By Ken Stone
Sen. Elizabeth Warren will bring her buzzing presidential campaign to San Diego in coming months, says the local Democratic Party chairman. And she’d be smart to make a beeline for Pacific Beach.
Club President Brian Iwakiri said the Massachusetts senator was first in “Who won the debate?” with 26 out of 36 votes (second was Julián Castro at 4 votes).
She also topped the write-in ballot asking “Who is most likely to get your vote in the March 2020 primary?” Warren was picked by 13. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris tied for second at 4. (Trailing were Joe Biden with 2, Pete Buttigieg 2 and Cory Booker 1.)
Asked which candidates might visit San Diego in the run-up to the state primary, party Chairman Will Rodriguez-Kennedy said: “I know I spoke to Sen. Warren’s campaign. They said they’re coming in — I think they said in the summer.”
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Rodriguez-Kennedy, watching MSNBC’s telecast at the Garnet Avenue pizza parlor, also said he’s heard that Sen. Harris will visit in August — following recent rallies or town halls in San Diego by hopefuls Sanders, Beto O’Rourke and Marianne Williamson.
It’s protocol for presidential campaigns to reach out to party leaders before visiting their turf, Rodriguez-Kennedy said, but “it hasn’t exactly been the practice this year.” He chalked it up to the large number of candidates with “talent and experience … spread out among those campaigns.”
A Hillary Clinton delegate in 2016, Rodriguez-Kennedy spent time Wednesday live-tweeting at the $15-a-head gathering where a rich variety of pizzas, chicken wings and salads were served. Some 60 others joined him in the restaurant’s back room, glued to five screens. (Several dozen others watched TVs in a hallway or front room.)
On a backdoor stoop, Times of San Diego asked the 31-year-old party leader and other well-connected Democrats about San Diego’s role in the March presidential primary.
Rodriguez-Kennedy noted the couple dozen delegates San Diego County will send to the 2020 Milwaukee convention — as big as some states’ delegations. So even if they don’t finish first, candidates can “carve off” a piece of the nearly 500-member statewide delegation and “help blunt the loss.”
“It would behoove Sen. Harris to come down to San Diego, especially since most of her base is in the Bay Area,” he said. “I think Sen. Warren has a really good shot at actually getting ahead of the game. Something seems to be happening with her — she seems to be growing pretty organically.”
And the former vice president?
“[Joe] Biden needs to start campaigning if he wants to win,” Rodriguez-Kennedy said. “He’d be very popular if he wanted to.”
San Diego Councilwoman Georgette Gomez, visiting Jen Campbell’s District 2, says San Diego “definitely” can play a role in the party’s pick for president. (Campbell wasn’t present, but sent two reps.)
“Other [California] regions have more representation, but I think we carry enough to maybe tip it over,” said the District 9 council member. “So San Diego cannot be ignored.”
One reason: the border.
She said candidates would be foolish not to take advantage of San Diego’s place as “a national standing platform — I mean it’s our back yard. So I think for that purpose — to raise more of the issue — I think we matter.”
Former Councilman Mike Schaefer, elected recently to the state Board of Equalization, said he’s always liked Joe Biden. But now he adds: “I like Mayor Pete [Buttigieg] — and I’ve donated to Mayor Pete. I just admire his integrity and the fact that he’s as unelectable as I am.”
Wearing a red fabric necklace in memory of his ex-wife, Cynthia, who died Saturday (she’s the mother of his two sons), Schaefer said he was a Sanders delegate in Las Vegas in 2016.
“I’ve been here [in San Diego] all my life,” he said, “but I’ve been living in Vegas for 20 years. And I came back here in 2017. I saw an opening and had no idea that the candidate [Republican rival Joel Anderson] would self-implode. And the Lord took care of me.”
Schaefer, 81, still picks up gigs as a judge (“The state brings me to Sacramento two or three days a month”) and looks ahead to becoming the state’s oldest constitutional officer in history. (The current record: Secretary of State Frank M. Jordan, who died in 1970 at age 81.)
“Old people can’t get hired because nobody will hire ’em,” he said. “But in politics, your age is really not that relevant. I mean — look at Bernie.”
Come March, how many Democrats will still be in the game?
“It’ll get down to a half-dozen, maybe four, five or six,” Schaefer said. “The fringe candidates will be showing microscopic returns. Nobody will take them seriously.”
He asked a reporter if he could list all 25 candidates.
“I’d bet you come up with 15, maybe 16,” he said. “And I’m supposed to know them all, but I don’t.”
Party Chairman Rodriguez-Kennedy said: “I think we’ll get down to eight or 10, maybe [for the March primary]. … But it’s also possible more people will stay in because there’s not really much of an incentive to get out — unless they run out of money.”
Councilwoman Gomez paused during her answer: “I would say … 17. I think there’s enough money there. And I think they all pull from different sources.”
Engaged by people in conversation, Gomez didn’t absorb a lot of the debate. She said it was hard to hear at times (and the DirecTV feed was lost twice for a minute). But at the state party’s recent San Francisco convention, Gomez found a crush.
“The one that impressed me — and I think it still stands — is [Sen. Cory] Booker,” she said.
Not too “into him” when he announced, Gomez said: “I’m starting to learn more about him. … He’s somebody who’s on the list.”
Booker hasn’t booked San Diego yet, but Rodriguez-Kennedy is looking forward to word from the purple-jacket-wearing progressive.
“I don’t know (when Warren is coming),” he said. “They’re supposed to call me.”
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