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Veterans Club Shows Good Judgement in Finding Three Candidates for San Diego City Council District 9 ‘Highly Qualified’

D9candidatesLast month the Veterans Democratic Club of San Diego displayed interesting contrasts in resolving conflicts between Democratic candidates vying for the same seat.

Many of us awoke on Saturday September 19, 2015 to read in the LA Times that Toni Atkins is challenging incumbent State Senator Marty Block for the 39 Senate District. It is being seen as a sad day when the San Diego County Democratic Party can’t muster a candidate for Mayor and sits idly by as this costly, internecine fight develops.

Who would the Veteran club members consider to endorse for the San Diego City Council race in District 9? Back in July the club had endorsed Rafael Castellanos for City Attorney over Mara Elliott and Gil Cabrera. At that time they came in for criticism from some Democratic Party leaders for their early endorsement. Would they feel compelled to pick one D9 candidate over the others to demonstrate leadership and resolve, or would they be aware of the different circumstances involved in this race? 

Since its inception District 9 has always been described as a heavily Democratic leaning district and with at least 6 candidates running there’s a good chance that more than one Dem will make it out of the Primary and to the General in November.

Bearing this in mind club members didn’t have to ‘play it safe’ and pick the anointed candidate. Instead they could take a chance on a new, non-traditional type of politician, born from the community and engaged with the citizenry at a more grassroots level. They didn’t have to only consider who can raise the most money, but they could ask where that money comes from (and what behavior it will induce)? They didn’t have to make the ‘sensible’ choice but could indulge in identity politics, and pick their preferred candidate(s).

On Saturday members got to hear first hand from Ricardo Flores, Georgette Gómez and Sarah Saez.

Each of the candidates provided background information in a printout that was attached to the meeting agenda, and each spoke for 5 minutes before fielding a variety of questions from the members.

Ricardo Flores ( is endorsed by sitting San Diego City Councilmember Marti Emerald, who spoke to endorse her chief of staff at the start of the meeting. He’s a D9 native and has worked with Marti in the district for the last 2 years. Prior to that he was a senior aide to Congresswoman Susan Davis and President of the San Diego Chicano Democratic Association.

Next they heard from Georgette Gómez ( who is the Associate Director of Toxic-Free Neighborhoods Campaign at the Environmental Health Coalition. Georgette also serves on the City Heights Area Planning Committee and is a co-founder of Sustainable San Diego.

Lastly they heard from Sarah Saez ( who is Program Director for United Taxi Workers of San Diego. Sarah currently serves as a board member for Mid-City Community Advocacy Network, the Foundation for Change, and as a delegate of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Central Labor Council, where she sits on committees focusing on policy, organizing, and immigration.

Ricardo suggested the City of San Diego should have a Veterans Commission and all of the candidates supported spending more on affordable housing and housing first programs to help homeless veterans. All of the candidates support clean elections and getting money out of politics.

After a motion for the club to endorse Ricardo Flores failed to get enough votes (60% is required for endorsement) a second motion to rate all three candidates as ‘highly qualified’ was passed unanimously.

After the result of the vote was announced one of the candidates publicly thanked the club members for restoring their faith in the local Democratic Party.

After the meeting one of the candidates posted photographs taken individually with the officers of the club, along with their personal endorsements. Some Dems who saw those social media posts incorrectly thought that candidate had been endorsed. The vote of the club members was to rate all three candidates as highly qualified.

If we’re to grow the Party to reach out, learn from, and represent the needs of the disaffected and disenfranchised, it’s important to keep the umbrella wide and open in District 9. This decision by the Veterans Democratic Club helps to do just that.

John Loughlin
Secretary, Democratic Woman’s Club

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Democratic Woman’s Club of which he is a member.