Recent polling shows that San Diego County District Attorney candidate Genevieve Jones-Wright doesn’t have much of a constituency in San Diego. She is behind among men, and she is behind among women. She is behind among those younger than fifty and those older than fifty. She is behind among whites, Asians, independents, conservatives and moderates.
But she has nailed down the Hungarian vote among New York billionaires, and that is perhaps the constituency that matters most.
Provocative far-left billionaire George Soros has dropped $1.5 million into an independent expenditure committee in Jones-Wright’s race against incumbent D.A. Summer Stephan.
This is huge money in a county where candidates face an $800 individual limit on campaign contributions. For perspective, the three candidates in the 2014 race for District Attorney, one of the most competitive in recent memory, combined to spend $585,375. Put yet another way, were Jones-Wright to have to ask individuals for $1.5 million for her campaign account, 1875 people would have to say yes to the maximum.
Soros is a good friend to have, to save Jones-Wright the fundraising trouble.
Soros has been this type of a friend to more than a dozen D.A. candidates nationwide in the last two election cycles, including four in California in 2018. His candidates’ policies tend to run counter to that of a traditional D.A. For instance, Soros-backed Philadelphia D.A. Larry Krasner sued the Philadelphia police department 75 times prior to his election. He sought the endorsement and campaigned alongside members of Black Lives Matter. Kim Ogg, the Soros-backed D.A. in Harris County Texas, is getting higher marks in her first year from the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association than from the Houston Police Officers Union.
Soros has spent some $600,000 on Jones-Wright so far. Jones-Wright has also attracted other significant sources of out of town money. It turns out that Justice San Diego is largely funded out of Oakland and does its banking in Sacramento. Progressive donor and Oakland real estate mogul Quinn Delaney has put $150,000 into Justice San Diego to support Jones-Wright. Real Justice PAC, which makes independent expenditures on behalf of Jones-Wright, is based out of San Francisco. Even Get Out the Vote – San Diego, which looks to be a grassroots PAC, lists a treasurer’s address in Sacramento.
While Jones-Wright is relying primarily on out of town money, Stephan’s support from independent expenditures is local, coming largely from her colleagues at the Deputy District Attorneys Association and the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Jones-Wright has spent about $88,000 through April from her campaign committee and has $114,000 cash on hand. Stephan has spent $214,000 from her own campaign through April and has $161,000 cash on hand.
How does the race play out?
With only a little more than two weeks to go until the primary, we’ll know soon. The winner on June 5th will be San Diego’s next District Attorney.
Money is a great advantage to have, but San Diego community leaders are engaged in this race. Stephan’s campaign may be outspent, but it is unlikely to be swamped as in other races on which Soros has trained his gaze.
And money has not be a great predictor of success in San Diego. Nathan Fletcher, the best funded candidate in the 2014 special election for mayor, placed third in the primary. In 2008, a self-funder outspent his opponent four-to-one in the race for mayor and lost.
Both candidates are women. While both women will campaign on women’s issues, Stephan has been recognized nationwide as a leader in combatting child sex trafficking. Jones-Wright has said “You can’t legislate morality. Some people want to be sex workers.”
Jones-Wright is African-American, but that gives her little advantage in terms of a built-in base, as African-Americans are about 5% of the population in San Diego county.
This race will be a classic case of local support versus out of town money. And a referendum on how much San Diegans want the radical reform to the justice system that Jones-Wright offers.
Steven Moore is a San Diego based political strategist. Formerly he was chief of staff to a member of House leadership. He has worked politically in about a dozen countries worldwide, including Iraq, Indonesia, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.