Who Runs San Diego?

Who Runs San Diego? Papa Doug the Kingmaker

By Eva Posner

Last week we provided an overview of Doug Manchester, the U-T, and the influence this combination has on the electorate of San Diego County.

This week, the goal is to delve a bit deeper, using a recent issue to illustrate the intensity of collusion with the publisher of the region’s largest paper and other powers that be.

From Voice of San Diego:

“It was Saturday, Aug. 31. No Republican had announced his or her intention to run to replace Mayor Bob Filner, whose term in office ended quietly the night before.

“A group of about 30 of the city’s most influential conservatives and right-of-center business representatives assembled at developer Tom Sudberry’s La Jolla estate.”

The roster was impressive: Doug Manchester, Jerry Sanders (Chamber of Commerce and former mayor), Tony Krvaric (San Diego County Republican Party), Bill Lynch (Lincoln Club), Kris Michell (Downtown Partnership), Kelly Burt (New Majority San Diego), Bill Geppert (Business Leadership Alliance), Carl DeMaio (former councilmember, failed mayoral candidate, and current congressional candidate), Ron Roberts (County Supervisor), and of course Kevin Faulconer.

Long story, short: “The group decided to support Faulconer and everyone pledged to try to get their organizations to support him.”

Two days later, out of fear that DeMaio’s ambition would get in the way of his team spirit, the Manchester controlled editorial board wrote a not-so-friendly piece warning DeMaio away from the race:

“DeMaio will announce Tuesday whether he will remain a candidate for Congress or demonstrate his own political opportunism by switching to the race for mayor. His decision will mark him as a future Republican star, or could end his political career. The U-T editorial board urges DeMaio to stick with his congressional candidacy; he can count on our editorial support if he does so.”

The next day, DeMaio announced that he would stick with his congressional race, and a GOP star was born.

The wagons quickly circled around Faulconer—Manchester and his allies leading the way. Endorsements came quickly from the Republican Party, The New Majority, and the Chamber of Commerce. The Downtown Partnership’s political action committee, San Diego Jobs PAC, did its part.

U-T San Diego published glowing editorial after glowing profile after glowing story. Polls were commissioned. And the money started flowing. And so did thehit pieces.

Manchester himself donated $356,000 to the cause throughout the course of the primary and general elections. The donations were divided between the San Diego County Republican Party and The Lincoln Club (remember Tony Krvaric and Bill Lynch from the candidate-picking party in La Jolla?) as well as the Faulconer campaign. (It is also worth noting that Manchester is a member of The Lincoln Club.)

But why? From

“According to a Voice of San Diego Member Report, Manchester and Lynch were scheduled to host a private luncheon with assorted movers and shakers in San Diego, with the express purpose of ‘strategizing how we can best move San Diego forward in support of Kevin Faulconer as Mayor.’

“The agenda for this luncheon was as follows:

“’We all know the need to preserve and protect San Diego from losing the Chargers, fix the pension system, and create incentives that will allow San Diego to reach its full potential and recover from what we have experienced over these past several years….

“Notice the focus on the Chargers in this agenda. It seems clear that Manchester’s and Lynch’s enthusiasm (and possibly a fair share of support from the paper) is directly tied to Faulconer’s willingness or ability to get a stadium deal done.”

After the election Manchester Financial Group, owned by Papa Doug, also donated $5,000 to the $150,000 celebration for Falconer’s inauguration. (So did Thomas Sudberry, whose home in La Jolla hosted the above-mentioned gathering. So did New Majority. And San Diego Jobs PAC. Seeing a pattern?)

It is highly likely that Manchester will get a healthy return on his investment. With two huge development projects coming down the pipe— the $1.3 billion Navy Broadway Complex and the redevelopment of U-T San Diego’s prime Mission Valley property—it is easy to see that Manchester would be thrilled when one of his own was chosen for a position on the City’s Planning Commission. (The commission oversees community plans, zoning, and land use issues and is extremely influential. This series will go into more depth about it in the future.)

In April, Faulconer appointed architect Doug Austin to the commission. Austin had been hired by Manchester to design the Mission Valley development. According to the Reader, Austin was also a high dollar donor to the GOP, donating $5,000 to Faulconer’s mayoral bid and $1,125 to Republican Councilwoman Lorie Zapf in 2010. (Zapf will take Faulconer’s District 2 council seat after defeating Democrat Sarah Boot in the June 3rd primary.)

It’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out in relation to the Convention Center expansion and the Chargers’ stadium, which the City will inevitably have to deal with soon as court cases threaten the current Convention Center plans and pressure from the NFL and others are pushing toward a new stadium.

Manchester stands to profit from both, whether separate projects or a combined project. As a hotelier and developer, he was a driving force behind building the Convention Center in the first place, and could make millions from the expansion. And even more from the stadium. Add in the Navy Broadway Complex and the Mission Valley Project and suddenly $356,000 seems like a small investment.

When you follow the money and the relationships, it seems that Manchester is stacking the deck to use taxpayer-funded government positions of influence to line his pockets, and using his media bullhorn to distract the voters from realizing it. It is a long standing pattern and this is just the most recent example.

We cannot continue to allow that to happen.

This is an installment of the Who Runs San Diego? series, a project of the Democratic Woman’s Club published weekly in the San Diego Free Press. The Democratic Woman’s Club mission is to promote Democratic Party principles including equality of opportunity, a level playing field, and fair and equal treatment for all.

Eva Posner

Eva Posner is a freelance journalist and Southern transplant passionate about politics, current events, travel, her son and her dog. @evaposner

This article first appeared in the San Diego Free Press August 13, 2014.