Carl DeMaio announces run for Congress

SAN DIEGO - Former San Diego City Councilman and mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio Thursday formally announced his candidacy for the 2014 race for the 52nd Congressional District.

In confirming his long-rumored plans to run for Congress, DeMaio, who is openly gay, called for his party to focus on economic issues rather than lifestyle questions.

"I see myself as a 'new generation Republican' who wants to challenge the party to focus on pocket-book, economic and quality of life issues in a more positive and inclusive way, rather than issues that are frankly none of the government's business in the first place," he said.

In an emailed statement to more than 12,000 supporters, the 38-year-old DeMaio said his work in reforming government must continue.

"Like you, I am concerned about the condition and course of government at all levels and the troubled state of our economy," DeMaio wrote. "Like you, I'm not willing to let our country, state or cities fall further into disrepair without fighting to fix the problems. That's why I have decided to run for Congress -- and I'd like you to be part of our campaign to offer bold reform ideas in an inclusive and fresh way."

The Iowa native who grew up in Orange County hopes to unseat freshman Congressman Scott Peters, D-San Diego, also a former San Diego City Councilman.

"I'm not there to bide time, to warm a seat; not there for a title. I'm there to get things done for San Diegans, just like I did on City Council … He actually has a career of being in government and doing the wrong things," DeMaio said of Peters. "He's consistently been against reform. He created the financial crisis in San Diego when he was on the City Council. When I took office on the council, I had to clean up his mess."

This comment from the Peters camp was quickly posted by spokeswoman MaryAnne Pintar on Twitter: "Didn't San Diego voters just reject that Tea Party agenda a few months ago?"

DeMaio served one four-year term on the council, beginning in 2008, before running unsuccessfully against Democrat Bob Filner in San Diego's mayoral race last year.

Peters, 54, served two four-year terms on the council from 2000 to 2008. Upon terming out, he served on the Port of San Diego Board of Commissioners.

In a tight race that wasn't decided until about a week after voters went to the polls, Peters edged out Republican Brian Bilbray, R-Solana Beach, for the 52nd Congressional District seat last fall.

The district, which represents mostly coastal and coastal-inland North County, has traditionally always gone to a conservative. But redistricting divided the voting bloc last year in thirds between Democrats, Republicans and independents, paving the way for a closer race.

In his emailed statement, DeMaio outlined four priorities if he is elected, including balancing the federal budget, making government work again for citizens, revitalizing the economy and imposing accountability and transparency in Congress. On the budget, he said the House and Senate need "some real budget expertise."

"I'm very candid and blunt and direct, and that ruffles feathers in both political parties, so be it," DeMaio told 10News on Thursday. "I believe that as we have in San Diego we can have a major impact on solving the problems in Washington."

10News reached out to Peters for a comment on DeMaio's announcement. Pintar, provided this statement to 10News Thursday:

"Congressman Peters is focused on his job. He's working hard to support our veterans, our innovation economy, and investments in our infrastructure, and to create opportunities for working families. That's why so many business leaders who backed Mr. DeMaio in the past are now firmly behind Scott, and why he's been called one of the most independent thinkers in Congress. While others are focused on politics, the Congressman is focused on problem solving."  

Mesa College political science professor Carl Luna assessed the DeMaio candidacy for 10News.

"For supporters of Carl DeMaio, this is the return of the Jedi. For opponents of Carl DeMaio, this is Freddy Krueger coming back in a Freddy Krueger movie. It's not surprising. Carl DeMaio is a political animal and this is a venue. He can continue his fight; it keeps him in the headlines. If he doesn't win Congress, it sets him up for another run for mayor in four years," Luna said.

There's also the potential for a rematch in the 52nd District election next year, as Brian Bilbray could take a shot at winning back his seat.

He told 10News, "I will never say never. I had no intention of running in '06. I approach politics like when I was a lifeguard -- don't want to jump in cold water and go swimming, but if somebody needs my help, I would do it; but I'm not planning on it … There's going to be a lot of people lining up on this one. He's very vulnerable mostly because if you over-promise, come election time the next cycle, people do remember what promises you made and do look at results."

Luna also considered that possibility.

"If Brian Bilbray takes on Carl DeMaio to fight for the Republican vote, this will help Scott Peters and cause Republican candidates to spend more money in the primary and leaves them less ammunition for the fall campaign."

10News first reported that DeMaio was looking to take Peters' seat on May 20.

At that time, Francine Busby, chairwoman of the local Democratic party, told 10News Peters isn't worried.

"We know that Scott is a perfect match for this district. He did well in the last election and he will do well again," Busby said.

A recent poll by the National Republican Congressional Committee showed DeMaio  with 49 percent support, compared to 39 percent for Peters.

"The numbers showing Carl DeMaio beating Scott Peters are the best numbers of any challenger to a Democratic newly minted congressman in the country," Kravaric said.

But Busby said the poll was nothing more than a sham to bolster DeMaio.

"It was presented in a way that looked like it was meant to support CD so he felt that the entire poll was a sham and that it was really there to be a partisan support poll for Carl DeMaio," said Busby.

A spokesperson for Peters gave 10News a statement on May 20:

"While Mr. DeMaio cozies up to the extremists and resurrects the same Tea Party platform voters rejected last fall, Congressman Peters was ranked the 5th most independent member of Congress for his non-partisan, problem solving style. Voters know which one of these men puts people over politics."