A political dirty trick in San Diego's District 53 race that might just backfire
I'm stuck here in San Diego's congressional District 53, a gerrymandered zone that has the gay progressives of Hillcrest, the rabidly left-wing academics of the liberation theology–lovin' University of San Diego, and the illegals of Chula Vista all spliced together, in what's hardly a community of interests. I'm in a small hospital and defense contractor zone attached to these constituencies — nothing in common with the other areas, just useful filler for ensuring that a congressional seat has enough residents to get the seat for a Democrat.
So with disgust, I watch the 53rd congressional race to vacate Rep. Susan Davis's seat, Davis being a nine- or ten-term congresswoman who's served for 19 years and retiring. Davis is a lefty Democrat, but not a loud, obnoxious one. I wouldn't vote for her but she seems nice.
Not so the people jockeying to fill her place now. They're introducing dirty tricks never before seen in lolly, palmy, less-corrupt-than-other-California-cities San Diego to win a seat they're sure now belongs to their party. But in a wave year, with still a lot of residual red in the area, they might just find themselves surprised.
In one corner is Democrat Sara Jacobs, age 31, granddaughter of the Qualcomm billionaires, who lost a race last time for Darrell Issa's then-vacated 49th District seat and then decided she wanted to try for the 53rd instead. Her nonstop ads tout the importance of handing power over to "a new generation" to solve all problems. And look how stupid she comes off in her big interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune. She's reportedly exaggerated her résumé to suggest she was a deep and important adviser to President Obama and candidate Hillary Clinton when in fact she was a subcontractor not allowed to make policy. She also touts her United Nations experience — as if an overpaid sinecure like that, which can be obtained only through someone pulling strings, were something to brag about. The San Diego Union-Tribune pointed out earlier that she's never held a job for more than a few months and that, were she to hold a congressional seat, her two years in it would be the longest she ever lasted at a single job. In her current nonstop television ads, she says she'll "work with anyone" to enact gun control, for one, leaving off that Republicans don't want gun control. Translation: She'll work with Republicans if they become Democrats. Rest assured: Daddy's money goes a long way. She's somebody's pawn; if she wins, she isn't going to be about representing any of our needs here. She doesn't really know much about us.
In the other corner, there's Georgette Gómez, a Latina lesbian whose life has revolved around all the "firsts" to her name who has a lot of experience on the city council. She's been endorsed by powerful public employee unions, the local Democratic Party, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, for her über-progressive agenda. Her curious neglect of her appearance (most pols don't do that) suggests she's a union pawn, a candidate of the government employee unions. In her original statements, she too said she would work with all types of people and argued that she often did on the city council. But not too long ago, she ran some television ads rabidly attacking President Trump and vowing to impeach and impeach again. To say the least, that didn't sound like much interest in playing well with others, let alone winning any Republican filler votes.
The pair of them are now engaged in some sort of ferocious fight for the congressional seat, and Jacobs seems to have some kind of machine, best machine Daddy's money can buy, that's repeatedly been accused of dirty tricks.
First, Gómez complained that Jacobs was suggesting in her ads that she had the endorsement of the local Democratic Party. She doesn't — Gómez does.
Now she's charging Jacobs with something even weirder. According to the Times of San Diego:
The congressional campaign of San Diego Councilwoman Georgette Gómez on Thursday filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against leading 53rd District rival Sara Jacobs, a fellow Democrat.
"The Jacobs' campaigns are engaged in deceptive advertising to boost Jacobs' Republican opponent, [Chris] Stoddard, in an underhanded attempt to manipulate the election and deceive San Diegans' into voting for a Republican," said the complaint.
Dan Rottenstreich, Gómez campaign strategist, asked the agency to investigate alleged violations involving mailers "and take immediate action."
The Jacobs campaign responded by saying the mailer touting Stoddard didn't come from them "and we don't know who sent it."
