As erstwhile Democrat Lori Saldaña prepares to make a widely anticipated announcement of her mayoral candidacy this Thursday, a hired gun from Missouri has hit the ground running here on behalf of Republican incumbent Kevin Faulconer.
Tapping into its stash of $610,000 raised last year, an independent committee calling itself Communities United for Tomorrow's Economy supporting the 2016 reelection of Mayor Faulconer has retained the services of Corbin Gauert of Kansas City, paying him $5481 last year, according to the group's January 18 financial disclosure.
According to his profile on LinkedIn, Gauert is associated with Candidate Command, whose website says the firm “works with candidates, party organizations and third party groups to help elect Republicans at all levels of government. Working on over 500 campaigns, we have delivered more than 45,000,000 direct mail pieces to people in 42 different states."
Adds the site: "What makes us different than most firms? Everything happens in-house, under the direction of experienced political operatives."
Gauert's profile says he is also associated with Axiom Strategies. That firm is headed by Jeff Roe, a take-no-prisoners Kansas City–based political consultant.
Currently working for Texas senator Ted Cruz's GOP presidential bid, Roe was called "ruthless" by Fox News's Chris Wallace on the cable channel's January 23 "power player” segment, says a report in the Kansas City Star.
"Wallace also noted that four years ago in a Senate primary, Roe worked for a Cruz opponent and crafted an ad that questioned his patriotism by representing a company with ties to China," the paper reported.
Another hardened Axiom veteran is Stephen Puetz, now Faulconer's chief of staff.
Reached on his cell phone, Gauert said he didn't have any comment on Saldaña's entry into the race or other campaign matters.
In politics, direct mail often means hit pieces, depending on how much of a perceived threat the opposition poses.
Faulconer backers have been quick on the draw in past races, most notably during his original run for mayor in the fall of 2013 against Republican-turned-Democrat Nathan Fletcher, backed by La Jolla billionaire Irwin Jacobs and his son Paul, then chief executive of the Jacobs-founded Qualcomm.
"I was outraged to learn that the Lincoln Club of San Diego — a supposedly pro-business political group — would fund a political hit piece that unfairly and incorrectly attacks one of San Diego’s largest employers," said Paul Jacobs in a letter posted online following a hit piece dispatched by the pro-Faulconer group against Fletcher and his role as a Qualcomm executive.
"Is the Lincoln Club so desperate and out of constructive ideas that they are resorting to attacks on private employers, forsaking their supposed principles and lying to serve a political agenda?"
To many observers of local politics, the answer was yes, though Jacobs never got the apology and retraction he demanded, and Fletcher placed third in the primary behind Faulconer and Democratic city councilman David Alvarez.
As previously reported here, all has been apparently forgiven between Jacobs and the GOP establishment, with Qualcomm staging a $9275 Faulconer fundraiser hosted in November by company government-affairs honcho Christine Trimble.
Besides being a mayoral longshot, Saldaña became a nemesis of Jacobs and his extended political family and an array of media backers when she took on then ex–city councilman Scott Peters, heavily financed by Jacobs in a rough-and-tumble 2012 congressional primary, which Peters won.
Cash for the pro-Faulconer United Communities group has come from eight donors, with the largest single contribution of $235,000 being made by the Lincoln Club, financial disclosure records show. The San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce political action committee was second, with $125,000.
The San Diego Restaurant and Beverage PAC came up with $75,000, with $50,000 each coming from the Building Industry Association of San Diego County PAC and the Infrastructure PAC of the Associated General Contractors.
The San Diego Lodging Industry Association PAC gave $40,000, the California Apartment Association PAC kicked in $25,000, and H-FSD Holding, Inc. contributed $10,000.