In His Quest to Tilt at Windmills, Shepard Manages to Burn GOP Bridges
The local San Diego political sphere was rocked August 1st when it was announced that veteran campaign consultant Tom Shepard has joined Bob Filner’s campaign for mayor of San Diego. This move was seen as significant because Shepard has been a major political strategist for the Republican Party in San Diego. Shepard has served as the primary campaign consultant for three out of the last five mayors of San Diego including Roger Hedgecock, Susan Golding and current mayor Jerry Sanders. His success in electing candidates to the San Diego mayor’s office has led him to be dubbed “The Kingmaker.”
Bob Filner picking up Tom Shepard as his campaign consultant has raised a few eyebrows in San Diego largely because Filner is an ardent liberal Democrat and Shepard has traditionally worked for the GOP. The Republican party establishment in San Diego has become alarmed at Shepard working for such an iconic liberal. Republican Central Committee Chairman Tony Krvaric had this to say, “Tom’s two latest campaigns in the City of San Diego were abysmal failures; Proposition D (sales tax increase) and a certain failed mayoral campaign. I hope Tom enjoys his 30 pieces of silver. Won’t matter in the end. P.S. The Republican Party of San Diego County will not do business with him ever again as long as I remain chairman. Elephants don’t forget – and principles matter.” Republican Party Assembly candidate Sherry Hodges has already fired Shepard in response to him coming on board Filner’s campaign.
Tom Shepard, for his part, has argued that his new position has nothing to do with partisanship. He points out that the mayor’s seat is officially a non-partisan election. Although he is currently a registered Republican, Shepard ran for mayor of Del Mar in the early 1970s. He has also previously successfully helped Democrat John Hartley’s campaign for a San Diego City Council seat in the 1980s. Nevertheless, most of the campaigns that Shepard has consulted with have been with Republican candidates.
Indeed, Tom Shepard’s motivation to come on board Filner’s campaign may have nothing at all to do with party politics and everything to do with a personal desire to defeat leading candidate Republican Carl DeMaio. It has been rumored for some time that Shepard has a personal grudge against DeMaio. During the primary electoral campaign for mayor earlier this year, Shepard was the primary campaign consultant for former Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher. Fletcher also has personal dislike of DeMaio, so it was a natural fit for the two to work together against DeMaio. Fletcher was trailing badly in the polls when the San Diego County Republican Party and the local party leadership cast aside him and fellow Republican candidate Bonnie Dumanis in favor of front-runner Carl DeMaio. Instead of being mature about being overlooked in favor of the highest polling candidate, Fletcher decided to take his ball and go home, leaving the Republican Party. This choice was no doubt supported and encouraged by Shepard. It let Shepard continue his crusade against DeMaio even though a loyal Republican would have swallowed his pride and supported the leading GOP candidate. Fletcher’s move outraged the GOP and he was ostracized for his move. Fletcher’s candidacy went down in flames and he placed a distant third behind DeMaio and Filner. Shepard, desperate to continue his Quixotian crusade against DeMaio, latched onto the last remaining opponent running in the mayoral race. Shepard lamely claimed that party doesn’t matter in local elections, candidates’ positions matter. He also feebly claimed that Filner has adopted several of Fletcher’s key fiscal reforms thus making him the best candidate for mayor. He offered no explanation for why Filner would abandon decades of staunch liberal orthodoxy at the 11th hour for this election nor did he offer any proof that it was genuine. Perhaps we’ll next hear that Filner has jumped to the GOP and complete this circle.
Patrick Todd is an Editor Emeritus of The California Review. He is from UCSD’s graduating Class of 2008