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Political insiders say secret deal made in Carlsbad mayor’s race

CARLSBAD — Political insiders say a secret backroom deal is in the works to help elect Councilman Keith Blackburn as the next mayor of Carlsbad.

Linda Slater, president of the Democratic Club of Carlsbad-Oceanside, or DEMCCO, said she was made aware of at least two local Democrat party members who approached three sitting council members — Blackburn, Councilwoman Priya Bhat-Patel and Councilwoman Teresa Acosta — with a deal to support Blackburn’s candidacy in exchange for voting to appoint former local candidate Lela Panagides to the council.

Blackburn is running against Mike Curtin for the mayor’s seat.

Several other sources, consisting of both Democrats and Republicans, also confirmed the deal with The Coast News, but each insisted on anonymity due to potential retaliation. None of the sources said when the agreement may have transpired.

Panagides, who lost to Blackburn for the council’s District 2 seat in 2020, denied any deal was in place in a Facebook post that has since been removed. 

“I want to state unequivocally that this is false,” Panagides wrote in the post. “Keith Blackburn and I have never had a verbal or written exchange regarding anything to do with filling a seat on the Carlsbad City Council. Also, appointments are elected by a majority of the vote of all council members. If Keith Blackburn is elected mayor, then the council will decide to have an election or an appointment to fill his district seat. I hope this clears up any confusion about this matter.”

Bhat-Patel and Acosta did not respond to questions about reports of the deal. 

Blackburn told The Coast News there is “absolutely no deal,” calling the reports “misinformation,” adding he can’t control who spreads rumors and misinformation. He said he is focusing on his race in the final week.

The longtime council member, who said he hasn’t spoken with Panagides in over a year, said he supports an appointment to his seat should he win the mayor’s race, but only for a qualified individual. 

If a vacancy is declared by the City Council with more than one year but less than 25 months remaining in the term from the date of the declaration of vacancy, the city council may either appoint a person to fill the vacancy or call a special election to fill the vacancy. In addition, the council must appoint or call a special election within 14 days of the declared vacancy.

If the council decides to appoint a new member and is unable to make an appointment within 45 days, a special election shall be called.

Voters, meanwhile, would have to follow the recall process to override an appointment, if the council chose to appoint a new member.

Blackburn is running from a “safe seat,” meaning he retains his position on the council even if he loses his mayoral bid. If he wins, the City Council can appoint a replacement or hold a special election to fill the vacant District 2 seat. 

But Blackburn’s opponent has personally observed the political machinations of local Democratic power brokers and politicos in Carlsbad.

During a recent mayoral forum, Curtin said a small faction of members in the Democratic Club of Carlsbad-Oceanside worked to torpedo his endorsement from the San Diego County Democrat Party based on his friendship with Mayor Matt Hall, a Republican.

Curtin, who changed his registration from “No Party Preference” to “Democrat” on the advice of consultants, later questioned his party-line shift after learning of attempts to sabotage his party endorsement.

“The hypocrisy of the elected Carlsbad Democrats is astounding,” Curtin said in a statement. “Prior to my endorsement interview, a Democratic Party official expressed advance knowledge of their intention to collude with my Republican opponent and suggested that they would not endorse me in my quest to become the Democratic Party endorsed candidate for mayor of Carlsbad.

“When the time came, both of them declined to endorse me. Following that, and leading up to my party endorsement interview, these officials and their allies engaged in a smear campaign to manipulate Democratic Central Committee members into believing that the best path forward for the Democratic Party is to have no endorsed candidate for Mayor of Carlsbad.

“This begs the question as to what their true motivations were and what personal ambitions are fueling their collusion with my Republican opponent in order to maintain the status quo and not have an independent, free thinker as mayor?”

Curtin said not receiving the county Dems’ endorsement has allowed him to continue his grassroots campaign to target Democrats, Republicans and independents alike.

Janet Lacy of Oceanside, who spoke in support of Curtin during his endorsement hearing, said she was angry at the lies and misrepresentation shared by three individuals who spoke against Curtin. She described those against Curtin as “conspiracy theorists” who never wanted to hear Curtin’s ideas and feared their inability to control him if elected mayor. 

“These people were just hostile,” Lacy said of the endorsement hearing. “I admire Mike, and no one can control him.”

