Mandate earned. Mandate ignored?

Barry Jantz Barry Jantz 11 Comments


Pop Quiz:  What candidate received the most votes ever in a single City of San Diego election?

Poli-hacks will no doubt mull that one based on a myriad of details, such as growth over time in population (and thus voters), turnout, popularity of the candidate, and whether it was during a primary with multiple candidates or, say, a two-candidate runoff during a presidential general election, etc., etc.

So, what do you think?  Bob Filner?  Jerry Sanders?  Susan Golding, perhaps?  Pete Wilson, or was the pool of voters too small back then as compared to today?

In his November 2008 runoff election against the incumbent city attorney, Jan Goldsmith gained more votes — nearly 279,000 — than a contender in any City Of San Diego election in history.  That includes mayor, city attorney and city council.  More than Filner, Sanders, Golding and Wilson.  More than anyone ever received.

By comparison, new Mayor Filner locked up over 245,000 votes last November.

With all due wonkish respect to some of the differences in election scenarios and population changes mentioned above, Goldsmith’s 2008 record is notable in that his victory was against an incumbent, unlike many other high profile runoff elections in which two candidates have vied for an open seat.

Although it largely hasn’t been noted as such by local media, Goldsmith received a mandate in the City of San Diego.

Forward to last June, when City Attorney Goldsmith then ran unopposed.  With no challengers, voters could have simply declined to vote for the office.  Yet, instead of taking a pass, they gave Goldsmith more votes than anyone ever received previously in a City of San Diego primary contest.  More than others who have run unopposed.  Again, more than anyone ever received.

Maybe more significant than Goldsmith’s 2012 vote total, was the lack of opposition itself, especially given the city’s history of high level pitched battles between business and labor interests.  After all, Goldsmith did achieve these election standards as a Republican in a city with a substantial Democratic edge in registration.

Some may accuse me of gushing.  Whatever.  Homage to Goldsmith is not the point.

Yet, many in the local media seem so enamored with self-anointed “stars” — or those in the past calling daily press conferences to bluster and accuse everyone else of corruption — they largely ignore arguably the most successful local candidate in San Diego history.  Did any media entity (other than a blog!) note a word of Goldsmith’s speech from his December swearing-in ceremony?  There hasn’t been much detail on the city attorney beyond the regular work of Liam Dillon and others at Voice of San Diego or Tony Manolatos’ SD Rostra interview of Goldsmith last May.

Maybe he doesn’t bluster enough.

But, obviously the voters somehow got it.  Jan Goldsmith has earned a mandate and it would be nice to hear his take on it.

# # #

City of San Diego historical vote tallies

Update 3:45 pm: After my initial post, Ricky Young noted the UT San Diego did provide video of Goldsmith’s December inauguration speech online in it’s entirety.  Since it wasn’t in the print edition, I missed it.  Thanks to Young for the information.


Comments 11

  1. Barry,

    A mandate for what?

    The City Attorney is supposed to be apolitical. His job is to prosecute misdemeanors and provide legal advice (based on the law, not politics) to the Mayor and City Council.

  2. @HQ…

    Yep, I agree. As was the job of the prior city attorney, who was treated by many like he had a policy-making mandate. Part of my point.

    A voter mandate isn’t necessarily a policy-making one, but the city attorney’s input and legal opinions on policy items are an essential part of the process. The voter mandate was about changing the way the position and office was used, in my opinion.

    It’s also an elected position, thus political, whether the position is supposed to be apolitical or not.

    Goldsmith doesn’t act like a star, so the fact that his is an elected position is often lost in the discussion as a result.

    Larger than life personalities among those making policy should not be more important than the legal opinions guiding the decision making.

    In this case, maybe it’s simply a mandate to rather quietly do one’s job — the way it was meant to be done — while still receiving the respect befitting someone receiving a voter mandate and conducting himself more than adequately and professionally in the position.

  3. Thanks for recognizing City Attorney Jan Goldsmith’s notable efforts!

    Without delving deeply into the question of mandate or no—or to what end, may I remind readers of additional details that make the cited numbers more remarkable yet?

