HomeWorld NewsPolitics Report: Maienschein Eyes City Attorney and AG – Voice of San Diego
Politics Report: Maienschein Eyes City Attorney and AG – Voice of San Diego
September 10, 2023
One of the races to which I will be paying more attention is San Diego city attorney. It’s a fascinating divide. The City Council, mayor and police union all support Assemblyman Brian Maienschein, who started in the Legislature as a Republican and is ending it as the Democratic Party’s choice for city attorney.
On the other side, the largest union of city employees, the Municipal Employees Association, supports Heather Ferbert. Ferbert will have the same title on the ballot that helped her boss, City Attorney Mara Elliott, vault over better-funded candidates who had more endorsements when she first won in 2016.
But Maienschein may have his sights set on a far more powerful legal job: state attorney general. While running for city attorney, Maienschein has also been raising and transferring money into Maienschein for Attorney General 2030, as the Reader first noted last week.
It’s not uncommon for lawmakers to have campaign accounts open for theoretical future campaigns. But Maienschein may actually be into it. He had a recent reception at Frank Fat’s with sponsorship levels starting at $1,500. But the money went not to his most pressing campaign but the attorney general push in 2030.
Longtime Maienschein aide Lance Witmondt told me they are still researching how much of the money can legally be transferred to his city attorney campaign. But we shouldn’t assume he would want that.
“Brian running for attorney general is definitely a possibility in the future,” Witmondt said.
OK then. Noted.
Why Chula Vista Fast Pitch Matters
This story is one of the most engrossing tales I’ve ever seen our staff unravel.
I knew, vaguely, that nonprofits staffed some of the stands at Petco Park. And as a nonprofit executive, I could imagine how much it would help to pull in a few bucks with the help of your volunteers.
What Will Huntsberry learned is that one nonprofit — Chula Vista Fast Pitch — had been staffing concession stands for nine years at Petco Park and recently at Snapdragon Stadium as well. But the nonprofit, ostensibly a softball league serving girls in South Bay, just didn’t exist. There’s no legal nonprofit. There’s no softball. There are no girls.
It keeps getting weirder: This week, Huntsberry revealed that they also tried operating out of the Sports Arena in 2015 but were quickly booted. He also noticed that, right after his story ran, they tried to incorporate a new nonprofit corporation, Chula Vista Fast Patch.
What is going on? The whole idea is that nonprofits provide this labor with their passionate volunteers and, in exchange, the service benefits. Youth sports leagues are perfect — dads, moms, grandparents and aunts and uncles spend a lot of time making these leagues work. But if there’s no league, there are no dads and moms.
So who did this work and for what did they work?
How is this the business model of venues that charge prices that are so absurdly high at their concession stands, we all just laugh about it? How far does this go?
Ambitious young people power local politics. They volunteer. Then they get paid gigs (sometimes in severely exploitative situations). Then they usually branch off either into a professional consulting career or they seek elected office themselves.
That’s the path Kevin Sabellico is on. The 25-year-old volunteered. Then he worked for U.S. Rep. Mike Levin and then he managed the campaign for State Sen. Catherine Blakespear. Levin even made him an official California elector for the 2020 presidential Electoral College. This week was supposed to be the exciting beginning of the first big run of his: Carlsbad City Council.
Until the launch went wrong. Sabellico deployed one of the most efficient tools at candidates’ disposal to announce his run and generate some buzz: text messaging. He sent out a blast.
“I’ve cut red tape for affordable housing, made our streets safer, and increased reading and math scores for middle-class kids,” he wrote to the text recipients (a very impressive record for an elector and a planning commissioner).
In the text message, he included a photo. But it was not of him. It was of former County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher.
He told me he’s been hearing a lot about it. I used it as an opening joke for our live podcast this week and asked the crowd if it wasn’t actually a 3-D chess move: After all, here we are talking about his announcement.
Sabellico laughed and said, no, it was just a bad mistake made by the vendor, Sexton Group. The company apologized and said they wouldn’t invoice him.
Since he was a good sport about the flub and the jokes, I gave him a mini interview on my favorite topic: housing and the tension between the state and smaller cities like Carlsbad.
“The state’s response to housing is very heavy handed,” Sabellico said of the various demands cities face to increase housing within their boundaries and the remedies builders can seek if a city doesn’t approve a project. “They don’t consider all the consequences of all these heavy-handed laws and they can’t because there are 400-plus cities.”
He acknowledged full local control hasn’t gotten us there either.
“We’ve had local control for decades and it led to a housing crisis,” he said. “I want to talk about housing as a positive. I want people to want it. It’s not a bad thing. If they want to have local control, they need to show local responsibility.”
Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified the company Sabellico had used to send the text messages.
Speaking of Fletcher
We still don’t have an update on the Instagram fight. Fletcher still has not made a public appearance of any kind since he acknowledged only “consensual interactions” between him and the woman who accused him of sexual assault and harassment and the agency he chaired of firing her in connection with what he had done.
His sudden and complete disappearance from San Diego politics after rising to the top is still disorienting.
But he also disappeared from UC San Diego, where he was a professor of practice.
Our Jakob McWhinney requested documents from UC San Diego to see what we could learn about why exactly he’d lost his position there. We got back a only a couple emails that show, on March 30, an individual former student emailed UC San Diego’s Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination alleging Fletcher had sexually assaulted them in 2015.
The accuser wrote they had previously reported the assault to the Sexual Assault Resource Center but only later discovered that office only offered support services and did not forward complaints for investigation. The timing and content of the email seem to match up with the story of a former student who accuser who interned for Fletcher’s nonprofit and spoke to media in March.
But in late May, UCSD notified the individual that they’d closed an investigation into the allegation because it was an “administrative disciplinary process” and Fletcher no longer worked at the university.
McWhinney asked a few questions: Had Fletcher resigned or been fired? Did they have record of someone alleging they’d been assaulted by Fletcher in 2015? Had an investigation had been conducted into the allegation? We asked these and spokespeople emailed a nearly identical statement they’d sent in response to other outlets’ inquiries back in March.
The only difference between the two statements was “Nathan Fletcher is not currently teaching at UC San Diego,” had been changed to “Nathan Fletcher is no longer employed at UC San Diego.”
The full comment: “Nathan Fletcher is no longer employed at UC San Diego. The health, well-being and safety of our campus community members is our top priority. All allegations of sexual harassment and sexual violence are taken very seriously.”
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