Trump crony Doug Manchester role in voter suppression by San Diego Democrats is an embarrassment to the #restorethevote campaign

The idea of Democrats siding with developers over the voters is nothing new in Florida or California. But in this era of Trump, it’s still surprising to see some Democrats play ball with his close associates. Doug Manchester needs no introduction to most people – he has a stranglehold over much of San Diego from a development, media and philanthropic standpoint. Manchester made waves in 2008 when despite owning lots of San Diego real estate, he strongly supported California’s Proposition 8 helping to fund the signature gathering to get it on the ballot. For those of you who have forgotten, Prop 8 was a ban on Same Sex Marriage, that though later overturned, instituted into California’s constitution legal discrimination until struck down by the courts.
 Unlike most GOP donors., Manchester jumped on board with Trump in the summer of 2015 and is reaping the benefits. He has been nominated by the President as the United States Ambassador to the Bahamas, Florida’s closest foreign neighbor. He has yet to be confirmed by the Senate though he pledges to give up “day to day” control over his empire if confirmed. 
Much like what we witness in Florida, Manchester despite being a connected, reactionary conservative Republican nationally holds sway with many Democrats in his local territory.
Quite rightly, every Democrat in the USA (we assume) stands solidly by the side of California’s newly-elected US Senator Kamala Harris and her colleagues’ attempts to prevent the GOP using voter suppression to fix elections. It seems inconceivable that crowds would chant “Let Us Vote” at anyone other than Republicans.

Sadly, that is exactly what has been happening in San Diego. The issue concerns soccer and a Trump appointee so it popped up on my radar – but no doubt this sort of thing is repeating itself all over the nation right now.

The protesters in San Diego that we’ve referenced chanting “Let us Vote” want to vote on a land development deal that would knock down Qualcomm Stadium which has been recently abandoned by the NFL’s San Diego Chargers.

The redevelopment project would build a stadium for a new Major League Soccer team. As we’ve discussed previously in reference to the Tampa Bay Rowdies, two MLS franchises are going to be awarded this December and as we’ve covered extensively the Tampa Bay area wants to be one of them.  Two more  teams are supposed to be added at some point in the middle of next year, thought that timeline isn’t currently very firm. Without a stadium and a development project, San Diego has no chance of winning one at either point. So any attempt to postpone an election till November 2018 effectively kills hopes for MLS Soccer in San Diego. In an unrelated development MLS’ (somewhat) rival league, NASL has announced a new San Diego club this week. More on how that impacts the Fort Lauderdale Strikers (among other Strikers news) tomorrow.

As we’ve discussed here in Florida, the soccer demographic is generally diverse, progressive and leans Democrat. It is one of the few white demographics still in the Democrat column. You only have to see the Gay Rights Rainbow Flag waved at every MLS stadium, Refugees Welcome signs in Portland and even rainbow corner flags at NYCFC to be convinced. The soccer supporters movement has been on the forefront of anti-fascism efforts for years now, and have only been  intensifying since Donald Trump became President. As I’ve openly mused on our Florida Squeeze Podcast I’ve met far more liberal people and more Sanders supporters via soccer than Democratic Party politics, where many if not most are compromised by personal animus and selfish motives. But as I announced a few weeks ago, I am not talking about that anymore. So back to this issue…

Amazingly, it is Republicans in San Deigo, led by maverick Councillor Scot Sherman, who are in favor of letting the citizens decide. For them the attraction is that no taxpayer money is being asked for by the proponents, FS Investors. Also relevant, is that it will cost the city $12m to do nothing, to just leaving  now ancient Qualcomm Stadium standing but continuing its long process of decaying.

So you have this incomprehensible situation where Democrats are trying to suppress an election in order to prevent an outcome that might not fit their individual interests.
They protest that the vote can be held in November 2018 in the most cynical manner. Those proposing this have full knowledge that the result would be irrelevant by then. Imagine those scenarios where you can vote if you are African-American here in Florida but the waiting time is eight times as long if you are African-American, because they deliberately provide less voting machines in minority precincts – of course we know this happens in GOP-controlled counties in Florida. It is still in theory democracy, but one designed to make sure your vote will not count. Much like the poll tax and “white primary” that Democrats in Texas perfected prior to the 1940’s it serves a purpose. Or, as in one GOP proposal struck down by the Supreme Court, you require the exact same IDs which minorities are least likely to have.

