Bob Brewer promises to ‘depoliticize’ DA’s officeAround the City, Feature Story Thursday, April 24th, 2014
Sounding very much the part, San Diego County district attorney candidate, Bob Brewer recently spoke with LGBT Weekly about the heated election campaign for the job of the region’s top cop, his opponent in the race and his best friend – a dog named Combination Plate #3, aka “Taco.”
Brewer, who is running against three-term incumbent, Bonnie Dumanis, claims to have the endorsements of more than 90 percent of the area’s law enforcement organizations.
Faulting Dumanis for what he calls “over-politicization of an office that’s supposed to be about law enforcement, not politics,” Brewer promises “unequivocally” not to run for other offices while he is district attorney – should he win the election.
He says that Dumanis’ failure to live up to similar promises were broken not only when she ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2012, but also when she “went back on her commitment not to make endorsements while in office.”
“It’s time for a change,” says Brewer. “Bonnie said she would not serve more than three terms; now she’s asking for a fourth.”
Brewer, who currently trails Dumanis by double digits in at least one poll, is working hard to win votes across the region’s diverse demographic landscape.
Although Dumanis is an openly lesbian district attorney, Brewer believes all San Diegans, including LGBTs, would be better served by him.
“It’s fair to say I am fiscally conservative and socially moderate-to-progressive,” Brewer told San Diego LGBT Weekly.
Following is the rest of our Q&A with this local attorney, former prosecutor from Los Angeles and Vietnam veteran, whose mentors have included U.S. Army Col. John F. Sadler and 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Stephen S. Trott.
San Diego LGBT Weekly: Just getting it out of the way right off the bat, any final words about the $10,000 donation your wife, former federal judge, Irma Gonzales gave your campaign ostensibly without any coordination with you or your campaign? I believe your campaign has decided to return the donation even though your campaign and your wife both say it was a perfectly legal donation.
Bob Brewer: As I’ve said in the past, my wife didn’t make this donation in secret. It was a legal, public donation made for the whole world to see. Had I or anyone else in the campaign known ahead of time that she was planning to do this, we would have advised against it only because it was bound to become a distraction from the real issues. But she was completely within her rights to make this donation. She made it from her private business account, didn’t talk to me about it and I first learned about it on Twitter at the same time everyone else did.
It sounds like you were not amused by District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis’ camp “issuing” a fake press release purporting in jest to be from your campaign about the issue on April Fools’ Day?
Bonnie Dumanis’ supporters showed an inexcusable lack of judgment by forging a press release with my campaign’s letterhead on it announcing a supposed press conference. It was sent out via a Twitter account apparently run by some deputy district attorneys in her office whom Bonnie Dumanis continually retweets. It was beneath the dignity of public prosecutors who are supposed to uphold the law for a living. My communications director got a call first thing that morning from a reporter who thought it was a real press release. Bonnie Dumanis continues to ignore or tacitly approve the actions of those whom she supervises as long as it is politically profitable.
What do you think the most important issues are now and are likely to be most important for the next DA in the future?
Obviously, there is a long list of issues facing the next district attorney, but there is an issue that the incumbent has long ignored, and that is elder abuse. In over eleven years as district attorney, the incumbent has assigned only one full-time DA to prosecute these crimes throughout the entire county. That’s one for 170,000 people in San Diego County who are 75 or older.
When I’m DA, I will create an elder abuse unit with at least five deputy district attorneys and specially trained investigators. Those seniors aging in our community deserve dignity and respect, and the way we accomplish that is to partner with all stakeholders to better investigate and prosecute these crimes.
In the future, we also need to focus more on the prevention and prosecution of Internet and cyber crimes. Criminals adapt with the times. Whether it’s coordinated by gang members, foreign nationals or individuals with addictions, people in our community are going to be more and more vulnerable to crimes directed toward obtaining their private information – financial and otherwise. We need to shift resources not just to the prosecution of these crimes, but to partnering with both state and federal law enforcement agencies and non-profit organizations to inform the community how to better secure this crucial data.
Has Bonnie Dumanis served San Diego well?
Certainly not recently. You can’t be an effective DA when you spend eighteen months running for a different office and then find yourself in the middle of a campaign-finance scandal because of it. Her decision to run for mayor only seventy days after beginning her third term as district attorney was a very bad decision, and it compromised her ability to do her job.
