Joe Leventhal, is you is, or is you ain’t, a candidate ?

Brian BradyBrian Brady, Undesignated 4 Comments


Joe Leventhal declared his candidacy for San Diego City Council on Facebook, November 13, 2018, to replace the soon-to-be termed out Mark Kersey.

Well… sort of. Here is what he said:

Today, I’m excited to confirm that I will be a candidate for San Diego City Council, District 5, in 2020, and will begin my campaign when I’m legally permitted to in September 2019.

“In the two months since resigning from the Ethics Commission to consider running, I’ve spoken one-on-one with approximately 150 civic leaders, business leaders, and leaders of my party’s Central Committee, virtually all of whom have offered their support and encouraged my run. On average, 1 person every 4 days offers unsolicited to hold a fundraiser or serve on my Finance Committee. The support and encouragement is humbling.

“More than ever, we need elected officials who want to serve, not those looking for their next job. And with serious challenges facing our region, we need leaders capable of making the tough decisions and willing to face the heat. I would enjoy hearing your thoughts along this journey and hope that I can count on your support!”

Leventhal was a member of the City of San Diego’s Ethics Commission until he resigned in September of 2018. The Ethics Commission has a 12-month “cooling-off period” that prohibits former commissioners to run for City office. Thus, were he to run for City Council, he could not do it until October of this year.

What exactly is the definition of a “candidate”? The Ethics Commission states that a candidate is a candidate only when they raise $2,000, spend $2,000 or declare for office. In other words, Leventhal can shake hands, ask for votes, solicit endorsements, and solicit volunteers. As long as he doesn’t use the words “I am running for office,” he’s in the clear.

Ask yourself this question; did Leventhal say he was running for office last November, or not?

Leventhal has not raised nor spent $2,000 because he has no campaign committee. He has however, represented that he has secured the consulting services of Axiom Strategies and Golden State Consultants. If Leventhal is not paying their retainers, their professional services must be reported as an in-kind contribution at fair market value. That would put him over the $2,000 contribution limit and $2,000 spending limit.

This month, Leventhal sent out two professionally-prepared endorsement announcements from a County Supervisor and a retired police chief.  How can you endorse a candidate who is not permitted to say he is a candidate? (but has, maybe…)

Naturally, I think these rules are stupid but the rules are the rules. I imagine Leventhal will rely on the title “Former Ethics Commissioner” for his ballot designation, and I imagine that the reasoning behind the cooling off period is to prevent Ethics Commissioners to leverage their title in an election.

I am no lawyer and Leventhal is, so I’m pretty sure he has found a way to LEGALLY avoid a violation of the rules established by the Ethics Commission. But “ethical” and legal are not synonymous words. With Leventhal, we have a former Ethics Commissioner who has publicly stated he is running for City Council, solicited endorsements, and has represented that he has received professional services at no cost to him or his campaign.

You decide if the Ethics Commissioner is being ethical.

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DISCLOSURE:  The author is a donor to the campaign of Patrick Batten for City Council, Leventhal’s Republican opponent.



Comments 4

  1. I am one of the 150 or so folks Joe invited to have coffee and discuss his run. Right off the bat he told me of the cooling off period and that he could not start raising money until September. Brian notes he has not formed a campaign committee… and that is the formality for becoming a candidate. Talking with people about plans to run after the cooling off period expires is just that – talking with people… And lining up endorsements isn’t really any different.

    I am supporting Joe because he was a key person in something which happened largely behind the scenes. The homeless crisis was out of control, Hep A was just starting to spread, and a number of key business leaders otherwise supportive of Kevin Faulconer had seen enough of his lack of leadership. A letter was at the ready excoriating the Mayor. His political folks (hacks?) got wind of it and were able to head it off… It wasn’t until Faulconer was faced with the defection of some very well known supporters that we started hearing from him about the homeless problem.

    Joe knows the difference between talking and leading, unlike the current occupant of that seat. He will not be led by nose by City Staff, unlike the current occupant of that seat (and certain other R Council Members). Joe has seen enough of the excuse factory that is City Hall and understand what it will take to turn it around and start solving problems.

  2. I too was one of the folks Joe talked to. What he told me and members of the 71st Republican Party Caucus was he was running and wanted us to know. He never said thinking about running. He also told us he had consultants helping him. This was back in November before the last election was even certified.

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  4. @Brian Brady… No, I did not offer anything other than my personal support, and financial support within the law when he is able to raise money.

    As a community volunteer, I have been around City Hall long enough to see the political games of the City Attorney and how City Council is led by the nose without the slightest of a clue by City Staff. I have listened as this Mayor’s staff spouted to me what I knew damn well was bullshit.

    It would really be nice to have someone with Joe’s credentials who can see right through all of this crap and actually bring some adult supervision to the playpen we have downtown.

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