So why are San Diego Democrats fighting so hard to prevent the right of other progressive voters to vote for something that, even if passed, will provide a left-leaning voice in their community and provide a revenue stream to the city for years as it has in Seattle?

One answer was provided by journalist Andrew Keatts on the Voice of San Diego site on June 16. In his article, How San Diego’s Biggest Developers Swarmed against Soccer City, he exposed the clique of rival land developers who had been quietly pouring money into the camp trying to prevent the election.

They had hidden behind the Labor Unions, local Democrat politicians and the SDSU. FS Investors’ original proposal involved also building a stadium for the San Diego State University (SDSU) Aztecs until the college negotiators withdrew from the talks suddenly and with no notice. They, represented by the SDSU Alumni, then became implacable opponents of the whole project. Incidentally, the news NASL club in San Diego is owned by SDSU Alum Bob Watkins, but there is no tangible evidence that he has influenced this opposition, or that the NASL is being used to undermine the MLS bid.

Keatts uncovered that one of the main funders was none other than Doug Manchester. Yes, that Doug Manchester.

Manchester as we’ve discussed in the opening is an influential individual. He is also without question an interesting character. He once bought the San Diego Union Tribune with the aim of making it more Conservative. Now he is a close friend of Donald Trump. So close in fact, that Trump has offered him the post of Ambassador to the Bahamas, probably the cushiest and easiest job available. It’s almost like Manchester selected it himself. He has property interests there in Lyford Cay with a building he once owned bearing his name. 

So just as galling for those wanting to vote, is the fact that the Democrats are being bought off by a dedicated and close friend of Donald Trump. Most implacable of all is Democrat Barbara Bry who seems tied to Doug Manchester. She is considered by the pro-election folk to be so corrupted that they aren’t even bothering to reach out to sway her vote. Manchester is also the guy who Trump half-jokingly suggested would build the Mexico Wall for him.

I am not going to debate the merits of the land deal sitting across the country and as someone who wants to see as many soccer facilities built in the country but someone who also wants to see the public interest protected. That decision should be for San Diego voters to decide. The problem is Council President Myrtle Cole whose political ambitions range far and wide as well as her three other Democrat colleagues, Councelers Alvarez, Gomez and Ward will not let them. They are consistently opposing a Special Election in 2017 (similar to the one held in St Petersburg which gave the Tampa Bay Rowdies a leg up potentially in the race for MLS) in order to kill the deal by timing it out. Why are two Hispanic Councillors, three if you count Republican Lorie Zapf, allowing themselves to be manipulated by the likes of Doug Manchester? When challenged, Alvarez was overheard (according to a source in San Diego) telling a Hispanic constituent that “he didn’t want to be put in a box” as a Hispanic.

That’s his right. What is not his right or that of any other Democrat is to undermine the vital national campaign to support the right of people to vote across America. By all means speak up against the proposal to the electorate on behalf of whichever vested interest you care most about. Democrats should be for democracy always. As we’ve seen here in Florida, the ballot and allowing of questions of public interest to be voted on by the public has aided democracy against the runaway arrogance of an entrenched GOP majority in this state whose entire world view is buttressed by crony capitalism. They should especially not oppose elections where the effect will be to kill off a proposal for good. But we must remember in California, the Democrats are the driving party, the ones that govern, and political self-interest and promotion often means doing the bidding of those who fund campaigns and control the playing field – like Doug Manchester.

Their behavior became even more embarrassing last week around the same time the council was thwarting democracy, when Harris tweeted out her support for the Right to Vote.

Harris’ campaign is of course worthy of support from Democrats across the USA. But what ammunition does it give our opponents when Democrats in her own state are actively working for an entrenched interest trying to kill a measure by denying a vote?

Senator Harris’ office has not returned a call made by us about the matter made on the day after her tweet as yet. As the clock on the chance for a 2017 Special Election in San Diego clicks down, there is no evidence that any of the five local Democrats recognize that they are handing ammunition to opponents of the #restorethevote campaign that may well hamper Harris’ promising political career for a long time. And perhaps even but the brakes on Myrtle Cole’s political ambitions for higher office.

