ENCINITAS — Anonymous individuals recently installed a series of large poster boards across the city featuring printed copies of a one-way email sent from controversial first-time mayoral candidate Jeff Morris to his political adversary, Mayor Catherine Blakespear, attempting to strike an accord before the election.
Morris, administrator of Facebook group Encinitas Watchdogs and staunch critic of city leadership, sent an email to Blakespear on March 10 titled “Potential Common Ground,” urging the mayor to “(discuss) some type of agreement or truce before the election,” according to a copy of the communication obtained and authenticated by The Coast News.
“We have far more commonalities than you know, and I am not against most of your decisions,” Morris wrote. “The fact that you are running for senator is huge. Maybe we can work something out where you get elected to senate and be on good terms with Encinitas residents. I can calm this community down. It could be invaluable for us to have a working relationship.”
The email does not include a response from Blakespear.
But the conciliatory language used in the email — received by an anonymous individual via public records request earlier this month and shared with The Coast News — stands in stark contrast to Morris’ campaign platform and his previous comments sharply criticizing the mayor and other council members.
Over the past several years, Morris, a longtime Encinitas resident and homeless advocate, has repeatedly ripped local elected officials over the city’s homeless parking lot and rising crime rate, which he largely blames on Blakespear’s policies and leadership.
“Our [current] leaders are unfit to govern and lack the capacity to protect the community as well as the homeless,” Morris told The Coast News in April.
In a statement provided to The Coast News, Morris admitted sending the March 10 email to the mayor but wholly rejected the notion he was politically aligning himself with Blakespear.
“Mayor Blakespear will 100% confirm that we’ve never met, we’ve never spoken, and that I am her number one enemy in Encinitas,” Morris said. “Reaching out is what leaders do. Poor leaders ignore and avoid adversaries. This is my opponents grasping for straws as they’ve been doing for years, as they keep losing.”
Morris said the email was one of two emails he sent to the mayor and council members, a fact the anonymous posters had intentionally withheld from the public displays.
According to Morris, the intent of his first email was made clear in a second message he sent the following day to the entire council. In a March 11 email provided to The Coast News, Morris wrote he would not publicly oppose Blakespear’s run for state senate if she agreed to certain specified “terms.”
Among other demands, Morris requested the mayor strip all political influence from Encinitas 4 Equality founder Mali Woods-Drake and retract her previous claims that Morris had threatened her and stalked her husband.
“The second email is everything they need to know,” Morris said. “The person (who submitted the Public Records Act request) intentionally omitted the second email to try to make it look like something it wasn’t. That person intentionally and maliciously attempts to make something out of nothing.”
Email No. 2
Morris’ social media page, Encinitas Watchdogs, features a steady stream of posts opposing Blakespear and her policy decisions, including unsubstantiated allegations the mayor is collaborating with local nonprofits to worsen the city’s homelessness crisis.
“(Blakespear) wanted to turn us into a homeless sanctuary city to qualify for state funding,” reads the Encinitas Watchdogs’ description section. “Her motivation was to fund her nonprofits and then have them help her get elected to California State Senate. During COVID, our mayor also filled most of Encinitas hotels with other towns’ transients. This was during a ‘shelter in place’ mandate. The entire racket would ensure more income for her nonprofits that are helping support her and her bid for the senate seat.”
Morris, who has raised more money than any of the other mayoral candidates this cycle (including incumbent Councilman Tony Kranz), has also accused Blakespear of attempting to sabotage the election.
Blakespear’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
Several Encinitas residents expressed dismay over the news of the email, with some speculating the news could compromise Morris’s chances of winning the election.
“This email raises legitimate questions about Jeff’s honesty as a candidate — it flies in the face of everything he’s stated publicly,” said Susan Turney, a former candidate for the Encinitas City Council. “Voters should be fully informed as to where their candidates stand. Exposing this email should not be a case of shoot the messenger. The words in the email were written by Jeff Morris, and they are his to explain or defend, but not to hide.
“This will certainly reduce the number of people who would otherwise have supported him; they’ll question who he is. We generally feel like our current elected officials are dishonest, and most challengers here are running on the fact that they’re different, so this feels like just more of the same.”
Turney also derided Morris’ attempt to broker a backroom covenant with Blakespear.
“Jeff Morris does not speak for me,” Turney said. “I do oppose (Blakespear’s) run for the senate, and there are no circumstances in which I would turn that opposition vote over to Jeff Morris or anyone else.”
Longtime resident Steven Golden told The Coast News he was surprised about the news of Morris’ attempted communique with his political opponent.
“These statements are the complete opposite of what (Morris) has been campaigning for, and has been before he started to run for mayor,” said Golden. “This is just shocking to hear, if true. It’ll definitely affect him politically; for people who are borderline; for people who don’t know much about him or Cindy.”
Rachel Graves-Hill, of Encinitas said Morris had betrayed his supporters by indicating support for Blakespear’s state senate campaign.
“My understanding is a majority of [Morris supporters] do not support Blakespear and don’t want her to have political power,” Graves-Hill. “They should see what’s truly going on behind their backs. What I see is a person going behind the backs of his supporters and trying to work with Blakespear for his own self-interest. As far as Jeff’s political chances go, if his followers are true to their own desires for what they want for this district and city, I don’t think they will continue to support him after this.”
Graves-Hill also claimed Morris had repeatedly attacked her verbally online for sharing the email publicly on Facebook.
“I was deeply disturbed when I saw the email, as I had once unknowingly believed we had a similar vision for Encinitas,” Graves-Hill said. “Jeff and his wife should have admitted the email was real instead of calling me vulgar and raunchy names and attacking me, then blaming all Cindy Cremona’s supporters. We didn’t write the email; Jeff did.”
Former Mayor Jerome Stocks told The Coast News he views the Morris email as a political miscalculation but not a death sentence for his candidacy.
“I find Mr. and Mrs. Morris to be very sincere people who truly want what’s best for Encinitas,” Stocks said. “This email sounds like something from somebody who was thinking of getting in the race and wanted an easy path in. It’s clearly an unfortunate email, and I would chalk it up to a novice attempt to try to find an inroad or glide path into this election.
“What matters now is how he reacts to this and moves forward. If he can shrug and say, ‘That was dumb, it was a rookie mistake, but let’s talk about now,’ then it won’t matter; it’ll be nothing. If he decides to light himself on fire after dousing himself with gasoline, that’s up to him. What impact this email has is strictly up to him.”