Editorials

Mayor Heidi Harmon went on a rant. Thanks to New Times, there’s video

Incumbent San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon was challenged by T. Keith Gurnee in the November election. Harmon was re-elected Tuesday.
Incumbent San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon was challenged by T. Keith Gurnee in the November election. Harmon was re-elected Tuesday.

Now there’s proof, if you’re interested.

San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon did indeed rip into her opponent, Keith Gurnee, at a SLO Progressives meeting/candidates forum/endorsement event. She then dropped the mic and exited the room. (Some say she “stormed out,” but we’ll leave that to readers to decide.)

A New Times reporter was on hand to capture video of what surely will be one of the defining moments of the mayoral campaign. (The Tribune requested video of the event from SLO County Progressives, but we’ve yet to get a response one way or the other.)

Progressives co-chair Nick Andre has said that Harmon was heckled by opponents and berated in a sexist manner, though that’s not readily apparent from the New Times footage. (Another reason it would be helpful if SLO Progressives shared a more complete video.)

The New Times clip does show Mayor Harmon going after Gurnee — a former Republican who re-registered as a Democrat in May — in a big way.

She lambastes her opponent for leaving a SLO City Council meeting to attend Supervisor Lynn Compton’s election-night celebration party in June. (“And we have the proof of that, if you’re interested,” Harmon tells the crowd.)

She also accuses Gurnee of using “every inch of ink that he can find” to disparage her and her fellow council members.

The mayor closes with this statement: “So honestly, frankly, I am happy to answer all of your questions personally, but I am done pretending that this is a real discussion about which Progressive is the best or which Progressive is the real Progressive because there is only one Progressive up here tonight.”

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The mayor is absolutely right; she’s the only Progressive in the mayor’s race.

Gurnee does not identify as a Progressive. Some might even call him an enemy of progressivism. Just last February, he wrote a column for Cal Coast News predicting the demise of the Progressive movement, which he attacked for “its hypocrisy ... single-minded ideology, and its self-destructive overconfidence.”

So why did he go through the process of seeking the Progressives’ endorsement?

He says it’s because he was invited to ... by the SLO Progressives. (The group’s bylaws specify that only Democrats are eligible for endorsement, and that each candidate shall be given the opportunity to provide a written statement or complete a questionnaire supporting their candidacy.)

Gurnee says he was asked to fill out a questionnaire; he was interviewed by an executive committee; and as a final step in the process, he was invited to attend the general meeting.

And no, he didn’t consider declining.

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“I’d be a coward if I didn’t go,” Gurnee told us. “And I wanted to show some of these folks that I don’t have horns.”

While he may be a Johnny-come-lately to the Democratic Party — and some may question the opportunistic timing of his return to the Democratic fold — as a Democrat, Gurnee was entitled to be at the forum.

So here’s a suggestion for Progressive leaders: If you don’t want any erstwhile elephants in your house, change your bylaws and limit your endorsements to card-carrying Progressives.

Or maybe require — what? — proof of at least 36 consecutive months of membership in the Democratic Party?

You might also want to consider making independents eligible — just so you don’t overlook a budding Bernie Sanders.

Or you could keep the current rules in place, but require candidates seeking endorsement to sign a code of civility — one that requires them to keep their hands on the mic.

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