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The People vs Goliath: How Coronado Fell Prey to Partisan Politics and How We Can Take Back Control

Updated: Sep 20, 2020

Our local elected offices (i.e., Mayor, City Council and CUSD Governing Board) are defined by the California Constitution as “nonpartisan” offices, and Coronado has a longstanding tradition of nonpartisan elections.  However, the political climate in Coronado changed in 2012 when Richard Bailey ran for City Council getting 3,241 votes, edging out lifelong Coronado resident and former Councilwoman Susan Keith by only 116 votes to nab the final Council seat on the dais.  This was a pivotal moment in the history of our local politics, as it changed the landscape by infusing Coronado with partisanship to an extent never seen before in the town.  While Susan Keith is registered Republican, and comes from a multi-generational family of Coronado Republicans, she valued the nonpartisan nature of local offices, and did not seek a partisan endorsement.  Richard Bailey, however, did seek and obtain an endorsement from the Republican Party of San Diego County, which came with a windfall of partisan advertising that, in a town predominately registered Republican, was enough to edge out Susan Keith for the narrow victory in 2012. 

It is important to note while Bailey was a political newcomer to Coronado in 2012, he had previously run for the State Assembly 77th District (outside of Coronado) in 2010 in what Bailey himself characterized as "a frenzied competition to claim the title of 'Most Conservative' amongst the Republican candidates."   Bailey lost the election for 77th Assembly District in 2010, then moved to Coronado, a town with a 2 to 1 ratio of registered Republicans to Democrats at the time, and on June 5th 2012, got himself elected to the Central Committee of the Republican Party of San Diego County that decides who gets the Republican endorsements in Coronado.  Given his standing on the Central Committee, Bailey got the Republican endorsement in 2012 to narrowly defeat his fellow Republican Susan Keith who would never consider seeking a partisan endorsement for a nonpartisan office.    

Bailey's infusion of partisan interference in Coronado continued in 2016 when he ran for Mayor against then Councilmember Carrie Downey.  Sitting on the Central Committee, Bailey of course got the Republican endorsement along with the windfall of partisan advertising that included door to door solicitation by Republican volunteers, door hangers, mailers, videos and robocalls, etc.  The partisan interference continued in 2018 when Bailey personally endorsed Council candidate Marvin Heinze and gave Heinze the Republican endorsement along with its windfall of partisan advertising, which allowed Heinze to edge out Council candidate Mary Sikes who had the next highest vote total.  Now, in 2020, not only Bailey, but his campaign treasurer Brad Gerbel, both sit on the Central Committee of the Republican Party of SD County that decides who gets the Republican endorsements in Coronado.  Naturally, Bailey has the Republican endorsement for Mayor in 2020, and both Bailey and Gerbel were able to pick and choose whatever candidates they wanted to bestow the same advantage to for Council and School Board -- they chose Council candidate John Duncan, and School Board candidates Kenneth Michael Canada & Stacey Keszei (both whom signed the petition opposing the CUSD anti-racism action plan) to receive the Republican endorsement.  Residents may soon see these Republican endorsed candidates featured on door hangers, mailers and robocalls as we approach the November 3rd general election. 

With respect to Bailey’s influence over the Central Committee, I recently asked Jordan Gascon (Executive Director of the Republican Party of SD County) whether Bailey carries weight with the Central Committee regarding who gets the Republican endorsements in Coronado… Gascon replied: “Absolutely, the Committee would give weight to the Mayor. He represents the city and all of its constituents. It would be absurd to think that a mayor or any elected official would not have weight in the discussion. Politics are local and having local knowledge goes a long way in such a large county.”  So, the bottom line is Bailey and his campaign treasurer control the Republican endorsements in Coronado.  In addition, with a preponderance of registered Republicans over Democrats in Coronado, partisan division in the town works to Bailey’s political advantage, and many of Bailey's loyal supporters create partisan division throughout town, on social media, in editorial pieces, at Council meetings, etc… pitting neighbor against neighbor and friend against friend, which works to the political advantage of Mayor Bailey.

Mayor Bailey also has a group of staunch supporters operate as what many have characterized as a “hit squad,” assassinating the character and credibility of any citizen, candidate, or prospective candidate for local office who poses a perceived threat to Bailey’s political agenda or future political aspirations.  In 2018, I was the target of the hit squad who ran a concerted, multi-pronged smear campaign against me, a citizen, related to my sewage activism, that included improperly obtaining emails between me and the Mayor of Imperial Beach, sending those emails anonymously to a Coronado journalist encouraging her to write a piece questioning my credibility, then later covering their tracks by making a public records request in IB to properly obtain the emails, then having the administrator of Coronado’s largest social media group launch the email in his group and ban me.   Many of us also saw the smear video against Councilman Sandke in 2018 – also the work of the hit squad.  As other examples, Mayor Bailey and his hit squad have threatened other Council candidates (which led one prospective candidate to pull out of the Council race), manipulated local media including social media, tried to get a writer for a local publication disciplined or fired, tried to get an outspoken employee of the City disciplined or fired, submitted dozens of hit piece editorials to local publications, and launched defamatory rants and smears on social media and at Council meetings against prominent Coronado residents.  

Through the combination of (1) active partisan interference into our town’s electoral process for nonpartisan offices, (2) creating partisan division in a town predominately registered Republican, and (3) utilizing a “hit squad” to threaten any citizen/candidate who may pose a perceived threat to Bailey’s agenda, Bailey has a political stranglehold on the town. It is therefore no surprise Bailey is running unopposed for Mayor in 2020.  As Bailey is running unopposed, those who donated to Bailey’s 2020 re-election campaign have likely donated to his campaign for next level office outside Coronado in 2022 and/or 2024, as campaign finance regulations allow a candidate to use “leftover campaign funds” for a future campaign, even if for a different office.  So we are stuck with Bailey until 2022 when he runs for higher office, or if not elected for higher office in 2022, then 2024 when he terms out.  That is a long time for the City of Coronado to live within the political stranglehold of Bailey and his hit squad, but we may not have an alternative, other than recall.  Bailey is eligible for recall 90 days into his 2nd term.  Perhaps the biggest long term concern in all of this, is that Bailey has created a blue print that other career politicians may use in Coronado, which has been identified as a breeding ground and stepping stone for rising Republican politicians.  Here in Coronado in 2020, we see City Council candidate John Duncan apparently following this partisan blue print for political ascent.  Watch for Duncan to receive the mayoral endorsement + Republican endorsement, along with professional marketing/branding, which was a winning combination that worked to get Marvin Heinze elected to the dais in 2018.  Residents have already seen a professional website and social media pages, and paid campaign ads for Duncan running on Facebook and Instagram.   With regard to where we should be going and how the people of Coronado can take back control against outside partisan interests, we need to get this town back to a focus on local, nonpartisan elections.  We need a leader in the town to bring residents together – not divide the town along partisan lines for political gain.  The only way to accomplish this is for candidates NOT to seek partisan endorsements, and for residents NOT to vote for candidates who have sought partisan endorsements.  From the candidates on the outside looking in this November, City Council candidates Tim Rohan and Casey Tanaka, and School Board candidate Alexia Palacios-Peters, have NOT sought partisan endorsements.  I urge Coronado residents to vote for City Council and School Board candidates in 2020 who have NOT sought partisan endorsements, and as Bailey is running unopposed, ABSTAIN for Mayor.  Please sign the petition to keep Coronado elections nonpartisan.   Daron A. Case, Esq.

Resident letters submitted to Coronado Electorate News & Commentary (CEN&C) are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of CEN&C. Submit letters to

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