California’s 52nd Congressional District: Scott Peters 2020 Primary Challenges & Challengers

by on January 9, 2020 · 0 comments

in Election, San Diego

By Doug Porter / Words&Deeds

The second decade of the 21st century saw San Diego’s 52nd Congressional District change from red to blue. In 2010 it was represented by the second generation of the Republican Hunter family; in 2020 Democrat Scott Peters has a firm grip on the seat.

In part the shift in partisan outlook can be attributed to redistricting, but when Peters went up against Brian Bilbray in 2012, the GOP still had a voter registration advantage, despite redrawn boundaries.

The latest stats for the upcoming primary from the California Secretary of State show registered Republicans in third place, fifteen thousand voters behind No Party Preference and thirty five thousand behind Democrats. It’s a testament to the sagging fortunes of a political party burdened with inept local leadership and a cult figure at the top nationally.

So it’s safe to say an incumbent Democrat should feel optimistic about their chances for re-election.

That incumbent Democrat is Congressman Scott Peters, who has a HUGE war chest, an ongoing ground game, and endorsements from just about everybody that matters on the liberal to moderate side of San Diego politics.

The congressman gets high marks in most accounts relating to constituent service, and makes frequent appearances in his district. Some people thought he might run for Mayor of San Diego in 2020. In January of last year, Peters put that rumor to rest.

From the Union-Tribune:

  • Peters, 60, said that after much analysis and soul searching over the last two months, he decided it makes more sense for him to stay in Congress and try to make a difference for San Diego and the nation there.
  • “Just figuring out how to serve San Diego and my country, I feel this is the better spot for me right now,” Peters told the Union-Tribune by phone from Washington, D.C. “I’ve gotten a lot of encouragement to run for mayor, but I feel that I can have a big impact here as part of the majority party.”

Congressman Peters does come to this year’s race with some baggage. Once again, his name is noticeably absent from the list of endorsed candidates posted by the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council.

Labor broke with the congressman over the now-dead Trans-Pacific Partnership. His boosterism for corporations doing business in the San Diego area led him to support a treaty that many saw as ignoring the needs of workers and the environment.

He’s also voted repeatedly for repealing tax 2.3% tax on medical devices imposed as a means for paying for the Affordable Care Act. Claims that the tax (which was suspended in 2016) was costing thousands of jobs were given two pinocchios when fact-checked by the Washington Post.

The tax was officially repealed as part of the latest budget deal signed by President Trump, thus eliminating a revenue stream designed to cover the cost of affordable health care. Since Republicans are in power in the White House, I’m guessing nobody’s all that concerned about deficit spending anymore.

But the biggest current beef with Rep. Peters comes from environmental groups, who have urged him to support the Green New Deal, a framework for countering the causes and effects of climate change.

From the Union-Tribune:

  • Peters said he’s dedicated to fighting climate change and to reducing emission to net zero by 2050. However, he doesn’t support the Green New Deal’s provisions guaranteeing higher education and jobs for all Americans.
  • “That just makes saving the planet a lot harder,” he said. “Now you’re talking about remaking the economy. I think we have a hard enough problem now.”
  • First spearheaded by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., the Green New Deal has come to symbolize a rift within the Democratic Party. While left-leaning members have continued to push for its passage, leadership has squarely rejected the idea.
  • The resolution now has more than 90 cosponsors, including San Diego Representatives Juan Vargas, Mike Levin and Susan Davis.

Peters’ point of view encompasses what he calls bipartisan solutions, including bills already under consideration by Congress.  For all his concerns about practicability, almost none of the nearly 300 bills (on a variety of topics) passed with bipartisan support by the House of Representatives will ever make it off Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s desk.

Here’s the deal, in my opinion: you can’t save the planet without fundamentally changing the economy. Way too much of this incrementalist environmentally-oriented legislation relies on smoke and mirrors. As I‘ve said before, giving corporations carbon credits because trees are getting planted in Wakanda isn’t going to cut it.

Opposing the Green New Deal really means opposing the very idea of a transformative (like Roosevelt’s New Deal that inspired it) agenda. Lots of parts of Roosevelt’s vision didn’t make it, but the fact that he had a vision gave the different parts gravitas they would not have had if dealt with piecemeal. 

Long-time environmental activist Nancy Cassady, who’s supported Peters in the past, decided enough was enough with his failure to see the larger picture and the immediacy of the threats posed by climate change.

