Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? San Diego Democrats Set to Shoot Themselves in the Foot Again

by on March 3, 2016 · 0 comments

in Culture, Election, History, Labor, Media, Ocean Beach, Politics, San Diego

Ed Harris via Point Loma Democratic Club

Ed Harris via Point Loma Democratic Club

By Doug Porter

News of a credible Democrat entering the race for mayor of San Diego barely made it onto social media yesterday before intra-party sniping began. The political party with majority registration in America’s Finest City couldn’t even field a candidate, and now its past bad behavior is threatening to sabotage a chance at salvation.

This should have been a serious bump in the road to Kevin Faulconer’s primary coronation, namely that a third well-known candidate made the 50%+1 threshold more difficult, with former City Council member Ed Harris jumping into the mayoral race, according to papers filed with the city clerk.

Running as a Democrat, Harris joins independent activist and former state legislator Lori Saldaña as a second major candidate running against the incumbent mayor. The longtime lifeguard and union leader was appointed to the council representing District 2 in 2014 following Faulconer’s ascension to the top job in a special election.

Harris emerged as a strong voice for taxpayer concerns, blowing the whistle on a sweetheart deal the city was in the process of making with negotiations on a new lease for Belmont Park.

This move came back to haunt Harris once he left the council, as the city suddenly changed course on negotiations to include lifeguards in “presumptive medical coverage”—a statewide provision for public safety employees making it easier to qualify for workers’ compensation.

Harris made the claim the switch in negotiating posture was politically motivated.

From City Beat:

“Six weeks ago, they walked in and for the first time ever, they said, The mayor’s not supportive of this,'” said Ed Harris, spokesperson for the lifeguards union. “In our opinion that’s a bait and switch.”

Embroiled in labor negotiations with the city, Harris said the mayor’s office is specifically targeting him for his political actions as a former councilmember. Harris said he made enemies at City Hall last September after he led council Democrats to reject the terms of a lease extension for Belmont Park, the oceanfront amusement park in Mission Beach.

“I believe that my relationship with the mayor’s office after that deal has a lot to do with it,” he said. “I can tell you that when I opposed the Belmont Park deal, the relationship with me and the Republicans changed overnight. When you don’t go along with the program, they stop even looking at you or saying hi’ to you.”

Voice of San Diego’s Morning Report mentioned his candidacy today by saying Harris supports “the Briggs/Chargers plan for a football stadium.” I’m guessing that suggestive (Briggs & the Chargers both have plenty of haters around town) characterization is deliberate.

The former councilman has, in fact, endorsed the Citizen’s Plan. He has not endorsed a football stadium, which, by the way, isn’t funded by in the initiative. The plan does create a path by which a stadium could be built if hoteliers buy into a non-contiguous expansion. But no matter. The impression has been made.

Democratic Chair Francine Busby

Democratic Chair Francine Busby

Harris also has enemies in the local Democratic Party. A 2013 email from Party chair Francine Busby to Point Loma Democratic Club leader Susan Peinado is back in circulation. It claimed that he was vulnerable to guilt-by-association charges because of his tenure as a lifeguard. At the time, Harris was considering running for city council.

From the OB Rag:

…In her email, Busby warned that supporting Harris could be a problem for the Dems and Peinado because “as a leader of the lifeguards, he will be associated with a culture that has a long history of discrimination against women.” In her email, she referred to “sexual harassment issues”.

Apparently, Busby also included in her email a link to a story – as Voice of San Diego reports –“about a woman lifeguard who sued the city over gender discrimination. Harris was not named in the suit, or deposed as part of it. His only connection to the suit seems to be working for the department where the discrimination took place. The lawsuit had nothing to do with sexual harassment.”

The Pt Loma Dems had not endorsed anyone for the race. Yet the party head cautioned Peinado about supporting Harris. She wrote:

“Whether or not you bring this issue to the attention of your members in the context of the impact that it will have on the election is your choice. If you don’t they may ask you if and when you learn of it and why you didn’t inform them and hold you responsible.”

There was, as it turns out, no substance to the ‘concerns’ voiced by Busby. Women who work with Harris wrote letters defending his character and he expressed deep disappointment with the party chair’s actions. Reporters for several outlets dug deep into the allegation and found nothing.

Harris dropped out of the race and endorsed Democrat Sarah Boot, who lost in the general election to Republican Lori Zapf. He was subsequently appointed to serve out Kevin Faulconer’s term on the council with the proviso that he could not run for re-election.

So it turns out that, in addition to a Republican opponent, Democrat Harris and Independent Lori Saldaña both have the ghost of Bob Filner to fight.

Lori Saldana

Lori Saldana

Here’s Lori Saldaña via email:

I’ve been troubled by incidents in recent elections involving allegations of sexual harassment.

These reports were treated very differently by democratic Party leaders- some were ignored, and were later proved to be accurate. Others were politicized, and later found to be false.

I don’t agree with way the party leadership has responded to these situations, but I don’t see a way to change their approach, so i’ve become an independent

My principles haven’t changed- only my party affiliation.

Here’s a Facebook posting from a member of the San Diego Coastal Democrats in response to a KPBS story on Harris running for mayor made last night:

Whisky Foxtrot Tango? I know four of the Mayoral Candidates personally, I don’t think I like what that says about me. Are you ready for another sex scandal?

Chairwoman Francine Busby has never apologized for her past statements about Harris.

It’s time. Either the local Democratic Party hierarchy comes clean or they need to resign. Yeah, yeah, I know… they’re so far above us little people and we couldn’t possibly understand.


This is an excerpt from Doug Porter’s column at our associated San Diego Free Press.


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