This weekend the U-T San Diego gave its blessing to Mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio. This endorsement wasn’t your basic on-the-editorial-page “we have examined all the candidates…” type deal. It was wrapped around the front page on Sunday’s Daily Fishwrap with a special three quarter page add-on press run. Which means you could not open the paper or read the front page without first being made aware of publisher “Papa Doug” Manchester’s loquacious lovefest for Councilman DeMaio. The backing of DeMaio comes as no surprise. The packaging surrounding it, however, was—at a minimum—embarrassing. Let’s take a quick look at why all this hoopla was necessary.
As usual, there’s more to this story than meets the eye.
After questioning the integrity of the formerly Republican Mayoral candidate Nathan Fletcher on last Sunday’s editorial page, that candidate struck back with the release of an audio recording and transcript of a March 29 on-the-record interview he did with the UT editorial board. That release gives remarkable insight into the inner workings of the newspaper-cum-ego trip as it relates to the aspirations of its publisher to use the Daily Fishwrap as an organizing tool for the Republican Party.
It becomes clear in listening to this editorial board meeting that being part of the Republican brand is now a litmus test for the paper’s editorial support. Scott Lewis over at Voice of San Diego wrote a terrific piece about the implications of publisher Manchester’s mandate that concludes:
… they are saying this one lone wolf (Fletcher) is able to harm the GOP and its candidates. Ostensibly, that means he’s hurting San Diego in their view.
That would also mean, though, that they don’t think the party is very strong. After all, the GOP has millions of critics. Why would a new one cripple it?
In fact, openly fretting that Fletcher is able to hurt the party this much demonstrates far more contempt for the GOP brand and its resilience from the U-T than anything I’ve seen Fletcher say.
It’s also important to understand the position that Republicans in the State of California face; which is that the Grand Old Party is not quite so grand anymore. Despite the bluster of the hard core and pockets of local influence, the Party as a vehicle for power (and power brokers) finds itself in a dreadful position. Its base is dominated by nativist nabobs in a State where WASPs are increasingly becoming a minority group. Even if Hispanics—the State’s fastest growing group—might be swayed by the party’s family values and free enterprise positions, the inherent “whiteness” of its leaders leaves little room for accommodation.
So, in that context, Carl DeMaio’s candidacy for Mayor of San Diego represents just about the only bright spot for the state-wide GOP’s future. Look at the UT’s endorsement as a desperate act to preserve what’s left of the GOP brand in the region, just like the paper is desperately fighting to preserve what’s left of its own brand and identity. And that’s why it was important that Fletcher be singled out as a quisling prior to DeMaio receiving the papal blessing.
There’s one other piece of information that’s necessary for putting the UT’s endorsement—again, no surprise—into context; publisher Manchester’s real estate dreams for Mission Valley. Even as the editorial staff was polishing up its endorsement, its owner was moving forward with what he’s previously acknowledged as his main reason for buying the paper—development of the nearly 13 acre site surrounding its offices.
His $200 million vision includes “198 residential condominium units” along with 234,415 square feet of office space and a 6,470 square foot retail facility according to an article by Matt Potter. Manchester has a distinctive reputation as a difficult developer when it comes to his projects, to the point where he retains lobbyist Paul Robinson on contract to duke it out with City officials regarding permitting issues. The UT is already reportedly in hot water with the City regarding the legality of current banner signage on the top of their existing facility.
You can be pretty sure that, regardless of the legalities involved, that Manchester’s first payoff on this investment/endorsement with DeMaio will be expedited permitting for this project. Oversight of developers is nowhere to be found in the candidate’s game plan for San Diego. Expediting the permitting process is a major part of his program.
Understanding Carl DeMaio and his plans for San Diego is not as simple as hitting him with the tar brush of “republican” or “reactionary”. Next time out we’ll explore his rise to fame and fortune, starting as a lowly intern in Washington DC.