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Political Update: GOP presidential candidates, pension reform, and San Diego’s new council district

SAN DIEGO – On the national front in this week's Political Update, the Republicans make a small consensus on equality; while locally, pension reform remains high on the mayoral candidate’s lists of priorities and new candidates emerge for San Diego’s soon-to-be District 9.

Our last report on openly gay GOP presidential candidate Fred Karger’s campaign discussed FOX News’ decision to exclude him from the GOP debate in Iowa.

Since the exclusion, Karger has filed two complaints with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), requesting an immediate and expedited investigation of Fox News in advance of the next debate, to be held Sept. 22, in Orlando, Fla. Nothing has resulted from Karger’s complaints so far, but new momentum in California has his campaign full of hope that he will be included in other events, moving forward.

The California Republican Party (CRP) Convention takes place Sept. 16-18. Karger had originally been shunned by the CRP and was not going to speak, until a front page story in the San Francisco Chronicle prompted an immediate response from state GOP communications director, Mark Standriff, who stated that the CRP would welcome Karger at the convention. Karger’s campaign reports that a reception for him has been scheduled for Sept. 17.

On the heels of that victory, Karger has also requested to be included in the Sept. 7 presidential debate, to be held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California. Citing his long involvement with President Reagan, Karger reached out to each of the debate's lead sponsors and co-sponsors, as well as Mrs. Nancy Reagan and Brian Williams of NBC News, who will moderate the debate.

"We’re hoping that because I have the closest ties to former President Reagan of any candidate running for President, the organizers would want me on that stage in Simi Valley to share President Reagan’s vision for America," Karger said. "I have been campaigning all over this country for the past 19 months spreading his values, his message of optimism and his ability to get along with Democrats and Republicans, alike."

His inclusion in the debate could lead to a lively discussion on marriage equality, given that all the other GOP front runners -- not including Ron Paul, who despite high poll numbers is also continuously shunned by the GOP -- have all signed the National Organization for Marriage’s (NOM) anti-gay marriage pledge.

NOM president Brian Brown released this statement after Gov. Rick Perry recently added his own signature to the pledge:

"Kudos to Governor Rick Perry for making it clear: he's a marriage champion. The purpose of NOM's Marriage Pledge, is to move from vague values statements to concrete actions to protect marriage. Governor Perry joins Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, as a signer of NOM Marriage Pledge. By doing so, Perry makes crystal clear that, contrary to the conventional wisdom, gay marriage is going to be a bigger issue in 2012 than it was in 2008, because the difference between the GOP nominee and President Obama is going to be large and clear. We look forward to demonstrating that being for marriage is a winning position for a presidential candidate."

Pension reform

Locally, San Diegans will be hearing two words a lot more often as we get closer to the June primary: pension reform.

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis called a press conference to announce her support for the Comprehensive Pension Reform plan that Councilmember Carl DeMaio and his supporters have been working diligently to qualify for the June election. Although she did not acknowledge DeMaio’s role in the plan, she sounded a lot like him when she said, “Pension reform is central to my vision as San Diego’s next mayor.”

She went on to explain that after researching the annuity option, she feels public safety employees will have the safety net they deserve, at no additional cost to taxpayers.

“When the initiative passes, and I believe it will, we’re going to need a mayor who has the leadership experience to make sure the reforms are implemented," Dumanis said. "As mayor of San Diego, voters will decide and I will deliver. I'll take pension reform from plan to reality.”

Through a statement, DeMaio responded by saying, "Since releasing my Comprehensive Pension Reform plan last year, I have focused on building consensus and forging a grand coalition to implement these reforms. I'm thrilled to welcome Bonnie Dumanis to our team."

While the Republican mayoral candidates toss their support behind DeMaio’s plan, U.S. Rep. Bob Filner, who is also running for mayor, called it "terrible" when he spoke with City Beat and plans to unveil his own plan, sometime soon.

In the meantime, DeMaio plans to continue his signature-gathering effort, appearing at two stores (one on Saturday, one on Sunday) and headlining two “Petition Parties” at neighborhood homes this weekend. As June approaches, readers can expect a comprehensive report and analysis on the issue of pension reform.

The new district

The 2012 elections will be historic, not only because of the possibility that San Diego could elect its first openly gay mayor, but also because San Diegans will elect a ninth councilmember. With redistricting plans finalized, the new District 9 will be: South of Interstate 8, including the College Area, Rolando, El Cerrito, City Heights, Talmadge and Kensington; and south along Interstate 15, including the Mount Hope, Mountain View and Southcrest communities.

Councilmember Marti Emerald, who currently represents District 7 (which was split in half with the addition of the new district) hopes to be the first District 9 councilmember.

“My staff and I have been representing many of the neighborhoods in this new district since I assumed office and we have a great relationship with them,” Emerald said. “I look forward to continuing our partnership with these communities and the other neighborhoods in our new district.”

She also assured District 7 constituents that she would continue to provide support and services until a new a councilmember is elected to represent them. At the moment, Emerald faces only one opponent, Katherine Eaton, who registered with the City Clerk’s Office on Aug. 30.

The two current candidates for District 7 are insurance broker Scott Sherman and former aide to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, (D-Calif.) Mat Kostrinsky. Incumbent councilmember Sherri Lightner will also have some new opposition for her District 1. She will be running against businessman and president of the San Diego City Employees' Retirement System Board (SDCERS), Raymond G. Ellis.

Ellis, like most other candidates, is running on a platform of fiscal reform and said of his decision to enter the race, “I care deeply about San Diego and the legacy that we are leaving for future generations. It is one of the reasons I have been so involved in civic philanthropy and why I decided to run for City Council. I want to bring my business experience to the Council, because we must have fiscal and organizational reform to truly deliver the city services that taxpayers deserve.”

At the moment, Todd Gloria, who will be moving out of his City Heights neighborhood to Hillcrest in order to continue to represent District 3, is the only councilmember up for re-election next year who faces no opposition.

To submit questions you would like to see the candidates answer, request coverage of a campaign event, or for any inquires regarding campaign coverage in the San Diego Gay & Lesbian News, please email Staff Writer Esther Rubio-Sheffrey at esther@sdgln.com or call toll-free to (877) 727-5446 x711.

As a matter of full disclosure, SDGLN Publisher Johnathan Hale has a personal relationship with Carl DeMaio. Their relationship in no way impacts the editorial decisions made by Ken Williams, SDGLN Editor in Chief, and does not influence our political coverage. All candidates are allowed to submit two pieces per month for our Commentary page. Williams can be reached at ken@sdgln.com or at (877) 727-5446, x713.