City attorney’s sex talk

Casey Gwinn’s reputation was rooted in sports, sex, and hell

Gwinn earned a reputation for speaking out against the availability of porn and the opinion of Carl Sagan (pictured on TV).
  • Gwinn earned a reputation for speaking out against the availability of porn and the opinion of Carl Sagan (pictured on TV).

Endorsements are streaming in for candidates locked in the hotly contested race for San Diego city attorney. Last week Democrat Gil Cabrera announced the backing of Republican ex–city attorney Casey Gwinn. A Cabrera release says Gwinn “is best known for his work protecting families and children in San Diego.”

But when he was city attorney, much of Gwinn’s reputation was rooted in sports, sex, and hell. He’s likely best remembered by those who have any recollection at all for famously touting the now-maligned 1995 Chargers ticket guarantee and Qualcomm Stadium makeover that was supposed to keep the team in town.

Gwinn, the son of a Congregational minister, was also noted for his attacks on the late astronomer Carl Sagan for saying, “There is not a hint that help will come from someplace else to save us from ourselves. We alone are the saviors of our own destiny.” Sagan, observed Gwinn from the pulpit of an evangelical church in 2002, “was without question the most eloquent scientist and philosopher on the road to Hell that I have ever heard!”

An anti-pornography crusader, Gwinn spoke out against pay-per-view adult-rated movies in hotels. “Any businessman or businesswoman in this room knows that when you are in a hotel room in the middle of nowhere, halfway across America, you are subjected to all kinds of temptation of all kinds that can impact your life profoundly, and by the grace of God many of us have been delivered from it and others have succumbed to it.”

The same was true with the lure of sex on cable television, Gwinn said, citing the adultery of a friend. “The beginning of his fantasies about having a sexual relationship outside of marriage started with pornography, it started with watching cable-access channels at 11 o’ clock at night.” He added, “There is a great deal of repentance in this that is necessary for all of us, me included, because I, too, am subject to those images everywhere I go.”

Gwinn played a key role in crafting the “six-foot rule” that prohibits nude would-be lap dancers from getting closer than that distance to their clients at the city’s adult-entertainment establishments. Three Democrats were later kicked off the city council after the FBI caught them allegedly being untowardly influenced by a strip-club owner who wanted laxer rules, though only Ralph Inzunza ultimately did jail time.

On being city attorney, Gwinn told a congregation in 2002: “One of the things that I enjoy least about that assignment is what we call ‘public comment.’ That’s where anybody that wants to say anything about anything gets to come and have three minutes. We run anywhere between 15 and 30 people during public comment. These are items that are not on the agenda for that day, and everybody just gets to come and do their thing.”

Continued Gwinn, “I’m not here today, though, as the city attorney. I’m just here as a follower of Jesus. I’m not going to talk about really anything related to city government, because it really doesn’t matter in the context of eternity.” He concluded his sermon with his personal theological take: “The way that we experience that everlasting life is to accept a personal relationship with Jesus and to say I claim him as my way to eternal life. There’s no other way, there’s just no other way to get there.”

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I'd say an endorsement of Casey Gwinn for Gil Cabrera is the kiss of death. Any public official who disparages orderly public comment at public meetings -- "everybody just gets to come and do their thing" -- deserves to be remembered and NEVER asked for a political attaboy. Maybe Cabrera can give it back.

I personally appreciate Matt Potter's documentation of exactly what Gwinn said and believed on a range of topics. To characterize Gwinn's extreme born-again views with "protecting families and children in San Diego" is completely misleading and invites negative voter opinion about Cabrera.

Why would Cabera want his endorsement? I guess he couldn't find anyone else to endorse him.

Perhaps SD City Attorney is such a thankless task that more balanced candidates decide not to run?

Heaven help us.

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