City Council District 6: How Can Hough Hew His Way Around An Incumbent’s Advantage?

by on September 19, 2018 · 1 comment

in San Diego

An aerial view of Kearny Mesa, one of the communities in D6. Credit: Kearny Mesa Planning Group

By Doug Porter / San Diego Free Press

I’ll let you in on a little secret: San Diego is a lot bluer city than most people realize, meaning–as one politico told me recently–if you run the right Democrat, they can win just about everywhere.

City Attorney Mara Elliot carried every council district in 2016 except D5 Mark Kersey’s collection of north-central communities clustered along Interstate 15. There are roughly 130,000 more registered Democrats in the city than Republicans, who have sunk to third place–70,000 voters or so behind No Party Preference.

Fortunately for partisans on the right side of the aisle, San Diego’s City Council races are officially non-partisan. The words “Democrat” or “Republican” don’t appear on the ballot, making a high public profile a potential equalizer.

Democrat Tommy Hough is challenging incumbent Republican Chris Cate in District 6 for the November elections. Nobody thinks it’s going to be easy to turn his seat blue.

District 6

Communities: Clairemont Mesa East/West, Kearny Mesa, Mira Mesa, Rancho Peñasquitos, Sorrento Valley

Redistricting following the 2010 census gave the area the largest bloc of Asian-Americans in the city. It’s a car-centric district with more people working than living within its boundaries.

The need to improve area infrastructure and concerns about future development are the bread and butter issues facing D6 voters in 2018.

Chris Cate (Incumbent Republican)

Website | Facebook | Twitter
Total amount raised through June: $412,191
The San Diego Police Officers Association has spent $10,364 for street signs
There is reportedly $300,000 in SD Chamber/Lincoln Club PAC Money

Issues: Fixing our roads, Investing in public safety, Protecting taxpayers

San Diego Reader: Cate’s craft beer, cocktailing, and private jets
Union-Tribune: San Diego City Councilman Chris Cate on the issues
Times of San Diego: Opinion: Campaign to Vindicate Councilman Chris Cate Hits New Low

Organizational endorsements: Associated General Contractors, Building Industry Association, California Apartment Association, California Restaurant Association, Municipal Employees Association, Peace Officers Research Association of California, San Diego Downtown Partnership, San Diego Police Officers Association, San Diego Port Tenants Association, San Diego Regional Chamber

Republicans running for office in America’s Finest City have to walk a fine line, trying to downplay the “R” brand, except when it comes to collecting cash from GOP leaning institutions and donors.

So, while the incumbent Councilman for D6 is considered to be one of the rising stars in the party, you won’t find Chris Cate posing for photos with Donald Trump, Jr., like D49 Congressional candidate Diane Harkey recently did.

Cate’s style is more about working the crowds, saying a few words at community events and doling out behested funding from corporate donors at high profile events. I’ve seen him in action, and he’s good at it.

From the San Diego Reader:

In one case, Cate appeared on TV station’s KFMB news last December, billed by a newscaster as a “special elf” who was providing free Christmas trees to families with military ties.

“We are a military town and we were able to secure the funding necessary to give a hundred free Christmas Trees to military families and veterans getting ready for the Christmas season,” Cate announced to the television audience without disclosing that the $5000 source of the money was Arkansas-based retail giant Walmart.

In another instance, Cate re-branded his August Charity Cornhole Tournament last year after city hall wags called attention to the word’s sexual connotations, a designation said to have left some of the event’s funders – which included Walmart, San Diego Gas & Electric, AT&T, Dart Container, AMR, COX, Hanson Aggregates, the San Diego Association of Realtors, California Strategies, Sudberry Properties, and Responsible Solutions – unpleased.

A KPBS analysis of Councilmember weekend events in their districts put Cate in third place (3.8 average), far ahead of the other three Republican members of the City Council.

Councilmember Cate got himself in some trouble last year as land developers eyed the area surrounding the Mission Valley football stadium. He leaked a memo via his personal email account with proprietary negotiating information to California Strategies, the lobbying firm advocating for what we now know as the SoccerCity plan.

While the San Diego Ethics Ordinance prohibits public officials from disclosing confidential information, there is an exception for doing so as a necessary function of their official duties.

Cate and his surrogates relied on that exception in justifying his actions. A referral from the City Attorney’s office to the County District Attorney’s office asking for a criminal investigation was bounced to the State Attorney General. And there questions about his conduct died.

Republicans are taking no chances in 2018. There is an Independent Expenditure committee that has amassed $300,000 from the Chamber of Commerce PAC and the Lincoln Club in support of Cate’s candidacy.

Tommy Hough (Democrat)

Website | Facebook | Twitter
Total amount raised through June: $34,311
The San Diego Democratic Party gave $10,700 to the campaign in September

Issues: Homeless Crisis, Rebuilding Streets and Fixing Roads, Short-Term Vacation Rentals, Housing Crisis, Energy Choice and Zero Waste, Closing Fire Station Gap, Protecting Women’s Health, Working San Diegans, Open Space and Environmental Health

Union-Tribune: San Diego City Council candidate Tommy Hough on the issue
San Diego City Beat: Tommy Hough ready for a fight
Empower Radio: From Morning Radio to Running for San Diego City Council With Tommy Hough

Organizational endorsements: Association of Cannabis Professionals, Black Mountain Democratic Club, Clairemont Democratic Club, Laborers Local 89, National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW), Planned Parenthood Action Fund of the Pacific Southwest, Point Loma and Ocean Beach Democratic Club, Rancho Bernardo Democratic Club, San Diego Blue Dream Democrats, San Diego City Beat, San Diego County Democratic Party. San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action, San Diego County Young Democrats, San Diego Democrats for Equality, San Diego Progressive Democratic Club, Save San Diego Neighborhoods, SEIU Local 221, Sierra Club

Candidate Tommy Hough is ceding no ground to his opponent when it comes to his commitment to the district, running with a “Neighborhoods First” campaign.

He says he’s running because of city hall’s failure to directly address the problems facing the district – housing, homelessness, pollution of our air and water, implementing energy choice and climate action plan, adding fire stations and stopping the spread of short-term vacation rentals.

Having made it past a primary where the incumbent received more than 50% of the vote, Hough’s counting on the support that comes with being the officially endorsed candidate for the Democratic Party, along with the resources at its disposal.

In recent weeks, the campaign has engaged in intensive voter canvassing, joining forces with D4 Supervisor candidate Nathan Fletcher in walking precincts and benefitting from door-to-door efforts by the Black Mountain Democratic Club.

From San Diego City Beat:

Hough knows he still has an “uphill fight,” but he’s quick to point out that fighting is in his blood. Both his grandfather and father worked in the steel industry in Pittsburgh, and were heavily involved in organizing and labor unions. This instilled in Hough a sense of the importance of a middle class and standing up for the rights of workers. While some would point out he has no political experience, Hough counters that by pointing out his environmental jobs at the Surfrider Foundation and co-founding San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action [SDCDEA] in 2014.

Hough’s morning show on 91X officially ended in 2017 and he stepped down from the leadership position of the SDCDEA shortly after to focus full-time on his campaign. He says it’s rare that people take issue that this is technically his first foray running for office. This makes sense especially in an age where a real estate tycoon and reality star is President and a relatively unknown, 20-something organizer just unseated one of the most powerful congressional Democrats in congress.


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

triggerfinger September 19, 2018 at 2:54 pm

Fat chance getting Mira Mesa to vote for him. Theyre as republican as it gets. Liberal causes aren’t a cause there.

My money is this will be the most lopsided race this fall.


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