Oct. 29 2014 11:37 AM

Spooky choice for San Diego’s GOP electeds

“I get a thorough scrub-down after this, right?”
Photo illustration by John R. Lamb

“Some people are so sensitive they feel snubbed if an epidemic overlooks them.”

—Kin Hubbard

When it comes to local Republican elected officials, the bandwagon for 52nd District congressional candidate Carl DeMaio seems quite roomy.

Expecting cramped seating quarters? Not here—stretch out those legs! Elbows on both arm rests? Why, by all means! Party streamers? Grab as many as you’d like! We’re not expecting a mob.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer—appearing Monday on the KPBS Midday Edition radio show— got the question that well-choreographed politicos apparently fear second only to “Has Ebola arrived in your fine city yet?” 

The mayor was reminded that he’d endorsed DeMaio over incumbent Rep. Scott Peters last year, when Faulconer was just another City Council member, not on top of the local political heap like now.

“Having worked with Carl on a number of key San Diego reforms, I have no doubt that he is the best candidate to truly change the way Washington, D.C., does business,” Faulconer proclaimed 18 months ago. “Carl’s commitment to reforming government and his tireless work ethic demonstrate that he is [the] right person to effect real change in Washington and deliver real results for our region.”

This week? Well, not so ringing. Radio is a tough gauge of relative discomfort, but when the mayor was reminded of his endorsement last year, it seemed like someone had just run fingernails across a chalkboard.

“Yes, I endorsed Carl, uh, last year. Endorsing him. Endorsing him,” Faulconer said, like Humphrey Bogart muttering, “Strawberries” in The Caine Mutiny. “And I think voters are going to have that decision to make in the next week.”

He was asked if recent allegations by former DeMaio campaign staffer Todd Bosnich of harassment and inappropriate behavior had influenced his support. Faulconer, ever the diplomat with a side of robot, noted, “a lot of back and forth, certainly, and voters are going to have the opportunity to make that decision in the next week.”

In the meantime, Faulconer added, he’s been focused on helping get Chris Cate elected to the City Council in District 6. The mayor, naturally, would like to see the six-member Democratic majority on the council trimmed to five, thus eliminating a powerful veto-override threat. Faulconer called Cate’s election “incredibly important to the city.”

By that, the mayor means to him.

But DeMaio? Meh, Faulconer seemed to be saying, resigned to his earlier commitment. Best Spin can tell—DeMaio doesn’t list endorsements on his website—that puts Faulconer and Councilmembers Scott Sherman and Lorie Zapf in the openly backing camp. Conversely, two sources confirmed that the Cate campaign said no to a joint last-minute get-out-the-vote effort with DeMaio supporters.

Here’s the thing: Spin thinks DeMaio has a fairly good shot at winning this thing. If Democratic voters do their off-year thing and stay home next Tuesday, and if enough Republicans and decline-to-staters get pissed about the 11th-hour attack on DeMaio’s alleged gross personal habits, this dude could be waltzing to D.C.

Some of you enduring readers may be thinking, “Hey, Spin, I’ve seen your abysmal record when it comes to picking winners in San Diego politics. Maybe you’re just trying to jinx Carl.”

No, it’s more complicated. Spin has a sneaking suspicion that beyond the social-media echo chamber, few voters give a crap about, or pay attention to, a politician’s personal—um, quirks. If you can get shit done that Vinnie and Valerie Voter want done, then to hell with the flaws. Just keep your privates private!

That worked for former mayor Bob Filner until he went off the rails and apparently told himself, “To hell with decorum. I gotta be me!” We all know how well that turned out.

Now, voters in the 52nd face a similar dilemma. They know DeMaio is not your average humble human being. If they live outside of a cave, they’ve heard that DeMaio isn’t the easiest person to work for—by some accounts, next to impossible. What these voters should be wondering is, can this guy be trusted to demonstrate the kind of discipline he maintains on message in his personal interactions, as well. A member of Congress is only as good as his or her employees, and DeMaio may have trouble attracting the best and brightest, given his reputation as a, shall we say, non-delegator.

In addition, now that his war of words with former staffers has garnered national headlines, DeMaio would have to grow thicker skin if he’s to survive the D.C. media bubble. His claim as a “next-generation Republican” not obsessed with social matters will garner him the focus of the more hawkish Washington press corps.

DeMaio, when pressed by the media, prefers the pushback. If he were to choose that tactic back East, one veteran national media aficionado told Spin privately, “the D.C. media will eat him up and beat the living shit out of him. Live by the sword, die by the sword.”

If you are to believe DeMaio’s endless television ads, here’s a guy who plans to take the nation’s capitol by storm. Shake it up. Revamp it. But if he’s unable to forge alliances—and DeMaio showed scant ability in the art of compromise as a council member—what will San Diego be facing?

Consider San Diego’s congressional delegation. Will it be—perhaps outside of Texas—the most joke-ready confluence of hot-air-bluster producers this region has seen since the wildfires of ’07? How will a mayor who seems focused on building federal relationships work with the likes of Darrell “Obama is Bad” Issa, Duncan “ISIL is here!” Hunter Jr. and Carl “Build an Ebola Fence” DeMaio?

When Filner returned from Washington, most folks had no idea the kind of baggage he was bringing into the Mayor’s office, because no one was talking publicly. Voters this time have fair warning from people who worked for DeMaio. Like Faulconer said, let the voters decide. But, should Camp Carl win and eventually implode, those who lectured about Filner’s boorish behavior will have some explaining to do.

Got a tip? Send it to johnl@sdcitybeat.com or follow John R. Lamb on Twitter @johnrlamb.