Campaign cash flowing in San Diego

Candidates for city attorney, council District 1 raise large sums

By David Garrick | 3:30 p.m. Aug. 1, 2015 | Original Article

SAN DIEGO — Campaign disclosures submitted on Friday show fundraising should be highly competitive in several of next year’s San Diego city races, including city attorney and the pivotal District 1 City Council contest featuring Republican Ray Ellis and Democrat Barbara Bry.

Ellis led Bry $177,000 to $149,000 in contributions during the first half of 2015, with Democrat Joe LaCava in third at $38,000. If Ellis wins the north coastal District 1 seat now held by Democrat Sherri Lightner, Republicans could overturn the Democratic Party’s 5-4 majority on the council.

In the race to succeed City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, Democrats Rafael Castellanos and Gil Cabrera led the way on donations, with Castellanos at $160,000 and Cabrera at $127,000.

Republican Robert Hickey wasn’t far behind, with $109,000. A fourth candidate, Democrat Mara Elliott, raised $22,000.

In other races, Democrats Chris Ward and Anthony Bernal were far ahead of Scott Sanborn in the race for the District 3 seat now held by Democrat Todd Gloria. Ward raised $87,000, Bernal received $54,000 and Sanborn got $1,700.

Gloria, Lightner and Goldsmith can’t seek re-election because of term limits.

Democrats Ricardo Flores and Georgette Gomez raised far more than four other candidates in the race for District 9, where incumbent Democrat Marti Emerald is retiring.

Flores raised $63,000 and Gomez received $28,000. None of the other candidates — Araceli Martinez, Rebecca Paida, Sarah Saez and Mohamed Ahmed — raised as much as $3,000.

In District 7, incumbent Republican Scott Sherman raised far more than two Democrats challenging him. Sherman got $137,000 in contributions, while Justin Decesare raised $24,000 and Jose Caballero raised $17,000.

District 7, which includes Allied Gardens and San Carlos, is the only other district with the potential to shift the council’s partisan balance.

The other council races have very little potential to create a partisan shift because voter registration is sharply skewed in those districts.

That includes District 5, where Republican City Councilman Mark Kersey is running for re-election unopposed so far. Kersey hasn’t raised any money, but loaned his own campaign $50,000.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer, also running for re-election unopposed, has raised $647,000. In addition, an independent committee of building contractors, hotel owners and other business interests has raised $600,000 more for Faulconer’s campaign, making him well-positioned to fend off any late challengers.

No other independent expenditure committees reported fund raising in city races this week. But more are expected to be formed before the election, especially in District 1.

Primaries will be held next June in each race, with runoffs between the top two finishers in November 2016 unless a single candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote in the primary.

Wins in June are particularly important for Republicans, because turnout is expected to be much higher and more Democratic during the November 2016 presidential election, local political consultant Tom Shepard said this week.

Shepard said the early fund raising in District 1 confirmed predictions that it will be an expensive, high-profile race.

“This first report shows Ray and Barbara are capable of raising significant amounts of money,” Shepard said. “These numbers show we’re looking at a $500,000 primary campaign.”

LaCava’s presence as a third candidate will make it harder for Ellis to get more than 50 percent in the primary and avoid a November runoff. Ellis lost to Lightner in November 2012 by nearly 6,000 votes, but he got 1,200 more votes than her in a four-candidate primary in June 2012.

Despite Bry, a political newcomer, raising less money than Ellis, she had more donors, 440 to 400. They include Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs and several other members of San Diego’s high-tech community.

Among the donors to Ellis were developer and philanthropist Malin Burnham, Republican Councilman Chris Cate, Planning Commissioner James Whalen and former state Senator Mark Wyland.

LaCava received money from environmental attorney Cory Briggs, Planning Commissioners Theresa Quiros and Anthony Wagner and community planners Brian Curry of Pacific Beach and Frisco White of Carmel Valley.

For city attorney, Republican Hickey — a county prosecutor — is expected to be in a November runoff against one of his three Democratic opponents.

Castellanos, a Port commissioner and the leading fund raiser, got contributions from former City Councilman Tony Young, Planning Commissioner James Whalen and neighborhood market advocate Mark Arabo. He also contributed $13,000 to his own campaign.

Cabrera’s donors include Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, Steve Cushman, Gloria, attorney Marco Gonzalez and Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani.

Hickey’s contributors include Planning Commission Chairman Tim Golba, former Mayor Roger Hedgecock, jeweler Leo Hamel and furniture store owner Jerome Navarra.

None of the candidates reported spending any significant amounts yet. The money in city races is typically spent on mailers, phone banks, yard signs and other campaign materials.

david.garrick@sduniontribune.com       (619) 269-8906 @UTDavidGarrick