While Carl DeMaio has lost his bid in San Diego to be among the Republican Party’s first openly gay congressmen, intense political intrigue lingers along with a federal investigation.
Earlier this week, DeMaio conceded the race for the 52nd Congressional District seat -- one of the most closely watched and expensive in the nation -- after Democratic incumbent Scott Peters' lead approached 6,000 in near-final counting of ballots.
A former San Diego City Councilman raised in Orange County, DeMaio maintained a slim but consistent lead in the polls throughout the election season until early October, when his former policy director, Todd Bosnich, told CNN that DeMaio had sexually harassed him.
In short order, it was revealed that both San Diego police and federal authorities were investigating various allegations, including: that DeMaio groped Bosnich and masturbated in front of him at the campaign office, that Bosnich was offered $50,000 by DeMaio’s campaign to leave and not talk, and that threatening emails were sent to Bosnich and his mother.
DeMaio vehemently denied Bosnich's allegations and said he was fired for plagiarizing a policy document, which Bosnich denied. DeMaio's campaign officials also called Bosnich the prime suspect in a May break-in of the candidate's headquarters, another accusation Bosnich denied.
Shortly before the election, Peters acknowledged in a joint television appearance with DeMaio that last June Bosnich had provided his campaign officials with some DeMaio campaign records. But when DeMaio confronted Peters on the documents at the end of the show, Peters said his campaign turned them over to police "within 24 hours," a statement the he later acknowledged was incorrect.
DeMaio claimed the material was a “campaign playbook” likely stolen during the office break-in.
On Oct. 19, San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis announced there would be no criminal charges filed against either DeMaio or Bosnich.
Then the weekend before the election, a second allegation of harassment was publicized. A former DeMaio campaign regional political director reluctantly acknowledged to reporters that he quit the campaign last July after DeMaio allegedly exposed himself in a bathroom at campaign headquarters.
That man, Justin Harper, then left town reportedly with a laudatory DeMaio reference letter. DeMaio also denied that harassment allegation.
Accusations of sexual improprieties by DeMaio are not new. In 2013, the Voice of OC published allegations by state Sen. Ben Hueso that when the two served on the San Diego City Council DeMaio would leave and masturbate in a restricted restroom after giving fiery speeches.
Hueso said he twice observed the behavior, with his story backed up by other council members.
Following the Voice of OC article, DeMaio denied Hueso's claims to several media outlets and said a polygraph test proved his innocence. However, he never released the full results of the test to the media.
After an early morning press conference following Election Day, DeMaio largely disappeared from public view. He surfaced Monday in a ABC television interview on KGTV, where he blamed his loss on the Peters campaign for “false smears” as he was heading to victory.
In the last week, the release of a police search warrant affidavit and statements by Peters campaign manager MaryAnne Pintar and others have provided a fuller picture of the political intrigue after Bosnich left the DeMaio campaign.
Days before the June 2 primary, Bosnich emailed Pintar, describing how he was alleged sexually harassed and was receiving anonymous email threats. Pintar said she immediately turned those emails over to police, who then learned of the harassment and threat allegations.
Then during the first week in June, Bosnich met Pintar at a San Diego coffee shop, giving her the campaign plans, the search affidavit says. Pintar said she contacted police about those documents, which officers then picked up several days later.
At that time, the Peters campaign never publicly disclosed those events, as they were cooperating with the police probe.
But during the television news program right before the election when DeMaio himself asked Peters about the campaign documents. Peters acknowledged it had, but later noted he “misstated the timeline” for giving Bosnich’s material to police.
Meanwhile, sources say the U.S. Attorney’s Office and FBI probe is believed to be tracking through the internet threatening anonymous emails sent to Bosnich and his family last May/June after he left the DeMaio campaign.
Such probes typically involve serving search warrants on internet providers [frequently in other states] to identify computers used to send questioned emails. Federal authorities have declined comment.
San Diego police search warrant affidavits show Bosnich’s home was searched and computers seized last summer; also sought was his cell phone, which could be used to show if the device was near DeMaio’s headquarters the night of the purported break-in.
And emails provided police raise questions about whether someone associated with the DeMaio campaign was following Bosnich in the aftermath of his departure.
The night after Pintar met Bosnich at the coffee shop, emails provided police show Bosnich received an anonymous email stating:
“Todd, selling out to that ugly cunt Pintar only hurts yourself. If you ever want to work again, you should shut up, and take the best deal you will ever get. Going down this road means you're going to amount to nothing more than cashier at McDonalds.”
Bosnich reportedly told people then be believed he was being shadowed by someone with the DeMaio campaign. A DeMaio spokesman didn’t respond when asked for comment.
Tuesday, Bosnich was arrested after he reportedly pushed his mother at the home they share near Del Mar. He was booked on suspicion of battery, assault with a deadly weapon for throwing a glass, and cell phone damage, police say. He couldn’t be reached for comment on this incident.
Correction: The last name of MaryAnne Pintar, Rep. Scott Peters' campaign manager, was misspelled in a previous version of this article. We regret the error.
Rex Dalton is a San Diego-based journalist who has worked for the San Diego Union-Tribune and the journal Nature. You can reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.