These Democrats GOP opponents on San Diego Council are holding their fire in the hope of actually getting the vote permitted for the civic good, but if Democrats continue to block it, you can be sure Doug Manchester’s money will follow us around the country using San Diego as yet another case of Democrat hypocrisy


  1. This is a vote for a special election that will cost 5 million dollars. This article speaks not at all to of the condos, offices, hotels, and shopping that will dominate this site. If no soccer teams comes all that devepment will go ahead anyway. The proposition endruns all the environmental review process of building in a flood plan. It bypasses local laws regarding selling City property. This is all about FS Investors trying to get several hundred acres on the cheap from the taxpayers in San Diego. Soccer has nothing to do with it.


  2. Dennis Corbran · ·

    Also left out is that special elections in off years as FS Investors wanted have low turnout. San Diego passed an ordinance in the last general election to always put initiatives on a a ballot in the next general election year to maximize the number of voters who weigh in. This is the opposite of voter suppression. Maybe Manchester is hoping for some better alternative for him if Soccer City fails. We’ll tackle that when it comes up. Many would like to see an expansion of San Diego State University on that property take first billing in any redevelopment. But blocking a special initiative basically bought by FS Investors from being decided by a tiny minority of voters is good for democracy in San Diego.


  3. Your article is all over the place and difficult to follow your argument. You state, “Keatts uncovered that one of the main funders was none other than Doug Manchester. Yes, that Doug Manchester.”, but I am not sure what D.Manchester is funding and how. You seem to hint at things and not show complete evidence. I would like to know what Manchester’s interest is in this. I think it might be important for San Diego to know this.


  4. blake harper · ·

    this article completely misunderstands what is happening in San Diego. worthless.


  5. blake harper · ·

    Also curious how a previously non-existent FB page is sponsoring the article to San Diegans on FB. Did they also sponsor the article in Florida?


  6. nadinabbott · ·

    Prop L was passed by 300,000 San Diegans. It was passed precisely to prevent low turnout special elections that cost millions. In this case to the tune of 5 million. You are not getting the full nuance of the opposition to this special election, It was so bad that people who favor soccer city in principle, were gong to vote no if this was a special election. However, they might vote yes in 2018. As to the MLS timeline, well Also the city is not following the procedures it should sell surplus property. And 25 meetings behind closed doors between the Mayor, City staff, and FS investors is something to behold. So is a leaked memo. Stick to Florida.


  7. tony wadd · ·

    sounds to me like you should have probably did a bit more research on this issue before submitting it.

    like the others actually LIVING IN SAN DIEGO have pointed out to you, this is the exact opposite of what you’re describing as voter suppression. we voted to set special elections etc for a general election slate precisely so that more citizens would show up to vote.

    this article smacks of soccer city, and displays the same ignorance and disrespect they’ve shown San Diego citizens and it’s laws since the beginning.


    1. bbscribe · ·

      It’s a power play by developers with the face of Landon Donovan.
      Friars Road is full of traffic now. A HUGE development including lots of residential and commercial space would ONLY benefit investors, NOT the community.
      Build a soccer/football field and a park for residents, sure.
      Anything the size these guys are proposing needs to be near Otay where there is a lot of room.
      Also, that’s good for soccer business as Mexican fans can hop over and back more easily.


  8. Sharon · ·

    Contrary to your conjecture about San Diego democratic city council members being corrupted by Manchester, you do not know the whole story. San Diego has had longstanding issues with lack of transparency, back room deals and not following process which is in place for a reason. Unfortunately, sometimes a public process is not as quick or expedient as in the private sector. And you need to carefully examine all aspects of a deal when dealing with public money. That can be frustrating. It is ironic that one of the worst offenders of back room deals and influence came out on the same side as democrats, including Barbara Bry. But do not jump to conclusions based on this. They are not necessarily linked.


  9. Stan Worschertfurg · ·

    Yes, Doug Manchester is an evil developer, but so is FS Investors. Different developers are competing for one of San Diego’s best remaining properties. All want to build more condo tracts. The Chargers proposed that San Diego give them Qualcomm Stadium’s land in return for a new stadium. The City flatly refused. The deal is worth even less now, involving San Diego donating a prime parcel of land in return for vague promises of a soccer stadium.


