Early Impressions of 2012 Mayor’s Race

Tony Manolatos Tony Manolatos 11 Comments


Donna is San Diego’s political rock star. She is John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen and Eminem rolled into one.

San Diego’s mayoral primary is a year away but it comes up just about every day. So please bear with me as I share a few thoughts. Let’s call it, “Early Impressions.”

Early Impression No. 1: Too many people have written off Donna Frye. Mistake. Big mistake. Huge. Donna is San Diego’s political rock star. She is John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen and Eminem rolled into one.

If she decides to run she is a game changer. She instantly becomes the front-runner. She has the best name-ID of the bunch.

For now, the front-runner is Carl DeMaio. This should come as no surprise. Carl has been on the campaign trail in one form or another for a while, he is a marketing machine and he is smart. His list of legislative achievements is thin and he is not the most likeable of the bunch, but he is addressing his shortcomings.

Early Impression No. 2: Carl has surrounded himself with bright people who are working just as hard as he is to promote Carl and shore up his weaknesses. There is a nice anecdote from Carl’s sister making the rounds, he is hosting picnics in the park and he has sent out at least one Facebook post about the Padres.

Bonnie Dumanis also has been impressive early on. She is not just picking up endorsements and cash from prominent Republicans. She is doing the very same thing in Democratic circles.

Early Impression No. 3: Bonnie has the momentum. If she maintains it, look out.

Everyone I talk to has good things to say about Nathan Fletcher. He is charismatic and likeable, they say. Most then flip the coin and talk about his lack of experience.

With his ties to Sacramento and Washington, Nathan is expected to be a formidable fundraiser. Money alone won’t be enough to move him in the polls. Chelsea’s Law is very impressive, but he needs to stand for something other than “new” and “education” in a crowded field.

Early Impression No. 4: I expect Nathan to pick up the support of the Police Officers Association if he opposes the pension reform ballot measure Mayor Jerry Sanders, Councilman Kevin Faulconer and DeMaio are sponsoring.  That, obviously, would hurt his support with GOP-types.

Can Nathan snag the firefighter union, too? That would be huge, but I can’t see the firefighters passing on Dumanis AND Bob Filner.

I have never met Bob but I know quite a few people who know him. They tell me no one campaigns harder. Not even Carl? Not even Carl, they say. They also tell me Bob is a master at attacking his opponent’s most glaring weakness.

Early Impression No. 5: With his far-reaching community ties and built-in support, Bob could be the candidate who keeps Donna out of the race.

What if Christine Kehoe enters the race? Well, she is another well-known leader with a strong base who would need to be taken seriously.

As it stands, I see this as a 3-headed race: Carl, Bonnie and Bob. But it’s early. Really early. Stay tuned.


Comments 11

  1. I think that is a pretty fair analysis Tony. I bet Nathan has a huge June in the fundraising department. Although I’m sure a lot of it will be out of San Diego money, it will certainly help his credibility (which he REALLY needs).

  2. Owen – I hadn’t thought about the San Diego vs. not San Diego money that Fletcher will raise. His strategy must be to raise from Sacramento lobbyists and from Bush donors to make himself a viable candidate.

  3. That’s exactly what I am thinking. I’d be surprised if a significant percentage of his money wasn’t from outside the city.

  4. Post

    Hi, Owen…

    Thank you for the feedback! I agree w/you. I expect him to have a big June w/out of SD donors.

    Hope you’re enjoying your weekend.


  5. We need to start calling you “On Target Tony.” This analysis is right on IMHO. I’ve picked Filner to against either Dumanis or DeMaio in the general.

    As a Libertarian registered in the 92131 (Scripps Ranch) zip code who hasn’t missed an election in 30-plus years, I’m a prime target for fundraising. I’ve already received two mail solicitations from Carl DeMaio, and one each from Bonnie Dumanis and Nathan Fletcher. Fletcher’s was hand addressed, definitely NOT robo. It’s a tried and true tactic to get you to open the envelope.

  6. Fletcher has been aggressively campaigning in the gay community for months. Very smart. I have received the same number of invites to events for Bonnie as Nathan. I wouldn’t assume his primary money is coming from Sacto. One thing I hear from all who have been in a room with him is how impressive he is and I wouldn’t write off that talent in this campaign. Personality will be key which an issue for many of the candidates (Filner, DeMaio, etc.)

  7. Tony – Thanks for the analysis. Do you have a guesstimate of how much each of the candidates will bring in $$ during June?

    BTW – I always enjoyed your coverage of issues at the UT, I’m glad your writing on Rostra now.

  8. I think that, at the end of the day, most of the support for Fletcher and Dumanis will have something in common with the support for Filner — it will be primarily anti-DeMaio. Fletcher’s money will likely indeed come mostly from outside SD and NOT be anti-DeMaio motivated, but the eventual domestic support (however much that comes to) for Nathan will have this characteristic.

    It seems to me that Fletcher is fading — funding notwithstanding. More and more it appears that the downtown establishment — led by Mayor Sanders — will be backing Dumanis, and I would not be surprised to see labor do the same — even in the primary. But perhaps a more likely labor primary strategy will be to run primarily anti-DeMaio smear pieces in an IE campaign. It’s what they are best at.

  9. Post

    Gayle: Thank you! You are very kind! I think you’re onto something with Filner. I met a local GOPer last night who told me he took two issues to Bob and both were resolved. He said he had not met Bob prior to bringing the first issue to his attention. He said Bob personally met him both times and wrote the letters/made the calls to resolve the issues…This gentleman also agrees that Donna is very much the wild card. He said Carl, Bonnie and Nathan could end up canceling each other out if two strong Dems run.

    Steven: You’re right. Personality is important. But it’s just one piece of the puzzle. I’m a little surprised to hear you think he has a shot at the gay community with Carl, Bonnie and possibly Kehoe in the race.

    Aynd: Thank you very much! I have read that 100k is the magic number for June, and that the race will cost the winner about $1 million.

    Thanks again for the feedback!


  10. Don’t assume that gays only vote for gays. In fact, I think of the 3 possible gay candidates, Fletcher will get more votes from the gay community than DeMaio who doesn’t appear to be very well liked. Bonnie is by far the strongest, and has been aggressive early in terms of endorsements and $$. In the end, I think Kehoe doesn’t enter but it will be an interesting race all the same. I am surprised so many comments suggest Fletcher doesn’t have a constituency within the City for fundraising, et al. Don’t underestimate his ability to tap the Chelsea audience (crime/punishment) and the veterans (he served) and his politics are pretty mainstream republican when compared to the fire-breathing Tea Party crowd. Off to the races…

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