Once again presidential election season is about to begin, with potential GOP candidates jostling for position in a crowded and confusing pack. A few possible contenders have already made their way to San Diego County to pick up campaign cash. Of special note is Minnesota’s conservative firebrand Republican congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who got $1000 from retired weight-loss magnate Jenny Craig of Rancho Santa Fe, as well as $500 from real estate investor John Peck Jr.…Meanwhile, ex–San Diego lawyer and politico Byron Georgiou is trying to carve out a new career in Nevada, where he’s running for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by scandal-plagued Republican John Ensign, who resigned last month, unable to revive his political fortunes following news of his affair with his top aide’s wife.
A onetime political prodigy here, Georgiou was legal affairs secretary for Democratic governor Jerry Brown during the early 1980s and ran for Congress in a 1990 Democratic primary against incumbent Jim Bates, who had been reproved by the House Ethics Committee in a 1989 sexual harassment case. Georgiou lost out to Bates by a 3 to 2 margin but was widely blamed by local Democrats for softening up the incumbent, who was taken down that November by Republican Randy “Duke” Cunningham, who is today serving a federal prison term on bribery and corruption charges.
In 1992, Georgiou again lost out in a nasty Democratic congressional primary, this time to Lynn Schenk, another ex–Brown aide. In that battle, Georgiou sued Schenk for libel and slander, citing Schenk’s campaign advertising, which featured allegations that Georgiou was a “professional liar,” among other things. Georgiou went into the casino business and worked with La Jolla’s legendary securities lawyer Bill Lerach in pursuing his fraud case against Enron. Lerach later copped a plea to kickback charges in a separate case and did time in federal prison. In July 2006, Georgiou traveled to Ashford Castle in Ireland to marry Thérèse Nora Collins in a lavish ceremony attended by many California political bigwigs. Earlier this year, the couple attended a Saint Patrick’s Day party at the White House, and Georgiou posed for a photo with Vice President Joe Biden.
Despite his big-time connections, and his hiring of the Democrats’ internet whiz Joe Trippi as a top advisor, Georgiou is considered a long shot for the Senate seat in Nevada. He is facing off in the primary against Congresswoman Shelley Berkley, who is directing most of her fire at Republican Dean Heller, a former congressman who was appointed last month to fill out Ensign’s Senate term. Berkley has been endorsed by Nevada Democrats and enjoys the support of Emily’s List, the feminist political action committee, but that hasn’t stopped Georgiou’s local, liberal Democratic friends from kicking in. They include former foe Schenk, who with husband C. Hugh Friedman gave a total of $2000 in March; La Jolla investor Murray Galinson, who came up with $2500; and Michelle Ciccarelli, who owns Cups, a trendy cupcake shop in La Jolla, and also happens to be married to Bill Lerach. Federal records show that through March 31 of this year, Georgiou had $1,073,907 in cash on hand, $500,000 of which he personally lent to the campaign.
According to his campaign website, “Byron currently oversees Georgiou Enterprises, with wide ranging interests throughout Nevada.” Among the firm’s local ventures, its website says, are Chula Vista’s Salt Creek golf club: “Located beneath the shadows of Mt. Miguel and adjacent to a State Wildlife preserve, Salt Creek offers a unique golf experience to all levels of players.”