How will you differ from her in terms of policy, priorities and interacting with the various constituents San Diego’s DA must serve?
First and foremost is doing the job that I’ve been elected to do. Those in and around the courthouse recognize the need for change. They are telling me that they want a district attorney solely focused on the responsibilities of the office. There’s a reason that four former United States attorneys, ninety-eight percent of the law enforcement agencies in the county, the County Probation Officers Association, the San Diego County Court Employees Association, the Deputy City Attorneys Association and SEIU 221 (which represents a significant number of the district attorney’s office staff) have endorsed me. That reason is they know I will be a dedicated prosecutor and not a politician. First and foremost I will be concerned about the safety of our citizens, not about running for another office.
San Diego County Clerk Ernie Dronenburg has been a human roadblock more than once for same-sex couples trying to get marriage licenses. How will you address the Dronenburg dilemma?
As district attorney, my job will be to uphold and enforce the law. The Dronenburg endorsement is a perfect example of why a district attorney should not be endorsing other political candidates. What on earth is a district attorney doing endorsing a county recorder? When asked to justify it, Bonnie Dumanis attempted to make the argument that the county recorder is a law enforcement position, which is ridiculous.
She could have avoided these problems had she simply stuck to her 2007 vow to stop endorsing political candidates. She made that promise in 2007 because at the time she seemed to recognize that a district attorney shouldn’t be in the business of handing out political endorsements; it creates numerous conflicts of interest. But since making that pledge, she has routinely broken it. Since 2007, she has endorsed numerous candidates, including Dronenburg, several members of the Board of Supervisors, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith and others.
So-called “religious freedom” bills, such as the one recently vetoed in Arizona, are another specter looming on the horizon for LGBT people and anyone who supports equality under the law. Is there anything you could do as DA to help thwart sweepingly onerous and draconian efforts to guise bigotry as religious freedom?
When it comes to state legislation, a district attorney is most effective only when weighing in on proposed laws that could impact law enforcement or public safety. I support any effort to protect individual rights recognized by the Constitution, and will instruct my deputy district attorneys to act accordingly.
What about medical marijuana? Where do you stand on the subject? And, while you’re at it, would you be open to supporting a Colorado-style legalization of pot for every adult?
I served in combat in Vietnam, was exposed to Agent Orange and in 1987 developed Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma as a result. As I’ve said on numerous occasions, chemotherapy was such an awful experience that, had medical marijuana been available to alleviate the dreadful side effects, I would have considered using it.
The bottom line is that my job as district attorney will be to uphold and enforce the law. Medical marijuana has been legal under California law for nearly two decades. There should be clear and appropriate ordinances in place so that people with legitimate illnesses and ailments can obtain medical marijuana lawfully as permitted under Proposition 215, which was passed by the voters in 1996.
I do not, however, support the wholesale legalization of marijuana for recreational use such as was passed in Colorado.
Will you be a participant at San Diego LGBT Pride parades and festivals as Bonnie has?
Yes, just as I will participate in a wide range of other community events and festivities throughout the county. A DA is a public official, and it’s important for people to see him or her out in the community.
What are your thoughts on AB1266, the controversial transgender rights law, primarily impacting public schools?
It’s the law of the land in California. It was passed by the state legislature and signed by the governor. As elected DA, my role is to enforce the law.
Why should LGBT voters cast their ballot for you?
For the same reasons everyone should cast their ballot for me: I would be a much better San Diego district attorney than the incumbent. She has over-politicized the office; created numerous conflicts of interest in the process; run for another office and can’t be relied upon to keep her word when she makes public promises. The public should have confidence in its district attorney to make decisions based only on the law and considerations of justice, not based on political considerations.
I believe Bonnie Dumanis has lost the confidence of the public in this area. There needs to be a change in leadership in the DA’s office.
If you do beat Bonnie Dumanis, isn’t it inevitable that lesbian, gay, bi and transgender San Diegans will feel that they have lost one of their own at the DA’s office – and will therefore be less considered and represented?
I would hope the LGBT community wants a DA who is competent, honest, has good judgment, keeps our community safe and makes decisions based on the law and justice, not on politics. Any member of the LGBT community who believes these are a DA’s most important qualifications should vote for me.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
Yes. My wife, Irma Gonzalez, and I own a rescue dog. And just to set the record straight – because I get asked this question quite frequently – his official name is indeed Combination Plate #3. However, his nickname is “Taco.”
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