Nick Popaditch’s last stand
Maybe it’s because I’ve only been in San Diego a year that I’m so protective of Election Central. It really is a special thing to have a civic space to celebrate an election and watch the results roll in.
Last night, I heard voiceofsandiego.org CEO Scott Lewis describe election night as a newsman’s Super Bowl. That’s a fine jock metaphor, but here’s one for nerds: Golden Hall on election night is like the exhibition hall at Comic-Con. It’s where all us wonks and activists and campaign volunteers and news hounds can let our freak flags fly. You’ve got stars from the left and right, shaking hands and giving interviews. You’ve got anarchocapitalists, who oppose voting altogether, inserting themselves into photo ops.
You’ve got anti-tea party pranksters waving “Paved Roads Are Socialism” signs. Walking around, you hear stimulating political discussion and dirty inside gossip and the oohs and ahs and yesses of hundreds of supporters as the poll numbers dance on the giant projector screens. I railed against the Democrats and the Labor Council when they boycotted Golden Hall in June and I was thrilled when they temporarily suspended it for the general election.
What others might see as novelty, I see as a symbol. If the vibe in Golden Hall is positive, regardless of who’s winning or losing, then our democracy must be working. I wish I could report back that this year’s general election celebration reassured me. It didn’t.
Last night, Nick Popaditch made Election Central a threatening and unsafe place to be.
Popaditch was the Republican candidate for Congress in District 51. A retired and somewhat famous Marine tank commander, “Gunny Pop” emerged as one of the more noticeable Tea Party candidates this election cycle. Capitalizing on anti-incumbent sentiment, his campaign has drawn much from military rhetoric. In his campaign materials, he promised to “charge the Hill” and asked voters to join “Gunny’s Corps.”
And, on election night, he seemed more like a military commander than a candidate when he tried to take Election Central by brute force and intimidation.
Flanked by bodyguards in sharp suits, Popaditch spent the night moving from interview to interview. At each news table, a large group of loud supporters waved signs and chanted his name, loud enough to drown out anything else in the immediate area. In between each interview, he would rally his supporters together to assure them that he could still win and that his opponent was a liar—even as the gap widened beyond a landslide defeat. It was clear early on that Popaditch would lose by more than 10 points. In the end, it was a 20-point margin.
Popaditch’s supporters were riled up because incumbent Bob Filner allegedly
lied about misrepresented Popaditch’s voting record in advertisements and because photos recently emerged that purport to show Filner having an intimate relationship with a lobbyist. When Filner arrived, Gunny’s Corps were waiting and prepared. We can show it to you in pictures.
They forced him back into the lobby, and pursued him down the hallway.
I was speed-walking down the hall to get in front of the mob. At one point, I was standing between Filner and a Popaditch supporter who was running parallel, shouting profanity. I exited the glass doors to position myself on the stairs, only to discover that Filner’s crew didn’t make that far.
I went back inside to find a mob of Popaditch supporters pinning Filner and his crew against a column–that’s the picture above. Popaditch was standing a few feet back.
At the moment of this smile, Popaditch’s supporters have captured Filner. Mayor Jerry Sanders’ security detail had to rescue him.
This next image shows Sanders’ bodyguard (gray tie) escorting Filner back into Golden Hall to another exit as he’s trailed by Popaditch supporters.
Later, CityBeat editor Dave Rolland asked Popaditch for a response to Filner’s claim that he was shoved during the confrontation.
“Oh yeah, Bob Filner is honest,” he said, sarcastically.
Spin back a few months: Back in April, as Democrats pursued healthcare reform, angry interruptions at town halls gave way to a string of death threats and acts of violence. We interviewed Popaditch about it. Here’s a selection from the exchange:
CityBeat: Today via Twitter, Representative Darrell Issa put out this statement: “In America you correct junk like Obamacare at the ballot box, not with death threats, violence and ugliness.” Is that the sort of statement you could get behind?
Popaditch: You know, absolutely. I believe that people will make their disapproval known in November. You know, you’re not going to solve anything through violence. If anything, the opposition, those who disapprove of this, any violence is going to be used to discredit their actual legitimate disagreement.
How do you respond to people who may seem like they’re going a little over the top?
The day that Americans are fighting with other Americans, I mean, c’mon, that’s not who we are. We’re brothers and we may squabble and we may argue, we may argue very heatedly, but the day we turn to violence against each other, that’s the wrong way to do this stuff.
Oh yeah, Nick Popaditch is honest.
That’s why the anarchocapitalists call him “puppy dick.”
UPDATE: Here’s some new footage from the incident that pretty much says it all.