Is there a political method to the madness in last week’s pension-board shake-up by San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders? With the city council assenting, the mayor switched out three incumbent boardmembers with three new ones of his own picking. Sanders’s spokespeople said it was time for a change, but California political insiders note that one new boardmember, Herb Morgan, is a GOP stalwart with close ties to national-party money — and that would come in handy for Sanders should he decide to seek another office.
Last July in Las Vegas, Morgan, a “personal wealth manager” who runs Del Mar–based Efficient Market Advisors, announced “California Small Business Leaders for McCain,” sponsored by John McCain’s presidential campaign against Barack Obama. “Senator Obama has put forward an economic plan that will saddle small businesses with higher taxes [and] expensive mandates and that’s change we can’t afford,” Morgan said in a news release put out by the McCain forces that were blasting the Democratic candidate for being a free spender.
Though there may be some irony in the fact that Sanders currently has his hand out to Obama for federal bailout money, the mayor has never been shy about raising funds to fuel his political ambitions, and the political goodwill Morgan can generate in the GOP is expected to come in handy.
But Sanders, a self-styled moderate Republican who supports gay marriage, may have to watch his back. In May 2001, the magazine Human Events reported that Morgan, then living in Arizona and working as a senior vice president at Dreyfus Investments, met for lunch at the Phoenix Biltmore with former Arizona Republican National Committeeman Jack Londen. The purpose of their meeting was to draft someone to run against McCain in the 2004 primary for his Senate seat; they said they “could no longer support McCain after his latest renegade vote” against a Bush tax-cut measure.
“I was disappointed that our governor [Republican Jane Hull] chose to endorse George W. Bush in the Arizona primary last year over a native candidate,” Morgan told the magazine. “Now I realize that she made a fantastic decision. After that vote of his, I’m through with John McCain.” Despite Morgan’s best efforts, McCain remained senator.
Lately, Sanders has been stuffing city advisory boards with contributors and would-be contributors. Despite his denials, the mayor, a political chameleon, is widely expected to run for congress, the legislature, or statewide office, depending on the best opportunity that presents itself. Reached by phone this week, Morgan said he hasn’t yet met Sanders, and added that as of late he has not been as active in Republican politics as in years past. The pension-board post “is a nonpartisan position,” he noted, and there was no quid pro quo involved in his appointment.