CRP Blog

Friday, April 27, 2007

Democrats Highlight Their Own Defeats by Coming to San Diego

This weekend California Democrats will gather in San Diego County for their annual convention.

It's the first time in more than a decade that the state Democrats are coming to San Diego - I suppose they finally found enough rooms among the small number of unionized hotels that labor officials allowed the party to come back to our fair city. Good for them.

San Diego is not the same city it was ten years ago, however. Organized labor took control of the city council in 2000, which immediately ran the city into the financial ditch through a massive payoff to the public employee unions who elected them, in the form of a colossal pension benefits increase that has forced the city to the brink of bankruptcy.

So much for the Democrats' vision of San Diego government.

San Diego is also not the same city - or county - that it was just seven years ago either. Back then, Democrats were doing fairly well holding onto districts where they held a plurality in voter registration.

Perhaps the California Democratic Party will hold a workshop this weekend on how to lose in districts you should win. They've gotten very good at that in San Diego County. Here are some examples:

In 2002, Republican Shirley Horton won in the 78th State Assembly District, a heavily Democrat area that the Assembly Democrat majority specifically drew for themselves in the 2001 redistricting. Assemblymember Horton won her third re-election last year by her biggest margin yet, despite a 6% registration advantage for the other party.

In 2005, Republican Jerry Sanders defeated the San Diego Democrats' golden child, Councilmember Donna Frye, by 8% despite the fact that there are 30,000 more Democrats in the City than Republicans. Sanders' victory stunned the political establishment where the conventional wisdom strongly favored a Frye victory.

In early 2006, Republican Kevin Faulconer defeated union operative Lorena Gonzalez in a special election in Council District 2 -- despite the Democrats' 4% registration advantage in the district and a massive expenditure campaign by organized labor to elect another "one of their own" to the council. Later that year, Faulconer crushed a former county Democrat Party Chairman for a full term.

Democrats lost yet another mayor's office in San Diego County that same year as Republican Cheryl Cox defeated incumbent Democrat Mayor Steve Padilla in Chula Vista, the second largest city in San Diego County. Conventional wisdom used to hold that the area of San Diego County south of Interstate 8 is Democrat territory. So much for that theory.

Also in 2006, Democrats failed again to regain any seats on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, losing even in the Second Supervisorial District, which is just 23% Republican. Republican Ron Roberts won in a walk, winning about 60% of the vote.

Six key elections. Five Democrat districts. Six Democrat losses.

Given this record, I'm crossing my fingers the state Democrat Party picks up lots of habits from the failed San Diego Democrat Party, which I hope is giving many strategy sessions on how to conduct campaigns for local offices.

They're not doing any better in campaigns for federal offices either, come to think of it.
Remember the special election following Duke Cunningham's resignation? The Democrats in Washington were telling every reporter, blogger, and straggler that this was going to be their big upset victory and they would shock the world with the triumph of Democrat Francine Busby over Republican Brian Bilbray.

I don't know where Francine Busby is these days, but it's not in Congress. Bilbray won by a comfortable margin in the special election, and sailed to victory for a full term later that year.
Make that eight key elections, and eight Democrat losses.

There are many good reasons for the Democrats to be in San Diego - showcasing a model for victory just doesn't happen to be one of them.

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