Noli Zosa knows what it’s like to be the underdog. Most everybody in town is celebrating the Aztecs undefeated basketball season (20-0 as of 1/24/2020), but yesterday, Noli and I watched a young, athletic Toreros team fall for the 14th time this season to Santa Clara University. Noli is an undergrad and law school alumnus of the University of San Diego and a long-time Torero season ticket holder. He looks forward to the few hours away from the frenetic campaign to unwind and watch college hoops.
Noli is running to replace San Diego Republican Mayoral candidate Scott Sherman on the City Council as the endorsed Republican candidate. What’s the challenge then? District 7 had 89,000 registered voters and less than 24,000 of them are registered Republicans. To win, Noli has to convince some of the 35,000 registered Democrats and a majority of the 30,000 independent voters to support him on Election Day. What exceeds Noli’s pressure to win this race though is the optimism surrounding his campaign. Steve Rodriguez, a retired Marine Corps officer and Noli’s colleague on the Linda Vista Recreation Advisory Board thinks he’ll pull it off:
Although San Diego City Council races are officially non-partisan (party affiliations are not listed on the ballot), endorsements and money line up along party lines. Using these factors as measures of support, Zosa has demonstrated the potential to be a strong contender, having received political endorsements from Mayor Kevin Faulconer, Sheriff Bill Gore, former police chief Shelly Zimmerman, and Father Joe Carroll.
Most importantly, he has raised well over $100,000 in campaign contributions, outdistancing all of his Democratic competitors. His endorsements reflect, in large part, a Republican party’s urgent concern for maintaining the seat. But the growing monetary support may also reflect a broader acknowledgement that Zosa’s strong local ties (long-time Linda Vista resident, University of San Diego and USD Law School grad) give him the insight to get the job done.
Fortunately for Zosa, the issues that allow Trump to fire up his political base—immigration, tax breaks, trade imbalances, and a distrust of intellectual elites—are not expected to play a role in this council race. Voters expect candidates to address local issues like homelessness, infrastructure, housing, public safety, and jobs.
Zosa does indeed maintain a traditional Republican sensibility for entrepreneurship and establishing a pro-business climate, which may appeal to those all-important independents and moderate Democratic voters who balk at government over-regulation and the pro-union bias of most Democratic candidates. Peeling off enough of these voters—what amounts to the district swing vote—is what Zosa needs to win the election.
It’s not just one publication which likes Zosa’s chances. The center-left website Voice of San Diego was so impressed by his first fundraising report, it entitled it’s article “Holy Noli”:
One of the bigger surprises was Noli Zosa, a Republican running for District 7 on the San Diego City Council. That’s the seat Councilman Scott Sherman is vacating next year. Zosa, who co-founded the restaurant chain Dirty Birds, raised $113,000. His allies were stoked.
Councilman Chris Cate, who endorsed and promoted Zosa early, pointed out that it was far more than Cate himself raised in his first reporting period. (It’s a bit apples to oranges, which we can explain further down if we remember to.)
“To raise over $110,000 in the first reporting period, as a first-time candidate, shows his connection to the communities and puts him in a strong position to win the seat,” Cate told us
I was a latecomer to his campaign (I did donate $150 to his campaign after local real estate broker, Robert Weichelt chose not to run.) My daughter volunteered with him on Morgan Murtaugh’s Congressional campaign and supported him (over Weichelt) from the get-go. When my daughter chose to attend the University of San Diego, I sent him an email to say hello and see if we might get to know one another better. Over the past 6-7 months, we have had many brief conversations at various community events. I had hoped to speak with him more at the Friendly Sons of St Patrick Brew Fest but, even though his restaurant group Dirty Birds was a donor to our event, Noli was busy slinging wings to our hungry guests.
Naturally, I was pleased when he tapped me on the shoulder yesterday, right after tip-off of the USD basketball game, and asked to sit with me, my wife, and mother-in-law. I had his full attention for about 90 minutes yesterday while we watched the game together. Here is a summary of what we discussed:
1- Zone vs. man-to-man defense
2- Why San Diego needs to take the housing shortage seriously (our kids will move away if we don’t)
3- How this young Torero team will be really competitive when they perfect the outside (3-point) shot
4- The challenges of starting a business in San Diego
5- West Coast offense vs. East Coast defense
6- Why it’s important to have diversity of opinion on our San Diego City Council
Yesterday was a rare opportunity to get a big-time City Council candidate alone for two hours. I am grateful to have had that time with Noli Zosa. If you live in Linda Vista, Mission Valley, Serra Mesa, Grantville, Del Cerro, Allied Gardens, San Carlos, Lake Murray, Tierrasanta, or Miramar, ask me how you might get some face time with your next City Councilman. I make no promises but, if we attend a USD basketball game together, there is a better than average chance that we will be talking to Noli. One of his greatest qualities is that he is loyal — it’s a safe bet that he’ll be at the game.
DISCLOSURE: This post was unsolicited but the author has donated to Noli Zosa’s campaign for City Council