  10. M. Younes · ·

    The author has a very incomplete understanding of the issue. The soccer development proposal was an attempt to bypass the competitive bidding process and the land give-away involved would have been a very bad deal for SD taxpayers. Also, off-cycle elections do not represent typical voter demographics.


  11. TONY Turner-mercado · ·

    This article should be called how to conflate issues that are only marginally related using straw man arguments and unsupported claims. This is not journalism it is poorly disguised special interest (professional soccer) activism. Why dont you stick to your own community (S. Florida) it has plenty of problems that need it’s citizens attention.


  12. This is a totaly distorted article that misrepresents the facts. Democrats and most sensible people in San Diego oppose the SoccerCity proposal because it’s a land grab by a single developer who’s close to the mayor. It has little to do with soccer and everything to do with greedy, opportunistic developers trying to steal the last large land parcel from taxpayers for pennies on the dollar. Before pontificating on an issue you don’t know or understand, ask a local who does.


  13. I live in San Diego and I find this article very strange, a sort of fun-house mirror reflection of what actually happened. In 2016 the San Diego County Democratic Party campaigned very hard for two propositions designed to increase meaningful voter participation in local elections. One required a runoff vote for Mayor and City Council positions even if one candidate got more than 50 percent of the vote in a primary. The other required that all non-emergency ballot measures be voted on in November of even-numbered years, when voter turnout is at its highest. San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer cooked up the Soccer City development proposal in secret meetings with the developers and then presented it to the City Council, demanding an immediate vote in a low-turnout special election. Other developers, including Doug Manchester, opposed the project because they had been locked out and hadn’t been able to submit their own proposals for the Qualcomm Stadium site. But what was decisive for the Democratic City Councilmembers wasn’t Manchester’s opposition to Soccer City: it was the clear violation of the principle that ballot measures ought to be decided by the largest electorate possible — the one that turns out to vote for President or Governor. Also, San Diego voters had already been burned in 1996, when the San Diego Padres “rented success” by putting a lot of high-powered players under one-year contract the year the initiative to build their stadium was on the ballot, so they made the World Series and boosted their chances of getting the stadium approved. Once the ballot measure passed and Petco Park was built, the Padres let all those players’ contracts expire and have been a lousy team ever since. In 2016 the Chargers didn’t even bother to “rent success” — they expected voters to shell out big-time for a new stadium for a 4-14 team, and the voters overwhelmingly said no. San Diegans are tired of sweetheart deals for sports teams, whatever the sport, and even if it’s true, as Krishnaiyer asserts, that soccer fans tend to be more politically progressive than baseball or football fans, that wasn’t an issue that came up AT ALL in the local deliberations. I applaud the courage of my Democratic City Councilmembers for standing up to the Soccer City sweetheart deal, and if Doug Manchester’s selfish interests led him to a correct position on this issue, he’s the stopped clock that’s right twice a day.


  14. Judy McLean · ·

    The Facebook page Public Land, Public Vote gives the “other side” of these issues some valid consideration. Even the city attorney has said that the “deal” offered by FS doesn’t guarantee a soccer stadium, much less a river front park. Not sure where your funding comes from, but I encourage you to research the issue more thoroughly.

    from Public Land, Public Vote:
    July 18 at 5:00pm ·
    “Soccer”City has nothing to do with Soccer. It’s a bait-and-switch that uses Soccer to disguise FS Investors true motives: Massive Commercial Over-Development.
    According to the City Attorney, the initiative doesn’t guarantee a soccer team, stadium, or river park. However, it will mean over 3 million square feet of high-density development, 450 hotel rooms, and 78,000+ additional car trips every day of the week.
    SHARE NOW to shed a light on this shady backroom deal crafted by and for special interests.


  15. John Tilley · ·

    This is the most partisan one sided narrow minded crap I’ve ever had the displeasure of reading. Even your headline is dripping with disgust, collusion rhetoric and disdain. Open your eyes, and wake up for all of us please. This story has more non-seqquitor statements than anything coming out of CNN at the moment.


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