Stoddard, a former fighter pilot, is the leading Republican in the race. Although he's pro-choice, the rest of his positions are openly conservative. But he hasn't been heard from, presumably because the race is slated to go to a Democrat. No effort at all seems to have been made.
But he's not a complete loser poll-wise, he's actually kind of impressive. A February San Diego Union Tribune poll showed Jacobs in first place, with 23% of the vote, Stoddard in second with 10% of the vote — a surprisingly good count for a Republican — and Gómez in third, with 5%, sorry stuff for someone with the full blown Democratic Party endorsement.
The primary system in California is to hold a runoff with the first two finishers in the November final. If Stoddard places second and Gómez third, Democrats will have no choice but to vote for Jacobs since the other slot on the ballot in November will be Republican. If what Gómez says is true, the Jacobs campaign is banking on a certain GOP loss for the seat no matter what.
Which in a wave year for Republicans, might just be a 'careful what you wish for' scenario...
Politics, as young Sara wouldn't remember, is full of cases of pols who tempted fate by using their opponents as foils — and got the surprise of their lives. Remember when U.K. Prime Minister John Cameron tempted fate with a referendum on leaving the European Union that he announced in 2013 to "pressure" the European Union? His game of chicken using the voters led to some surprise changes since and boy was he surprised. Remember when Indonesia's President B.J. Habibie tempted fate by putting East Timor up for an independence referendum he was sure wouldn't pass in 1999? He got a surprise, too. These things have happened.
Well, there's no reason to think it might not happen here too, given that District 53 has an old Republican base and a low Democrat turnout might mean a different result than a Democrat gimmer, particularly if some disgusted Democrats cross over. Jacobs is already sending out ballot-harvesting calls for voters to vote earlier (I got one, and won't be voting early, I'll be waiting for her people to visit me), and assuming Gómez is right about the mailers, she's sent out more than one mailer, actually — below is a picture of another — she's going all in, determined to not be a two-time loser, despite her absence of qualifications.
The fly in ointment here is that Republican Stoddard, thus far, doesn't seem to recognize what's happening as his golden opportunity to really flip this. He's got 10% of the vote so far with no effort, literally twice the voters of the Democratic Party's own endorsed candidate, which suggests some very fertile soil for making gains. But his response to the charge that Jacobs is helping him with those mailer ads comes off as an unserious even with a promising 10% of the vote. He says he has no idea who mailed the anonymous ads, even though it's pretty obvious the flyers were written by Democrats - they describe a Democrat's idea of what a Republican is - which included distorting his positions. How's 'arm teachers to "prevent" (no, the word is "stop") school shooters? Instead of catching that, Stoddard's just saying he has no idea who printed the ads but he's happy for the free advertising. In a TV news interview last light, he said he only spent $50 of his own money on the campaign for facebook ads, which doesn't sound too serious at all.
What he needs to be saying is that he's not in on this, confirm or deny what's true or not true in the ad, and warning Democrats to be careful what they wish for. His weakness, in fact, is more of an ad for the Democrats than anything which amounts to a lost opportunity. He ought to be fighting to win for that 53rd congressional seat instead of signalling to the press that he's not politically smart enough to see what's going on and taking the opportunity and running with it.
Will he seize this chance at some point, and start doing the hard work of trying to win the race? One can hope, especially if he takes the second slot and the race extends to November.
The dirty-tricks story shows the rest of us the ends the Democrats are going to to get this one easy seat for themselves - which is weird stuff indeed, given how foregone it's supposed to be that a Democrat gets this seat, and even more significant, that the 53rd is a congressional seat that has been slated for elimination in the wake of 2020 Census. California in fact is expected to lose congressional seats, based on all the people fleeing the state. Much of my Republican San Diego neighborhood has already packed up and shipped out. Could there be enough left of the district to go Republican? With California run the way it is, there's reason for hope that maybe there is, and a limit has been reached. That there's a wave year for Republicans in the wake of the impeachment rubble, makes this year is as good as any for an election surprise for the Democrats, their ballot harvestors, and their dirty tricks. Careful for what you wish for, Sara.