Chris Cate’s Problem Is Mara Elliott

Brian Brady Brian Brady 22 Comments

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Mara Elliott is a politician.

When I met her, I was underwhelmed. She came off as a loony progressive. Her campaign speeches inspired few — she ran as a “technocrat” who failed to attract  support from the Democratic insiders. When she defeated her Democratic opponents in the June 2016 primary, I remember thinking that she might win the City Attorney race if she kept a low-profile — she did. She won the General Election by 15 points.

I thought Mara Elliott was a lightweight and I was wrong. She’s shrewd, she’s calculating, she’s patient, and she’s disciplined. I was surprised that she grasped the anti-Trump furor and initiated litigation against the President, but she’s a politician — I shouldn’t have been surprised. Once I established that she was a politicias, it was no surprise that she started picking fights with Councilman Chris Cate. While Cate was trying to figure out a reasonable short-term vacation rental policy, she declared that all vacation rentals were illegal. She put him in a box on the Trump Border Wall resolution and Sex Offender law. She brushed aside Cate’s criticism of her office’s use of Padres box seats (who doesn’t love hard working prosecutors?).

I think Elliott is running for Mayor in 2020 and she saw Cate as the only viable opponent from the GOP. Cate is young, upwardly mobile, hard-working, and center-right. His wedding was highlighted in the U-T in what looked like “society page” spread. Chris Cate is a local boy made good and an example of what every San Diegan wants in a Mayor. BUT…

Cate shared a confidential memorandum with a party which was negotiating a big real estate deal with the City. I believe his explanation that there was no malice in his action. I think he was genuinely trying to get good information. I believe Cate, but that doesn’t matter. Elliott gave him a chance to come clean months ago and Cate decided to wait until he was outed. Now the issue is in the hands of the appointed District Attorney (a technically-incumbent Republican who is running for office in 2018).

Elliot isn’t letting up on Cate. In this U-T editorial, she refutes his explanation and repeats that his action was illegal. Her explanation suggests that, at worst Cate is on the take (I would dispute that) and, at best he is naive and immature. Mara Elliott vanquished Cate as a potential opponent for Mayor and now she’s is looking to derail his re-election bid. Cate’s response was to have his PR man pen a confrontational article.

Cate needs to avoid confrontation with Mara Elliott, clean up this mess, and focus on damage control for his 2018 re-election.

Yes, it’s THAT serious.

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Comments 22

  1. The headline here is misleading. In the body of the post, Brian Brady more accurately identifies Chris Cate’s problem:

    “Cate shared a confidential memorandum with a party which was negotiating a big real estate deal with the City. ”

    That is the problem, not the City Attorney.

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  3. Alternative solution: Don’t share confidential information with someone who is in negotiation with the city.

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    “Don’t share confidential information with someone who is in negotiation with the city.”

    Well yeah but that’s already been done. I’m saying “stop poking the bear”. Elliot has been after Cate all year

  5. Curious, do public employee unions have confidential info when they are negotiating with the city?

  6. Brian: You make some good points but you miss the mark on others.

    Chris did what you suggest he do. He stood before the media and explained what happened, answered all questions, took the high road, etc. He had a private conversation with the city attorney beforehand.

    She responded by having her spokesman release confidential information immediately following Chris’s press conference. Did you know that Chris has not been contacted by the DA, but the city attorney’s spokesman is saying he’s under investigation?

    The next day, when the city attorney didn’t like the U-T editorial’s response, she attacked Chris in an op/ed. The day after that she went on the radio and attacked Chris again, breaking attorney-client privilege at several points during the interview.

    We responded with a guest column in the Voice explaining the facts as we know them and pointing out some of the missteps that have surfaced.

    Could this issue have been handled better by all sides? Absolutely. But it’s not a crime to do your job, to request more information so you can make an informed choice. The city code is clear on that.

  7. Tony,

    I commend you for being very good at your job, and in this case, your job is to spin the facts so that Chris Cate can remain Council Member Cate.

    I fully agree with you that “it’s not a crime to do your job, to request more information so you can make an informed choice. ” And if all the Council Member had done is REQUEST MORE INFORMATION, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. However, he also SHARED CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION with someone who was in negotiation with the city. That is a very different thing and is, in fact, a crime.

    I will add one more thing, and I do not know if this is true but… If anyone associated with the Soccer City project has donated to Council Member Cate’s campaign, your job will get a lot harder. You probably should ask for a raise.

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    Tony.

    “But it’s not a crime to do your job, to request more information so you can make an informed choice.”

    Don’t relitigate this issue. It’s time for Chris to talk about housing, or infrastructure, or hepatitis. Mara Elliott is trying to derail Chris’ re-election.

    Let unpaid surrogates handle her.