    Because the economy & markets were whirling downward in late 2008, we had little money despite a powerhouse finance committee. The very, very lean campaign success was solely attributable to then Judge Goldsmith’s laser focus on voter determinative activities.

    Goldsmith debated his incumbent opponent 37 times, by my count, in substantive and respectful exchanges. He tirelessly prepared, even participating in a last round of debate drills on the Thursday afternoon before the general election.

    We didn’t have money for a lot of airtime. Resources permitted only two ads to run in the last 10 days of the campaign. Nearly all of our media was earned—and hard fought.

    We likewise didn’t have money for traditional activities like callers or walkers. We made do with a dedicated core group of volunteers, some of whom had supported Goldsmith since his very first race for local office, and an excellent working knowledge of San Diego voters’ behavior. Paid staff was limited to only five people, including the treasurer and fundraiser.

    I believe that the difference between City Attorney Goldsmith’s successes and the attempts of others mostly resides in the man himself. Goldsmith has made his life’s work the law and public service. He doesn’t showboat. He said he wouldn’t.

    In that first race for City Attorney, you may recall, he said he wouldn’t hold daily press conferences and that his work would center on the law. CA Goldsmith’s kept his promises and has done his work well. That’s why San Diegans granted him an effortless and numerically significant reelection.

    If I had to guess, City Attorney would eschew the suggestion of an electoral mandate. He has said over and over, “It’s about the law, not politics.”

    We are the lucky beneficiaries of City Attorney Goldsmith’s overwhelming campaign successes and his stable leadership. I hope we enjoy this good fortune for many, many years.

    Barry, I may be accused of gushing as well. Sue me! ☺

  4. Barry,

    Well said. Goldsmith’s lack of desire to attempt to legislate through legal opinion is the main reason he has been a successful City Attorney and probably why no one even bothered to challenge his re-election.

  5. Please see Pages 4 to 10 for the City Attorney Legal Memorandum that declared that Redevelopment Agency (RDA) Tax Increment (TI) cannot be used for Social Services within Homeless Emergency Shelters. Suggesting a pretend legal loophole to benefit the rich CCDC and downtown developers at the expense of the poor is creating public policy.

    The legal opinion confirmed CCDC’s practice that outlawed the $1 Billion in RDA TI for use by the Homeless, poor, and mentally ill.

    According to the State, this legal opinion that disallowed RDA TI funds for Homeless citizens was “A Contributing Factor” to Governor Jerry Brown’s decision to end Redevelopment statewide.

  6. Barry,

    Thanks for the post. This is the only piece I’ve seen on my reelection. I’ve never been asked a question about any of this by the media. I get questions about it all the time when out in the community and have some good discussions. I should not need to bluster and self anoint, and I won’t. I have been willing to give my take on it when asked.

    The people of San Diego get it. Well, at least most do. Which takes me to…

    La Playa Heritage, the legal opinion you refer to can be found here:

    It was a legal opinion. It cited and explained the law. Had we not steered the city away from the illegal use of redevelopment funds, we would have been required to pay back all that money out of the general fund.

    Our lawyers do things like this every day and we do them well.

    Jan Goldsmith

  7. Janette,

    Thanks for the kind words. But, you forgot to mention that you were a terrific campaign manager… which you were.


  8. Hello Jan,

    Our solution to capture the outstanding $144 million, plus interest, in misappropriated Federal HUD Debt in the ROPS-III is linked below. We would love help the City of San Diego secure funding, specifically for Veterans homelessness.

    I have ask for at least 5 times to discuss my ongoing concerns with the legal opinion since 2010. There is no time left. San Diego is already passed its deadlines on ending RDA.

    Agreed a legal opinion was written. CCDC also stated that Homeless people living on our sidewalks are NOT a form of Blight for RDA law. But irregularly shaped lots were Blight.

    However, my discussions with State Housing and Veterans Officials, including the State Controller John Chiang, Lt. Governor Gavin Newsome, made it clear that any amount of RDA TI could have be used with just the existing 1992 agreement between the City RDA and the County. The 1992 Agreement allow any amount of money deemed needed.

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