Oceanside Mayor Esther Sanchez, a Democrat, has voiced her support for Curtin and spoke in his favor during the endorsement hearing, along with former Carlsbad City Councilwoman Julie Nygaard. Curtin also has endorsements from the conservative Latino American Political Association, Planned Parenthood and Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters.

Blackburn holds endorsements from the San Diego County Republican Party and the Carlsbad Police and Fire associations.

Personal and political attacks let fly in Carlsbad’s D1, D3 races 

DeeDee Trejo-Rowlett, one of six candidates running for the District 1 seat on the Carlsbad City Council, faced a torrid backlash of online criticism from resident Kris Wright, who questioned Trejo-Rowlett’s ability to read city staff reports based on her lack of a college degree.

Specifically, Wright said she is backing Sam Ward, a lawyer and candidate endorsed by the county Democratic Party, because of his ability to read city staff reports as “he is used to reading (legal) briefs.”

Trejo-Rowlett, who has typically remained out of the online political fray, questioned Wright regarding the relevance of her academic background to her candidacy, noting Wright and others helped elect former Councilwoman Cori Schumacher, who also did not have a college degree and subsequently resigned in 2021 due to the threat of a recall election.

Trejo-Rowlett said she worked for 25 years at Bank of America, spending 20 years in executive roles, and also runs her family business, Lola’s 7Up Deli.

In addition, D1 candidate Tony Bona made waves on Oct. 31 after launching a political attack on social media against District 3 incumbent Councilwoman Priya Bhat-Patel.

Bona tweeted, “I wonder if the people in your district know what the Mayor of Carlsbad (Matt Hall) thinks of you? Your wasteful spending will find you working at your family Subway shop and not the council.”

Bhat-Patel and others criticized Bona’s tweet, calling it racist and misogynistic, which Bona denied. Since taking office in 2018, Bhat-Patel said she’d received bigoted messages and threats of violence from other individuals (not Bona), including death and sexual assault. She hoped the mayor would denounce Bona’s sentiments.

“Priya Bhat-Patel went to social media and materially omitted the full sentence,” Bona said. “She only showed half of the sentence which took everything out of context. We have seen this divisiveness before, and it doesn’t belong in Carlsbad politics. The purpose of my tweet was to let people in District 3 know that the Mayor (Hall) is endorsing her challenger Ray Pearson. It is my opinion that she is not competent to be on council because of her excessive spending habits and she should find another place to work since she may be out of a job. Her material omissions of facts should be very telling to the voters in District 3.


NOEL BREEN November 4, 2022 at 1:51 pm

I have been a frequent target of those in the “Hate Factory” for years. If you do a search on this site alone, you’ll read a heaping helping of the invective, that only Carlsbad’s Hate Factory can generate. Like Matt Hall, Tracy Carmichael, my wife, and a few others, it is now DeeDee and Ray and Mike who are “on point” for all the cruel comments and other forms of less public intimidation these folks muster against anybody who defies them. I know better than most, for they ran my wife and I out of town.

When my wife saw how things were headed in 2018 with our local coven, she dared to run for the District One seat, it infuriated them. Just mentioning our experiences to others was enough to trigger the same people into saying the same sort of cruel things we read today said about others, The reason why this story has triggered such a feral reaction on their platforms is not about their evil plotting on behalf of Lela. It’s because the secret is out, and like happens to all little tyrannies when the ability to shock people fades, so does their influence.

I will note that until he ran for office, Sam Ward for years leveraged his skills as an “anti-corruption attorney” read “class action lawyer” to denigrate my wife and I in order to gain the endorsements of many listed on his campaign website. Neither of us have ever met this nasty little fellow, and we find it ironic we accidentally have aided his (and his wife’s) political career by being on the incoming end of his catty and always false online sharp elbows. As an expert in their tactics, I still think Wright’s comment that only Ward could read a staff report was a new low. Thankfully, it’s backfired.

