Back in February, the national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee issued a 14-member "Frontline" list of its most threatened House incumbents.
La Jolla congressman Scott Peters was featured prominently.
"Each one of these members knows what it takes to win tough elections: working hard, standing up for your district, and not taking anything for granted," said a February 12 statement by campaign committee chairman Ben Ray Lujan, carrying an implicit pledge of big special-interest money to come.
"Scott Peters puts us at risk" spot
Now, keeping its own promise to spend heavily to unseat Peters next year, the National Republican Congressional Committee has rolled out what it says will be a six-figure TV and internet campaign in the coming weeks against Peters and two other House Democrats.
Citing "a source with knowledge of the buys," Roll Call says Peters, along with Brad Ashford of Nebraska and Rick Nolan of Minnesota, will be hit "on national security issues."
Noting that Peters is currently in a "safe" district, according to its polling, the Roll Call item says that "Republicans have yet to recruit a top-tier candidate to take on Peters, a prolific fundraiser who survived a bruising re-election battle in 2014 to win a second term."
That fight, against ex–San Diego city councilman Carl DeMaio, was marked by a mud-throwing clash of the titans in the form of GOP real estate mogul Douglas Manchester, then-publisher of U-T San Diego and a key DeMaio ally, versus Qualcomm Democratic billionaire Irwin Jacobs, a Peters supporter and major donor to local non-profit news and opinion operations.
The down-and-dirty confrontation resembled another political proxy war Manchester and Jacobs waged against each other just a year earlier, in which the Manchester-backed GOP Lincoln Club sent out hit pieces with a phony photo of Republican-turned-Democrat Nathan Fletcher preparing to board an executive jet with drink in hand.
Qualcomm executive Fletcher, backed by Jacobs, was running for mayor against GOP city councilman Kevin Faulconer, and Manchester's paper pulled no punches in its successful mission to elect the Republican.
"I was outraged to learn that the Lincoln Club of San Diego — a supposedly pro-business political group — would fund a political hit piece that unfairly and incorrectly attacks one of San Diego’s largest employers,” wrote Jacobs's son Paul, then-CEO of Qualcomm, in an October 2013 letter to the Republicans.
"Is the Lincoln Club so desperate and out of constructive ideas that they are resorting to attacks on private employers, forsaking their supposed principles and lying to serve a political agenda?"
Similarly, last year, Peters forces complained that the U-T had unfairly trashed their candidate.
“We had an extremely cozy relationship with the U-T San Diego that always struck me as something that was frankly unethical,” ex-DeMaio aide-turned-foe Todd Bosnich was quoted as saying by TV station KNSD regarding the DeMaio-Manchester relationship. For their part, DeMaio supporters accused the Jacobs-backed, San Diego State University–controlled KPBS public broadcasting operation of playing last-minute dirty pool.
Manchester’s U-T hands claimed vindication this June when ex-staffer Bosnich pled guilty to a federal charge related to having made up an email threat saying he would never work in politics again if he revealed he'd been sexually harassed by DeMaio.
Either way, the race was not a sterling moment for some media outlets, according to many observers, including Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Morian.
Now, with Manchester's sale of the U-T to Chicago-based Tribune Publishing in May, the back-room intrigue of the paper's coverage could head in another direction, putting the Peters seat further out of the reach of Republicans.
Austin Beutner, the paper's new publisher, who has the same role at the Los Angeles Times, worked under Democratic president Bill Clinton and has backed his wife Hillary for president, though the U-T has lately downplayed Beutner's influence over its editorial pages.