Outside the nearest university, the heaviest concentration of deep-thinking academic types will be closeted this fall in the strategy sessions of mayoral candidate Peter Navarro.
Avoiding the professional political strategists who typically run a high-stakes campaign for office, Navarro has surrounded himself with an unusual cluster of university professors whose academic bent is complemented by seasoning in past electoral campaigns.
Navarro's academic brigade is remarkably similar to the candidate himself: mostly white, male Ph.D.s in their 40s who share Navarro's view that San Diego's political system needs a thorough overhaul, and that the UC Irvine professor is the man to do it.
They are not shy about claiming a measure of credit for Navarro's rise from an also-ran when the campaign began in January to victor in the June primary, contending that high-tech polling and voter targeting strategies provided Navarro with a smarter, more efficient campaign than any of his opponents.
"The techniques that are used here are more sophisticated and sometimes that will make the difference," contended Scott Flexo, Navarro's pollster, who earned his doctorate in political science at UC Irvine last year. "It did in the primary."
In January, when Navarro's own polls showed him even with City Councilman Ron Roberts and trailing County Supervisor Susan Golding badly, Flexo claims he predicted a 7% Navarro victory over Golding in the primary--the exact margin of victory in the six-candidate race.
Peter Andersen, a San Diego State University professor of speech communication and Navarro's field coordinator, said the campaign has developed what are essentially unique "psychological profiles" of each precinct based on analyses of voting patterns on selected candidate and ballot measure elections.
The results show the campaign where to devote scarce resources toward pro-Navarro precincts and how to target messages to voters there. Andersen declined to offer specific information about how the profiles are compiled.
"What (we have) is an ability that I think even the national Republican Party would envy, in terms of how the precincts are going to vote," boasted Andersen. "Not even the national Republicans are clued in to this."
"I'm glad they think that way," responded George Gorton, Golding's top strategist and a consultant to Gov. Pete Wilson. "I happen to think I'm very, very good at that. That's what I get paid a lot of money to do."
In an election that offers voters any number of stark contrasts between Navarro and Golding, the makeup of key advisers is yet another striking difference between the campaigns.
Golding leans heavily on political professionals. She listed as her top advisers Gorton, a longtime political strategist; Tom Shepard, architect of former mayor Roger Hedgecock's 1983 victory; campaign manager Dan McAllister, Golding's former City Hall aide and most recently a sales and marketing executive for KCLX radio (who holds a Master's of Business Administration in marketing); and pollster Bob Meadow, a Ph.D in political science and former UCSD faculty member from 1979 to 1984.
Field coordinator Steve Danon, assistant campaign manager Donna Cleary and fund-raiser Karolyn Dorsee round out Golding's paid staff.
Navarro, himself an associate professor at UC Irvine, relies more heavily on university faculty members, both paid and volunteer. Flexo (who also runs a fledgling commercial polling operation) and Andersen are paid staffers, but Navarro's closest adviser is Richard Carson, an associate professor of economics at UC San Diego. Neal Beck, an associate professor of political science and statistician at UCSD, also volunteers time on voter targeting for Navarro.
Campaign manager Becky Mann, an ally from Navarro's growth management organization Prevent Los Angelization Now!, and Craig Adams, head of Navarro's policy committee, are the only non-academics on the campaign. Navarro also employs a media consultant, San Francisco-based Terris & Jay. He employed paid political consultants for periods during the primary campaign.
Carson and Flexo have assisted in polling for political campaigns across the nation, and Andersen walked precincts for former Democratic presidential candidates Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern.
Both the Navarro and Golding campaigns are notable for the lack of a single Latino, Asian or African-American among the top advisers, and, aside from Mann, the absence of women in top positions.
In an interview, Golding hastily included Ken Msemaji, an African-American and head of the United Domestic Workers union, when a reporter noted the lack of minorities on her original list. The campaign also plans to add two people of color to the staff later this year, McAllister said.
Navarro said he relies heavily on his wife, Janet, and added that former press secretary Jenny Dean, who now works for congressional candidate Lynn Schenk, participated strongly during the primary.
Minority advisers include Jaime Fontes on Latino issues, and staffer Jeralene Taylor, an African-American who ran Navarro's phone bank operation during the primary, he said.
Navarro believes his reliance on non-professionals allows him "to make both ethically and economically sounds decisions. We don't do politics for politics sake. Someday down the road, that may well cost me, but so far in this climate, where people want truth and strong positions, that has served us well."
From his advisers' standpoint, the volunteer number-crunchers allow Navarro to do more with less. Carson, for example, said that his private polling operation does consulting for businesses at $325 an hour. But he is donating his time to the Navarro campaign free.
Flexo claims that his polling shows Navarro's basic philosophy and stance on the issues is so much more in tune with voters' desires that he would easily defeat Golding in an evenly matched race. But the campaign anticipates that Golding will have a huge financial advantage, which will give her a greater ability to shape public perception of her opponent, he said.
"Hopefully, we can outsmart her, we can out-walk her, we can out-talk her," said Andersen, who coordinates Navarro's volunteers, "because we're not going to outspend her."