When you vote on Tuesday, there are a lot of things to consider. In many places these elections are seen as tests of democracy itself. You choice at the polls locally is much simpler. Carlsbad has a group of 20 or so trolls that have an inordinate grip on the public dialogue, and were busted here for bragging about it. As we see as recently as today with Catherine Blakespear, their politicians use SLAPP suits to quell dissent to shut truth tellers up. Corinne Schumacher once said “they may sound like issue oriented comments, but they are really personal attacks.” A vote for Ward, Bhat-Patel, or Blackburn is a vote to continue the insanity. Don’t do it.

lslater November 4, 2022 at 11:13 am

I was contacted by Steve Puterski and asked to comment about the vote at the North Coast Area of the San Diego County Democratic Party to endorse Carlsbad mayor candidate, Mike Curtin. The vote fell short of the 60% threshold needed to receive an endorsement, consequently, Mr. Curtin did not receive the party’s endorsement for his mayoral race. Mr. Blackburn is a Republican and the Democratic party endorses only Democrats. The information about some sort of backroom deal or conspiracy at the beginning of this article attributed to me is false. In my telephone discussion with Mr. Puterski, I did not talk about any conspiracy regarding the election and I have not engaged in any conversations with elected officials in Carlsbad about a deal. Mr. Puterski did not accurately report what I said to him making me conclude that his writing is unreliable and a disservice to the readers of Coast News.

Jordan Ingram November 4, 2022 at 2:55 pm

Ms. Slater, We have you on the record confirming to Steve Puterski your knowledge about the existence of a deal in the Carlsbad mayor’s race. Here’s a good definition of on-the-record rules from ReThink Media: “Unless you specify otherwise and explicitly gain the prior agreement of the reporter, assume that everything you say to a reporter is on-the-record. You can’t say something interesting and then suddenly declare it on background or come back later to claim you didn’t actually say it. If you wish to speak, but not on the record, you must receive the reporter’s agreement first. If the reporter doesn’t agree, you’re still on the record.”

Despite your sudden change of heart in response to what is undoubtedly immense pressure being placed on you from within the party, The Coast News stands by Steve’s reporting. We have seen the notes from his conversation with you. This wasn’t “gotcha” journalism. It was a simple question, to which you answered in the affirmative. If we make a mistake, we are the first to own it and issue a correction. In this case, just because you wish to take something back doesn’t mean Steve failed to accurately report the details of your conversation with him. We are happy to discuss this further with you: [email protected].

Jill White November 3, 2022 at 1:59 pm

Based on the article it seems that all the same hostile, angry supporters of Cori Schumacher are supporting Sam Ward and attacking Dee Dee. The funny thing is that many don’t even live in District 1. I attended a forum at the Windmill where Sam Ward bragged about all the money he raised. To me personally that is a bad thing because most likely he will favor his donors over my family. I want a real representative and not some plastic beta-male version of Cori Schumacher. District 1 has 5 candidates other than Sam Ward if you don’t want a repeat of Cori Schumacher and the bullys.

CarlsbadMom November 3, 2022 at 9:07 am

If Sam Ward believes he is going to be some kind of leader in Carlsbad, all he needs to do is read this article. He will be sorely disappointed when he realizes the “Cori Cabal” intends to own him.

Addie November 2, 2022 at 4:21 pm

This is just a rumor from an anonymous source but someone told me that someone else said that the Coast “News” actually practices journalism. Again, this is just an unsourced rumor so it’s probably not true.

CarlsbadMom November 3, 2022 at 10:27 am

Addie, if that was the case, why wouldn’t Blackburn or Lela Penagides be complaining about it. Lela’s one response was a denial on Facebook that has since been deleted.

Jill White November 3, 2022 at 2:04 pm

Addie – Sources were stated like “Linda Slater, president of the Democratic Club of Carlsbad-Oceanside”. Just because it doesn’t align with your view or choice of candidate doesn’t mean it isn’t true. You need more proof – go to Facebook – WakeUpCarlsbad and try and voice any opposition to Sam Ward or Keith Blackburn and the admins will shut you down quicker than a New York minute. Same koo-koo supporters of Cori. Not for me!

LOL November 3, 2022 at 8:39 pm

Addie has obsessively spent these past few years slandering Matt Hall and all those evil people who supported the Caruso Mall. (I wonder how it feels to support that Blackburn fellow nowadays who used to be squarely in their demonology)

Just like her running mates in the “Wake Up Carlsbad” Hate Factory, Addie (AKA Addicted) is hooked on denigrating anyone who shows signs of divergent thought. We should worry about her going forward, as Hall’s departure will leave her at a loss for content except complaints about her SSDI check being late or her opiate prescription running low.

