each one very seriously and give it their full attention and which I think says a good thing about both of them. CAVANAUGH: That's a debate on Saturday. KPBS hosts debate next Monday. And the San Diego taxpayers debate occurs next Wednesday. And these debates, they're substantive debates. There's a lot of back and forth, these two candidates are very sharp with each other at times, but there's a lot of substance being discussed. Are we saying two very different versions for the future of San Diego emerge here? LUNA: Not tremendously different. At the end of the day, the city has to keep the firemen, and the police, and fill the pot holes, but Proposition B, will there be any discussion of new tax revenues, who will happy with city employees and even more pension reform coming down the pike? So you will get a somewhat different San Diego. If you get Bob Filner, it will be much different having a democratic mayor for the first time in decades. But neither candidate as mayor can do everything they want. They have to work with a City Council. And in that way, the first district race with sherry Leitner and Mr. Ellis is very important to see who has a majority on the council. CAVANAUGH: And Katie, how would you characterize them? ORR: I think Carl Luna is spot on. If you went to these debates and you heard the answers these candidates give and you didn't know their backgrounds, you might be a little bit confused as to what their differences are because they do tend to give both want to make the city more bikeable, both want to increase the role of arts, both want to make the city more innovative. So in these debate, they seem to all say the right thing, and they have different plans for putting these things in place. Of but I think Carl Luna is right. It comes down to the basics of how they will govern, and those are things that you don't really get at at these debates, you just get at their ideas which oftentimes sound pretty similar. CAVANAUGH: And mayor Sanders is leaving San Diego's political stage. Yesterday during his endorsement, did he talk about his future plans? ORR: It's so funny because he knows to the day how long he has left in office. And he said many times that he's not running for another office. He's going to retire and just live his life. I don't know what kinds of boards he'll serve on or what kind of advisory positions he'll take. But he's made it clear that he's not interested in running for another office. Of course, he could surprise us. CAVANAUGH: Everything in politics is for now. ORR: Yes, exactly.

Sanders Endorses DeMaio

Mayor Jerry Sanders created some surprising news Tuesday when he endorsed City Councilman Carl DeMaio to be his mayoral successor. His opponent, Congressman Bob Filner, widened his lead in the mayoral race in a poll released the same day.

Carl Luna, a political science professor at Mesa College, said he was surprised by the news.


"I thought particularly after the Tampa commercial the mayor did dealing with including gays and lesbians in the Republican coalition, he was beginning to make that transition to senior statesman above the fray," he said. "But, what apparently has happened is his supporters, the close personal confidants, the power structure of the city, during the primary a lot of them dated (state Assemblyman Nathan) Fletcher or (District Attorney Bonnie) Dumanis, but they're going to end up marrying Carl DeMaio. And the mayor felt beholden to 'dance with those who brung ya' and support Carl."

The relationship between Sanders and DeMaio has been notoriously frosty. Sanders said they don’t talk much and haven’t always gotten along. But Sanders said Tuesday he cared about the city too much to "sit out" the endorsement.

DeMaio has consistently voting against Sanders' budgets because, Sanders said, they didn’t fit DeMaio’s storyline of "financial doom and gloom." At a news conference in May, Sanders blasted DeMaio in a now-famous quote for taking credit for fiscal reforms made in the city.

"He probably takes credit for my weight loss; he probably takes credit for the weeds I pulled in the backyard last week. It’s all bulls--t." Sanders said.

At the press conference Tuesday, DeMaio was asked if he could go back, would he still have voted against Sanders' budgets, and DeMaio said he would.


A 10News and SurveyUSA poll of likely voters out Tuesday put Filner up 12 points over DeMaio, 50 percent to 38 percent.

"Pick a group, and that group is breaking for Bob Filner," Luna said. "Even people over 65 are spit 44-44 in the poll. I found it very interesting that the Dumanis and particularly the Nathan Fletcher supporters in the primary are breaking heavily for Bob Filner, even if people with higher visibility like Jerry Sanders and other interests in the city have been breaking toward Carl DeMaio.

"So even male, white males in particular, that you would think he'd be breaking for a Republican candidate aren't breaking for him. And margins with other groups, Latino, African Americans, education for everybody but just for some college, all the groups are breaking fairly significantly for Filner."

Corrected: February 21, 2024 at 9:34 AM PST
Claire Trageser contributed to this report.
The 2024 primary election is March 5. Find in-depth reporting on each race to help you understand what's on your ballot.