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COMMENTARY | Carl DeMaio: Our modern LGBT role model

(Editor's note: Susan Jester is currently the head of the Log Cabin Republicans of San Diego County and is the founder of what is now AIDS Walk San Diego.)

When I returned to San Diego after a 20 year stint on the East Coast, I had never heard of Carl DeMaio. It was early 2011 and I came back to town to care for my elderly mother who is in the end stage of Alzheimer’s. After a 30 year career in politics, LGBT activism and fundraising, full time caregiving put me on the sidelines during 2012.

As the events and ads in the Mayoral campaign began to unfold I became familiar with the name Carl DeMaio, but not the person. One thing that stood out to me during that time was that people were very passionate about Carl -- either with great love and commitment to his cause or intense hatred of him and his reform agenda.

As a professional political consultant, I am well aware of how effective smear tactics and false labels can be used in political messaging. Negative campaigning, name calling and labels are especially effective when used by candidates willing to say and do whatever it takes to win.

I have never seen a more nasty or negative campaign run against a candidate in San Diego than I saw with the campaign against Carl DeMaio.

The personal attacks and hatred against Carl were ginned up by his opponents and organized labor bosses who oppose Carl’s “reform agenda” and were irate at his successful leadership of the Pension Reform Initiative in 2012.

Instead of contesting DeMaio’s candidacy based on his ideas, his opponents used personal attacks, gay bashing under the radar, complete misrepresentation of his record and views, and an incredible barrage of hate speech and venomous writing directed at him on a daily basis. Throw in some misplaced labels like “extremist” and they had found a winning formula to smear him.

The politics of personal destruction were in full play. In the end, the hate Carl coalition was successful in creating a false personal image in order to achieve their goal of keeping the status quo of bigger government, more power, all at the taxpayers’ expense.

While many in the LGBT community supported Carl, the “establishment” leadership of the LGBT community turned their backs on him. In their eyes, Carl was “different” – he was from a different generation and he was advancing social change using an entirely different approach than they have for decades. It was also clear that some in the LGBT leadership could not bear the idea of a LGBT REPUBLICAN Mayor, and would go to any lengths to insure electing anyone, including Mickey Mouse as long as it wasn’t Carl.

A few months ago, I reached out to Carl because I wanted to meet him and express my personal appreciation for his contributions to the LGBT and GOP Communities. As an openly gay Republican woman who once aspired to run for Council, I wanted to meet the man who actually did it and won.

After working for the last 30 years for two national LGBT organizations, several Republican State and County organizations, a couple of Presidential races and over 100 campaigns, I consider myself to be a good judge of character when it comes to candidates and elected officials.

From the Mayoral campaign, I had already decided I agreed with Carl DeMaio on the issues.

But I wondered: what Carl DeMaio was like as a person?

To my pleasant surprise, Carl did not have two heads, red blazing eyes or horns behind his ears as some of his detractors want you to think. Quite the contrary, I met a very thoughtful, intelligent and well-grounded man who has had an extraordinary life story and an exemplary career of accomplishments in business as well as public service.

More importantly, Carl DeMaio has a very clear vision for how to advance social change.

“We change people’s minds by touching their hearts,” DeMaio said.

A gay Republican, running in very conservative San Diego City Council District and winning by a huge margin is every bit as courageous, remarkable, and of historical value as what Harvey Milk did in San Francisco in the 70’s.

Governing on the City Council, and then running his mayoral campaign out and proud the entire way, allowed Carl DeMaio to reach communities that the “establishment” LGBT leadership dare not step foot in.

I left the meeting that day very sure that Carl DeMaio is EXACTLY what an elected official SHOULD be. A man of principle, whose character values drive him to enrich the lives of people and put’s the people’s interest first. The only place where Carl is extreme is in having the courage of his convictions to carry out his reform vision and stand up to the establishment and the defeat the status quo.

On Thursday, once again, Carl DeMaio stepped up, and announced his candidacy for the 52nd Congressional Seat. I for one am thrilled that Carl has decided to run. He is exactly what Congress needs and he is definitely what the Republican Party needs, and he is what San Diego citizen’s need.
Only hours after DeMaio had announced his campaign on an all-positive note, the hate attacks began by Scott Peters and his backers. Instead of arguing with DeMaio’s positive platform of reform, they simply dismiss him as an “extremist.”

So the question remains, as the smear tactics begin again, is Carl DeMaio an extremist or is he a role model for a new generation of Republicans and the LGBT Community as a whole?

I am asking you, the SDGLN readers, to decide for yourselves based on his statements and positions on the issues.

Do you believe this is the statement of an extremist or a role model? At age 14, Carl, who was orphaned, was taken in and educated by Jesuits (not exactly known for their hardline or extremist positions of the Catholic Faith) and given the opportunity to earn his way to Georgetown University. "I learned from a young age that no matter how bad things get, there is always a way to overcome any challenge," said Carl. "I'm grateful to the Jesuits for instilling in me both a disciplined work ethic and a strong sense of public service."

Do you believe that the founding of two successful businesses from scratch before ago 30, turning them into one of the leading authorities of government reform, think tanks, and becoming the leading authority on performance based management of government, law enforcement ,non-profits and schools, is the accomplishment of an extremist or a role model?

Do you believe that speaking up on behalf of the citizen taxpayers in San Diego to reform City Government and producing success with reforms that saved the city from bankruptcy are the actions of an extremist or a role model?

Do you believe his success in building a bipartisan coalition to get his reforms implemented the actions of an extremist or a role model?

Do you believe his perfect voting record on LGBT issues on the City Council – including his leadership on motions to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and his consistent support for Marriage Equality – is that of an extremist or a role model?

Which of these candidates is a role model or extreme: Carl DeMaio who decided to lead by example by turning down the politician’s pension program and slashing his own compensation by 22% on day one in office? Or millionaire Scott Peters who voted TWICE to spike his pension and increase his own salary by nearly 30% while he cut city services to the needy?

Last year Peters and his union cronies tried to make the LGBT Community believe that Carl did not support marriage equality. Why? To win re-election, to keep the power so they can continue to line their pockets with your tax dollars. The truth is reforming public sector unions and public sector pensions are NOT anti-worker. It is EXTREME policy however, to force taxpayers to continue to pay for double dipping and over bloated pensions. It is dangerous and extreme to potentially force city government into bankruptcy.

In contrast to Peters, Carl believes that elected officials should be judged based on their results, not rhetoric. ‘To help change the culture of government, elected officials must demonstrate reform by applying it to themselves first. ‘Is that the statement of an ideological extremist, or one of a role model and example of what true public service is about?

"If we want to change government, we have to change the kind of people we are electing to office. I want to be part of that change, and so far, our approach seems to be working to get the kind of results citizens deserve," concludes DeMaio.

As a matter of full disclosure, SDGLN Publisher Johnathan Hale has a personal relationship with Carl DeMaio.