Now, I've been involved in San Diego politics in one way or another since 1998, when I graduated from college, and decided, "hey, I want to work in politics." So, from 1998 to 2000, I worked as an intern for a political consultant, then worked on various campaigns. The most I ever made in the business was a $1000 per month stipend. Seriously. So, like a lot of my brethren, I left politics and went to law school. But I still was involved in politics at the volunteer level, and have been since real life took over.
It was in this later period, around 2002 or 2003, that I first recall seeing Carl DeMaio. And, in fact, that was probably around the time he first moved here. DeMaio's business apparently brought him to the shores of America's Finest City, though that much isn't entirely clear. What is clear is that DeMaio's business was of the think tank variety, and had deep D.C. ties.
Now, at the time that DeMaio showed up, San Diego was well on its way to becoming the Enron of the West. Unbeknownst to anyone, the City of San Diego cut a deal with its pension board to simultaneously raid the pension fund, while at the same time increasing benefits to the current retirees. Now, this was done mostly on Susan Golding's watch, and its not entirely clear who knew what, but Dick Murphy, then mayor, was completely and totally unprepared to handle the crisis. So, when DeMaio showed up, he appeared to be one of those good-government types that San Diego seems to breed.
I'm not going into details (read the San Diego City Beat article), but what was not known was the extent to which DeMaio would try to change San Diego politics, and specifically, the San Diego Republican Party. Quickly, DeMaio used his connections with the national GOP, and his think tank status to advocate against unions, and attack the City Council on economic issues. Despite his sexual orientation, he became the City Council Member for one of the most conservative districts in the City.
DeMaio, it seems, is completely different. His brand of conservatism is confrontational, uncompromising, and in many cases, downright rude. This is in stark contrast to the typical San Diego Republican who tend to be socially liberal(ish), and consensus builders. Now, there were Republicans like Duncan Hunter, Duke Cunningham, and Darrel Issa who were pretty confrontational, but most San Diego Republicans were guys like Jerry Sanders. But not it seems that the rank and file of the San Diego Republican Party, want their candidates to be more confrontational.
As a Democrat, I'm somewhat pleased by this. I'm tired of seeing Democrats get their asses kicked by the likes Tom Shepard (the political consultant for many Republican candidates of the nonconfrontational type). After all, San Diego is becoming more and more Democratic every year. The more in-your-face the Republican, the more likely San Diegans will vote for the other guy.
This change in the San Diego Republican Party is most visible in the defection of Nathan Fletcher (who had several businessmen follow suit). Fletcher was, in many ways, the ideal San Diego Republican - conservative on economic issues but not an asshole about it, veteran of the Iraq War (as a Marine, no less), well-connected (wife worked for George W. Bush), and a deal-maker. Heck, Fletcher is such a nice guy he got the endorsement of the Log Cabin Republicans (the Republican gay group) over DeMaio and Dumanis, and he's the ONLY STRAIGHT REPUBLICAN IN THE RACE. He even got Pete Wilson's endorsement.
But for some reason, this classic-San Diego-but-perhaps-more-conservative Republican was not endorsed by the San Diego Republican Party. Carl DeMaio was. Overwhelmingly. With Fletcher now leaving the GOP - does the San Diego Republican Party change forever? Or will it return to its roots? Only time will tell.