As expected, Sen. Kamala Harris on Saturday gave a full-throated endorsement of her “dear friend Todd Gloria” for mayor of San Diego.
But her party’s nominee for vice president left some Democrats attending the San Diego County party’s largest annual fundraiser scratching their heads.
“I just want to take a moment to express my concerns and support for all of the families in San Diego that have been affected by the wildfires that are raging across our state,” Harris said in remarks recorded for a Zoom session.
“Joe Biden and I — we have talked about the pain and the hurt and the destruction that the fires and smoke and evacuations have caused,” she added in a virtual appearance that lasted about 4 minutes. “And of course we encourage everyone to continue following guidance from the local authorities and please stay safe.”
Will Rodriguez-Kennedy, the county Democratic Party chair, said afterward that he thought Harris meant to say Southern California, “which includes a host of counties that are suffering through fires.”
Rodriguez-Kennedy, who served as emcee Saturday, said between 500 and 600 people paid to attend the 40th annual Roosevelt Honors event.
“Still collecting contributions,” he said via email afterward, “but it will be between $200,000 (and) $250,000 for this night.”
(Admission started at $25 for young Democrats, but typical tickets went for $75. A VIP ticket of $125 included “a premium SD Dems swag kit, and access to a pre-event VIP Reception.” Dozens also answered a call to contribute more.)
Harris, speaking before a bank of flags at an unspecified location, remarked about a “real opportunity for historic change in San Diego County.”
“We have a chance to elect my dear friend Todd Gloria as mayor of San Diego, to flip the San Diego County Board of Supervisors blue and to elect Democratic majorities throughout our local governments in Southern California that truly represent their communities,” she said.
Her pep talk from a script continued: “It’s on all of us to ensure that every single one of the more than 1 1/2 million voters in San Diego County can safely cast their ballot and that we get other voters registered too.”
Harris said a handful of votes can make the difference between a blue seat and a red seat in a critical local election.
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“So let’s register people to vote,” she said. “Let’s phone bank for our local race, and in November let’s elect Todd Gloria as mayor of San Diego and Democrats up and down the ballot, and Joe Biden as president of the United States.”
Gloria, who easily won his local party’s endorsement a year ago, was endorsed by Harris in November. He faces fellow Democrat Barbara Bry in the mayoral race.
The other major speaker at the 2-hour event was former Rep. Gabby Giffords of Arizona, again showing her progress recovering from a would-be assassin’s bullet.
Giffords’ recorded remarks, lasting 40 seconds, were introduced by San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott, who gave Giffords’ gun-safety group credit for helping enact the city’s Safe Storage of Firearms ordinance.
“These are scary times,” Giffords said. “Racism, sexism, lies, violence, coronavirus. It’s time to stand up for what’s right. It’s time for courage.”
She continued: “We must do something. We must stop gun violence, protect our children, our future. Let them lead the way. Make our country a safer place, a better place. Do you have the courage to FIGHT? Please join your voice with mine.”
Party chair Rodriguez-Kennedy crowed on Twitter about the “first Roosevelt event to EVER finish on time!”
— Will Rodriguez-Kennedy ???????? (@willrk787) August 30, 2020
With help from several clubs and consultants, including Eva Posner, the Zoom event proceeded at a lively pace, with taped commercials for various labor unions and others woven into live introductions of various award winners, such as county Supervisor Nathan Fletcher as Legislator of the Year.
His wife, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, smiled beside him and at one point appeared in a Dalmatian costume (with one of their young children briefly peeking from nearby stairs).
It was a family affair for the Webers as well — with La Mesa Councilwoman Akilah Weber introducing her mother, Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, for another award.
And Terra Lawson-Remer, District 3 Board of Supervisors challenger to Republican incumbent Kristin Gaspar, spoke as her young daughter played with her hair.
Steph Johnson, director of the Voices of Our City Choir still alive on “America’s Got Talent,” played guitar and sang “Blackbird” by The Beatles.
In a sidebar chat, Democrats posted comments cheering the honorees and elected officials taking part, including members of Congress Susan Davis, Scott Peters and Mike Levin. (Juan Vargas didn’t appear).
But one woman posted a suggestion to organizers: “Hey everybody, not trying to be a wet blanket. Happy to hear from these folks. But … would have preferred more opportunity to engage fellow Dems who aren’t speaking…. Was looking forward to saying hey to folks.”
Very proud of my hubby @nathanfletcher being named “Legislator of the Year” for @sandiegodems at tonight’s Roosevelt Dinner — a little awkward to be sharing the computer as he gives his zoom acceptance speech. pic.twitter.com/sdni15u6I7
— Lorena (@LorenaSGonzalez) August 30, 2020