Suds & politics

Posted: April 22nd, 2016 | Communities, Feature, Top Story | No Comments

By Ken Williams | Editor

Grab a craft brew at the District 3 debate

Anthony Bernal and Chris Ward, the two top contenders in the race to fill the District 3 City Council seat being vacated by termed-out Councilmember Todd Gloria, will face off in an unusual debate where the audience will be able to order a craft beer while learning more about the candidates.

The debate will be held April 28 at the Moniker Warehouse in the historic Snowflake Bakery Building, located at 705 16th St. in the East Village. Doors will open at 5:45 pm., and the debate is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. in the multipurpose arts and creative center.

Craft beer and wine will be sold, with all proceeds made during the event going to the Business Improvement District Foundation to help fund several small-business districts.

(l to r) Anthony Bernal and Chris Ward

(l to r) Anthony Bernal and Chris Ward

NBC 7 news anchor Gene Cubbison will moderate the debate between the two Democrats. A third candidate, Scott Sanborn, who is running a nonpartisan campaign, was not invited to participate, according to organizers.

For Bernal and Ward, debates are a vital way to reach voters ahead of the June 7 primary. Interest is already heightened this year because of the presidential campaign, and California’s primary vote could push one or more candidates over the top in the delegate count. Early voting, via mail-in ballot, begins May 9.

“I think it’s important for voters and residents to hear the different perspectives of each candidate. From day one, I have based my campaign on the thoughts, concerns and opinions of D3 constituents. Community debates and forums provide another avenue for me to connect with residents and that’s why I value them,” Bernal said.

“Many voters receive their ballots in four weeks and have an important choice to make in who is going to represent their interests at City Hall for the next four years,” Ward said.

“Debates are one of the best ways for voters to hear how the candidates deal with complex questions facing our communities, what their values and decision making process are, and to whom they are accountable. I am proud to have participated in every forum and debate that I have been invited to so voters in every neighborhood can hear my vision for our neighborhoods,” he added.

In Bernal and Ward, District 3 voters have two candidates who are considered highly qualified for the job. Each was asked to convince readers why they would be the best choice.

“I remind voters of my experience, and that is my great advantage in this race. I have been working for Councilmember Todd Gloria and Council District Three for the past seven years. The history, background knowledge, and professional relationships I have acquired offer a seamless transition in leadership and a continuation of the quality service residents have come to expect from City Hall,” Bernal said.

“Further, I’m not a politician. I don’t come from a highly political environment like the State Legislature. Rather, I’m running because I genuinely want to continue our City’s progress and deliver results for residents. I am capable of doing all this and more starting on day one,” he added.

“I believe I have a greater breadth of experience and regional relationships to provide accomplishments for Council District 3,” Ward said.

“Being a councilmember is more than providing constituent casework for one neighborhood at a time. Todd Gloria knew that from his work as Congresswoman Davis’s district director, and outside roles prepared him well,” he said.

“As chief of staff to [state] Senator Marty Block, I have managed an office of individuals (roughly the same size as a council office) working on policy development, constituent case work, and public budgeting for a district of almost 1 million San Diegans, including all neighborhoods of District Three simultaneously. I was previously an environmental planner developing the very housing elements, community plans, CEQA documents and more that our councilmembers are tasked with reviewing and understanding. My own volunteerism extends to leadership roles through my planning group and non-profit community organizations, not an extension of my paid job.  The organizations and individuals that have looked at the field in this race and endorsed me have done so because they believe I have the experience and relationships to exercise leadership for the district on day one.”

Debate sponsors are the Hillcrest Business Association (HBA), Gaslamp Quarter Association, the Downtown Partnership, East Village Association, and the Mission Hills Business Association — business groups representing five of the neighborhoods that are part of District 3. The district includes Downtown, Bankers Hill, Park West, Hillcrest, Mission Hills, Medical District, Middletown, University Heights, North Park and Normal Heights.

Benjamin Nicholls, executive director of the HBA, explained why his group got involved in this particular debate.

“We co-sponsored it because we felt that the members of this coalition face similar issues as HBA and we thought our voice would be stronger if we partnered with like-minded groups. We also like to get together with our neighbors and talk about civic challenges and opportunities,” he said.

Nicholls also shared why Sanborn was left out of the debate.

“We didn’t discuss inviting Scott,” he said. “I don’t think anyone on the organizing panel knows him, and he certainly hasn’t been involved in the neighborhood business associations. We might have invited him if he had been more engaged with San Diego’s small-business community.”

The organizers even offered a good reason for the debate location.

“East Village is central to the neighborhoods involved and we were looking for a places that represented the dynamism and excitement of these neighborhoods,” Nicholls said. “The facility at Snowflake is really exciting and represents the future for small-business incubation. Plus, we can sell beer.”

And that’s why this debate differs from so many other ones.

“We’re selling beer and wine at the event. The net proceeds will go to the BID Foundation. This group supports small neighborhood business groups that aren’t large enough to have a full-fledged BID. Neighborhoods supported by the BID Foundation include Bankers Hill, Barrio Logan, Thorn Street and South Park. Warren Simon is the chair of this group.”

So order a beer, listen to the debate, and help your neighborhood business groups.

To submit possible questions for the candidates, send them to Nicholls at Questions can also be submitted before the debate.

—Ken Williams is editor of Uptown News and Mission Valley News and can be reached at or at 619-961-1952. Follow him on Twitter at KenSanDiego, Instagram account at KenSD or Facebook at KenWilliamsSanDiego.

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