Has the homestretch of San Diego's marathon mayoral race taken a detour down "the low road?"
The frontrunner is accusing his detractors of harassing him via the cell phone number he freely gives out to constituents.
City Councilman Carl DeMaio is facing legions of opposition in organized labor for his key role in Proposition B, the municipal pension reform measure on the June ballot.
He says it's one thing to challenge his ideas -- quite another to browbeat him, by way of a mass phone-in.
"It's negative, it's nasty, it's confrontational," DeMaio said in an interview Monday at his campaign headquarters in Murphy Canyon, where samples of the voice messages and texts are stored on a laptop computer.
"Why can't you answer the questions, huh?" asks a female caller. "Because you're a scum!"
"Hey, Carl!" a man's voice inquires. "I would like to know if you ever had a real job, one that you had to work hard at, and they didn't give you a break?"
Among the texts: "San Diego working class cant (sic) be messed with," and "Using taxpayer money to run your campaign is dirty."
In all, nearly 200 voice and text messages were left on DeMaio's personal cell phone less than half last Saturday, starting in the aftermath of a San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council march and rally downtown honoring Cesar Chavez, at which organizers gave out his number.
Labor leaders say they took to this tactic because DeMaio ducks relevant questions about his motives, methods and ethics.
He rejects those charges and premises, and says the questions have been "asked and answered".
"You have government unions that are so afraid their sweetheart deals are going to be ended in my administration that they are desperate," DeMaio said. "And they are attacking, and they are getting personal in this campaign. I choose to basically let it roll off my shoulders and focus on solutions for San Diegans."
Four years ago, DeMaio took heat for being caught on surveillance video, trespassing on the property of his opponent in the 5th District council race, to put his own campaign signs up next to his rival’s large banner.
Local political observers point out, sadly, that as election days draw near, campaigns tend to go negative.
"All this stuff, just whatever you can find, (is) whatever you can do to try to take anybody off their game in what shape or form," says Liam Dillon, who specializes in city hall and local government coverage for the online news outlet Voice of San Diego.org.
"Everything's going to be coming for the next nine weeks (before the June 5th primary election) and all through November, eventually," Dillon predicts. "When the stakes are so high, you're going to see everyone pulling out all the stops. That's just the way it is."
DeMaio vows to keep the cell phone number anyway.
He says he'd rather sift through crank-call messages -- which have begun trickling off -- than miss hearing about a constituent's problem with city services or neighborhood issues.