Politics Report: Caruso Mall Haunts Carlsbad Mayoral Race

Here’s a twist: Schumacher is running with the backing of an unlikely ally: the Republican she beat in 2016.

“Cori is an amazingly ethical person, so important for the position of mayor,” Lorraine Wood said in a campaign video. “Cori also operates at the ceiling of ethics, not in the basement.”

July 28, 2018

by Scott Lewis and Jesse Marx

Voice of San Diego

The south side of the Agua Hedionda Lagoon in Carlsbad. / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

Carlsbad Mayor Matt Hall kicked off his re-election campaign this week paying homage to the most “active residents who selflessly give to our community.” He said he was “committed to including people with different points of view and treating everyone with respect.”

In 2015, Hall and other Carlsbad officials approved plans for a shopping mall on the shores of the Agua Hedionda Lagoon, allowing the developer, Rick Caruso, to bypass environmental review. Residents rebelled. And when they killed the project through a referendum, Hall apologized.

Then he hired the same political consultant, Tom Shepard, who helped kill the Caruso project to run his re-election bid.

A former professional surfer, Cori Schumacher, rode a wave of resentment over the mall onto the Council in 2016, and she’s now challenging Hall. Although the Caruso project is no longer a point of contention, she said, it touched off other conversations about housing and open spaces and the Council’s commitment to its own residents.

“The primary concern” in this election, she said, “is really public trust and our residents’ voices not being heard.”

Hall suggested it was time to move on.

“The challenge now facing our city is adapting to the new reality that our city is almost completely built out,” he said in a statement. “How do we revitalize our older neighborhoods in a way that maintains and enhances the quality of life for all residents? Looking backward doesn’t address future challenges.”

Should Hall be worried? Schumacher is the first Democrat to get elected in Carlsbad in recent memory, and she did it while Council members were still being elected citywide. (Under the threat of a lawsuit, Carlsbad last year divided the city into four districts.)

Republicans maintain a roughly 6 percentage-point advantage in local party affiliation, which may sound like a lot. But voter registration rolls shows the number of Democrats has exploded in recent years, growing by 19 percent since 2016. Plus, about one in every four voters has no party preference — more than enough to sway the outcome in either direction.

Here’s a twist: Schumacher is running with the backing of an unlikely ally: the Republican she beat in 2016.

“Cori is an amazingly ethical person, so important for the position of mayor,” Lorraine Wood said in a campaign video. “Cori also operates at the ceiling of ethics, not in the basement.”


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