But humor aside, do you want the proprietors of a troll farm to become the voice of your community? “The Hate Factory” has achieved a dangerous level of influence in the affairs of this community, because they are cruel bullies.

Ms. Wright’s comments about Ms. Trejo-Rowlett was bordering on a trope, with the unfortunate implication that a Latina with very obvious business experience was somehow less capable of reading an agenda packet than a glorified ambulance chaser , our resident local NEWSMAX contributor with that controversial PHD, or a certain ex policeman who has been there a little too long.

Adding to the utter vapidity and hypocrisy of our Hate factory’s self declared “scientific expert” is the fact she and her allies are dealing the cards below the deck to elect Keith Blackburn- a guy who has bragged over the years that he only reads the first sentence of the executive summaries of the staff reports. One cannot make this stuff up, unless (of course) they are as reckless with the facts as Carlsbad’s Hate Factory.

robert November 2, 2022 at 6:40 am

Just read the Coast News article concerning underhanded tactics against Mike Curtin and Dee Dee Trejo Rowlett (a nice way of putting it). Specifically in this article, the questioning of her intelligence and competence in reviewing the various documents she will be reviewing as our next District 1 Councilmember. The reason, according to finger-pointer Kristin Wright? Dee Dee doesn’t hold a 4-year degree.

Seriously, Kristin? That all you’ve got?

As Samuel L. Jackson said in a very famous movie, allow me to retort. Raise your hand if you’ve known someone who, during the course of your life, squandered a 4-year degree and didn’t fully apply themselves or attain their career potential?

OK. Now to it: Dee Dee was a Bank of America manager and executive for 20 years. Quick question, naysayers: Ever seen the complexity of high-level banking docs? She reviewed them every day. For years. And kept getting promoted. Not only will she comprehend every word of every doc she sees in City Hall after she’s read and done due diligence, but she’ll also likely be ahead of the game in envisioning impacts, ramifications, solutions – and then working to make it happen.

What do personal attacks like those in the The Coast News article tell the vast majority of us who are into integrity, ethics, honor and respect for all? I know my answer – I turn to and protect the one with these qualities who is being attacked. Especially when the attack focuses, in this specific case, on one of the most reassuring faces in Carlsbad over the course of her lifetime, a great problem-solver and team (and consensus) builder who knows her District 1, its history, people and issues better than… well, try finding another. Not in this election!

Interesting how both attacks were unleashed on the two lifetime locals, who really DO AND WILL bridge divides and bring people together. Voters need to take the last step and elect Dee Dee and Mike to show that attacks like these only bring out the shining community stars these two are, even more brightly.

Robert Yehling

LOL November 1, 2022 at 6:06 pm

The exchange in the Wake Up Carlsbad “hate factory” with Kristine Wright viciously attacking Ms. Trejo-Rowlett provided this voter with enough reason to vote for her. If Dr. Bhat-Patel wants to tone police Anthony Bona, that is one thing. But attacking the Mayor (who endorsed her opponent) for Anthony’s antics is pretty disingenuous, since PBP knows full well that Mayor Hall supports the Republican Party’s endorsed candidate for that seat.

The time has come for Carlsbad’s politics to be defined by serious people who care about the community as a whole, not a few NIMBYs who have created a troll farm. If Panagides really is coming from a place of integrity, certainly she’ll be happy to state for the record that she will not accept an appointment from a tainted process in District Two. If the name comes up next year, there needs to be a recall.

CarlsbadMom November 3, 2022 at 9:12 am

Interesting to note that Sam Ward actually got on Wake Up Carlsbad to encourage the “hate factory” to stop. They continued like his comments didn’t even exist. He can expect more of the same if elected.

Jill White November 4, 2022 at 11:16 am

@Carlsbad Mom – I follow the WakeUp Carlsbad page and I saw the post by Ward to ask them to be nice. Literally moments later he was stoking the flames and giving a thumbs up to a cartoon of Matt Hall and Caruso. Personally I am done with hypocrites since the Cori Schumacher FAILURE. Why would anyone evr vote for another cast in Schumacher’s mold?

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