Assemblyman Todd Gloria trots up center aisle at IBEW Union Hall after endorsement results were announced.
Assemblyman Todd Gloria trots up aisle at IBEW Union Hall after endorsement results were announced. Photo by Ken Stone

As Assembly majority whip, Todd Gloria counts noses in Sacramento. His job is to know how Democrats will vote on a given bill.

Tuesday night at a Kearny Mesa union hall, Gloria won a landslide endorsement for mayor by the San Diego County Democratic Party’s Central Committee.

Just as he expected.

“In a race like this, he knows the numbers walking in,” said Francine Busby, who chaired the county party for two terms — 2013 to 2017.

Now district director for Rep. Mike Levin, Busby said she — like many other Central Committee members — was individually contacted by Gloria for support.

“He asked for my endorsement over a year ago,” Busby said as the “Todd Squad” celebrated. Gloria, 41, announced his bid for mayor Jan. 9 — just over seven months ago.

By winning 49 votes out of 70 cast, Gloria swamped Councilwoman Barbara Bry (10 votes), community advocate Tasha Williamson (2) and “no endorsement” (9).

(Williamson’s votes came from Katherine Hogue and James Elia, the pair reported on Facebook.)

With 70 percent of the vote, Gloria was 10 points higher than needed from the group made up of elected members of each of the county’s Assembly districts and other local leaders and elected officials.

“To say I’m grateful is an understatement of epic proportions,” Gloria said.

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But Mathew Kostrinsky — Bry’s campaign manager — appeared less surprised. He handed reporters a 108-word statement printed on “Paid for by Barbara Bry for San Diego Mayor 2020” stationery.

“I’m disappointed the Central Committee decided to pre-judge the mayor’s race before voters had a chance to express their views,” she said in the statement. “Unfortunately, this is just another example of politics-as-usual, where money and political favors prevailed over the public interest.”

Like Bry, also-ran Williamson didn’t stay until the end of the meeting at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 569.

But before and during the 3-hour meeting attracting about 170 people, Williamson urged committee members to vote “no endorsement.”

“I’m tired of the same-old same-old,” she said before the meeting. “I’m tired of the fact that if you have money, you get more. If you’ve been in long enough, you succession upward — and that’s not what a democracy is.”

She criticized Gloria for having two fundraising committees — one for a 2020 Assembly race and the other for mayor.

Told that Gloria explains the Assembly 2020 committee as part of his fundraising job for other Democrats, she said: “If that’s what he wanted to do, he should have named it another committee — because now it [raises] questions of what he stands for. …. He’s allowed to do whatever he wants to.”

She added: “I believe people touch the line of corruption. That’s one of the reasons we need to have a ‘no endorsement’ today. Our party has been aligned with some of the most disheartening perpetrators of damage.”

Referring to a civil complaint filed Monday, Williamson also said: “We should not be endorsing someone who is facing a lawsuit.”

But during member questions, Williamson raised eyebrows herself when she defended answers given on a questionnaire from one Democratic club.

She said people should be allowed to pray in schools — “We cannot be exclusionary” and “Everybody says [they’re] pro-choice until it’s something you don’t like.”

And she didn’t reject the teaching of creationism in public schools, saying “there is science in religion.”

She concluded her 7-minute turn at the microphone after Bry and before Gloria by saying: “Vote with a conscience because your vote impacts everybody.”

When Gloria stepped to the front, he got the biggest cheers of the night, and recalled how he once had a post-Bob Filner term as interim mayor.

“I did that for eight months,” he said. “I’d like to do that for eight years.”

Outside in front of a TV camera, county Democratic Chairman Will Rodriguez-Kennedy defended the endorsement vote seven months ahead of the March primary.

He called it a “very common practice” and said the party needs to organize early to make sure voters are informed in case a serious Republican enters the race to succeed termed-out Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

Gloria has “definitely been more consistent” on the Democratic platform, he said, and been loyal to the party.

In her ready-to-issue statement, Bry said the Central Committee’s vote “reinforces my message that it’s time for a change at City Hall – that our city needs a leader who will stand up to the insiders and look out for residents and taxpayers.”

She called herself “energized” by the reception she’s gotten in “each neighborhood.”

“Voters citywide could care less what the political insiders are saying,” Bry said. “That’s why I’m confident we will prevail.”

Tuesday night’s meeting also saw debates on a 20-page party platform and whether associate members should have to follow their club’s direction on endorsements at regional meetings. The executive board’s move toward mandatory anti-bias training for committee members also sparked pushback (mainly from those who said they already get such training at work).

The session opened with several dozen candidates taking brief turns at a standing mike to promote their campaigns, including a 77-year-old La Jolla woman who said she would soon announce a run for Congress in Rep. Scott Peters’ 52nd District.

The woman said she favors the Green New Deal — a package of climate and other measures Peters hasn’t embraced.

Another woman announced that Montana Gov. Steve Bullock — trailing badly in the presidential race — would appear Friday in Coronado (though his website doesn’t list it among a flurry of Iowa outings.)

Busby, the veteran Democratic official, may not have been surprised by the mayor outcome, but she noted with some astonishment how media got an endorsement.

She said it was the first time she’s seen members of the press allowed to cover a Central Committee meeting.

Updated at 10:20 p.m. Aug. 21, 2019.