  9. Brian: I don’t know you and I don’t know what you do for a living. You seem to suggest you want to be helpful but you’re not. If you want to engage on Chris’s behalf as a third party surrogate please do. Many thanks in advance.

    HC: Thank you! I disagree with your central point. Also, no one from FS Investors has ever donated to Chris.

  10. Brian,

    Quick question: If this was a Democrat who gave confidential information about the City’s contract negotiation strategy to a public employee union, would you also be advising him/her on how to get re-elected or would you be calling for his/her resignation?

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    @Tony. If you read carefully, you’ll see that I am acting as a surrogate for him right now. I think he is a good man who is getting poor advice.

    @HQ I think all Democrats do that already; I’d probably criticize them

  12. Brian,

    I don’t think any Democrat does that, but if one does, I will call for his/her resignation.

    With all due respect (and you are due a lot), your response is the reason that the general public has grown disgusted with our political system. Wrong is wrong regardless of the political party of the wrong doer and you should be just as critical of Republican Councilman Cate as you would be if he were a Democrat.

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    @HQ– I probably wouldn’t call for a Democrat’s resignation over it but I’d criticize them.I can spin this to blame it on Elliott (lack of training, poorly defined terms, etc) but that’s just playing the politics Mara is playing.

    Big question for you, HQ (because I know you generally like Chris); Is he crooked or naive?

  14. Brian,

    Knowing Chris as I do, I am confident that he was simply naive. However, ignorance of the law is never a valid excuse; it is a mitigating factor, but not a reason to give him a complete pass.

    This does also reinforce the need for newly elected officials to hire experienced staff.

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    “However, ignorance of the law is never a valid excuse; it is a mitigating factor, but not a reason to give him a complete pass.”

    Agreed. I’m not giving him a pass. I said as much in the article:

    “I believe Cate, but that doesn’t matter. Elliott gave him a chance to come clean months ago and Cate decided to wait until he was outed. ”

    “This does also reinforce the need for newly elected officials to hire experienced staff.”

    We agree there, too. Mara is politicizing the office and she should consider more experienced staff as well.

    I plan to help Chris get re-elected because I think this experince has been instructional. I do hope he stops tangling with Elliott. She’s a shrewd politician with one thing in mind–victory at all costs

  16. Brian,

    “Agreed. I’m not giving him a pass”

    I think you are. If you believe actions have consequences, what consequences have you proposed for Council Member Cate? I have already stated that if a Democrat did what he did, I would call for his/her resignation.

    “Mara is politicizing the office…”

    How so? A Council Member shared confidential information and she called for his resignation. Unless you can show where she didn’t do the same for a Democratic Council Member, I don’t see how you can say she is “politicizing the office.”

    Are we really at the point where a Democratic can’t call out a Republican, or vice versa, without it being considered simply politics?

    Last point, if Mara Elliott decides to run for Mayor, I will buy you dinner at the restaurant of your choice. I am 99% certain (I am never 100% sure of anything) that she has no interest.

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    “Are we really at the point where a Democratic can’t call out a Republican, or vice versa, without it being considered simply politics?”

    She took it to the media before addressing the Council; that’s political grandstanding. Had she gone to Mayor Faulconer and President Cole, the Council could have addressed it.

    Cate made an honest mistake and (contrary to Mara’s political hit piece in the U-T), atoned for it. I see no reason for his resignation and will gladly donate and volunteer for his re-election.

  18. Brian,

    How exactly did he atone for it? If I remember correctly, he actually said he did nothing wrong.

    Two final points and then you can have the last word on this:

    1. The City Attorney works for the people, not the Mayor and not the Council President. Going to the media was actually appropriate.

    2. Before he knew who was responsible for the leak, Mayor Faulconer said that if it was someone on his staff, that person would be fired.

    You are responding strictly as a partisan and you are better than that.

  19. Chris Cate and his buds want people to believe they have the City’s best interest in mind. Their actions are: show developers internal City documents with legal advice.

    To me, this shows (1) who’s interest they really put first, and (2) lack of judgment. Chris Cate will get many more chances to get things right. Republicans in this town are always forgiven their sins if they toe the line when it counts.

  20. I somewhat liked Councilmen Cate. However, his actions are inexcusable. Any other profession and you leaked documents of this nature to a material party then you are fired and/or sued. Given his duty as a public standard he should be held to a higher standard. The person above a Tony M. is obviously trying to spin this story. By reading this thread it is obvious he is being paid, which makes his opinion obviously biased. Story here is that Councilmen Cate is guilty. Please do us a favor and resign. Any explanation of the obvious just worsens everything.

    My grandpa a retired judge always told me, “you play with fire, you will eventually get burned.” Here is a prime example.

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