From her campaign announcement:

  • I’ve recently retired after 20 years at the General Manager of the local food co-op; O.B. People’s. We had a fine run and grew the business from 4 million to 15 million a year in sales. It was a lot of fun but I was ready to stop working and take up tennis and bridge like my friends were doing. Many have wondered why then I’ve decided to upend my leisure, incur the displeasure of the Democratic powers that be and risk happiness at home due to the demands of campaigning in order to run for Congress at my age. Well, to paraphrase one of my heroes, Greta Thumberg, : “No one is too old to make a difference.”

She filed to run as a Democrat against Peters, saying she’s the Green New Deal candidate for Congress. Her decision came after a May 30 meeting with the Congressman where he told her, according to Times of San Diego, “I don’t like and will never support the Green New Deal because it has this provision for free college tuition and because it has a jobs guarantee.”

From the Union-Tribune:

  • Casady said Peters’ playbook does not go far enough or act quickly enough to meet the immediate dangers of climate change.
  • “It’s incremental, market-based and not at all at the scale to address the problems we face,” she said.
  • Casady added that taking actions like creating a national wind, water and solar energy system and a new “smart” electrical grid to eliminate fossil fuel use are important, as is embracing climate-smart agriculture, replanting forests and grass land that had been cleared for cattle, and growing kelp in the oceans to help sequester carbon.

Cassady is right about the climate crisis, but that’s not going to make it easy for to get her past the primary. She hasn’t raised much money and –from what I can see– lacks the kind of grassroots coalition needed to compensate for having a financial disadvantage.

Republicans took their sweet time fielding a candidate in a district considered winnable not long ago. Their first candidate for the job, Fanela Ramos, withdrew to run in the 53rd district, where Rep. Susan Davis is retiring.

In early November, local businessman and Republican Jim DeBello announced a bid to oust Peters.

According to Times of San Diego,  the local GOP leadership initially wanted him to run for mayor.

From the Union-Tribune:

  • DeBello, a 61-year-old Point Loma resident, was CEO of Mitek for 15 years prior to stepping down in January. He also worked for Qualcomm and a few other technology companies — some outside the U.S. — and made his name co-inventing technology that allows you to deposit checks using a mobile phone.
  • He criticized Peters as “under-representing” the district’s high-tech, defense and hospitality sectors and tried to tie the incumbent to flashpoint progressives such as New York Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
  • That line of attack could be a hard to sell to voters in the district, given the well-publicized push-back Peters got from some in his party over his refusal to back the Green New Deal and other progressive issues. Also the San Diego Democrat’s reputation as pro-business also could insulate him, given he has been endorsed by the San Diego Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on several occasions.

Debello’s main asset appears to be his personal wealth, with his net worth estimated to be $11.3 million.

Peters, by the way, had $2,069,944 cash on hand according to his third quarter report filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Last, and least as far as I’m concerned, there’s No Party Preference candidate Ryan Cunningham.

I’d describe his politics as vintage nationalist with racist notes accompanied by aromas invoking a misogynist stank.

Quips from his campaign website:

  • Housing will never be affordable in San Diego as long as policymakers continue to permit unfettered population growth through immigration.
  • There are currently more Chinese nationals (5,000) enrolled at the University o California San Diego than US citizens from the San Diego area, despite the fact that China is a strategic foe and leading producer of fentanyl which kills thousands of people each year, steals billions of dollars worth of intellectual property, and repeatedly engages in the espionage of state secrets.
  • Wage growth for middle and lower class Americans should be the primary economic policy goal via restricting competition from illegal immigration and foreign STEM workers. 

Via Southern Poverty Law Center:

  • Cernovich is one of America’s most visible right-wing provocateurs, known for boosting or generating massively successful conspiracy theories like #Pizzagate. He made his career on trolling the liberal establishment by accusing people of pedophilia or child sex trafficking. 
  • Armed with a law degree, Cernovich claims to defend “free speech,” in particular the freedom to harass women and make misogynistic, violent comments. He came to prominence through his role in #Gamergate, a coordinated campaign of harassment against women in the gaming industry. Bankrolled by a divorce and by the sale of his books, Cernovich operates at the fringe of the conservative mainstream, acting as a pass-through for thinly-sourced and conspiratorial scoops. In May 2017, he joined forces with popular conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to co-host a show on Infowars, moving even deeper into the world of conspiracy theories.

Here are the web pages & social media links for these candidates.

Nancy Cassady (Democrat)
Website | Facebook | Twitter

Ryan Cunningham (No Party Preference)
Website | Facebook | Twitter

Jim DeBello (Republican)
Website | Facebook | Twitter

Scott Peters (Democratic Incumbent) 
Website | Facebook | Twitter


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