Buzzkill: The future of the Republican Party in San Diego

Barry Jantz Barry Jantz, Undesignated 11 Comments


Some post-election thoughts for 2020

One measure of a political party’s clout in the San Diego region comes down to the makeup of the most significant offices and delegations. Here are the Big Four:

  • City of San Diego Mayor and City Council
  • County Board of Supervisors
  • State Legislative Delegations (Senate and Assembly)
  • Congressional Delegation

Sure, some may argue that the makeup of other smaller city councils and and even school/special district boards around the region has some significance on the measurement of partisan strength, as do County offices such as sheriff and district attorney. In some ways they do. But I’d also note that the partisan alignment of local offices often matches that of the members of Congress and the State Legislature in those same areas. As well, the Board of Supervisors are the top of the County food chain.

So as a measurement of pure partisan strength, let’s stick with the Big Four.

Among the Big Four mix, the immediate and maybe even long-term future of the Republican Party in San Diego County came down to four competitive and partisan races on the general election ballot.

Regarding truly competitive races, a caveat: With all due respect to the various challengers, no sober political watchers really thought any sitting State legislators or Congressional reps would get dumped this year, not even in the two State Assembly seats that most recently changed from R to D (the 76th District, where Tasha Boerner-Horvath won in 2018; and the 77th District, where Brian Maienschein flipped the seat on his own in early 2019).

So, again, the four significant competitive partisan matchups to watch this year (and please don’t even begin to tell me that three of these are non-partisan offices):

San Diego City Council, District 5 — Marni Von Wilpert (D) vs. Joe Leventhal (R). A termed out Mark Kersey, who started out a Republican officeholder but switched his registration to no party preference in 2019, will turn the district over to Von Wilpert, now putting the seat completely in Democratic hands.

San Diego City Council, District 7 — Raul Campillo (D) vs. Noli Zosa (R). Campillo won and will replace a termed out Scott Sherman, flipping the seat from red to blue.

Board of Supervisors, District 3 — Supervisor Kristin Gaspar against Dem challenger Terra Lawson-Remer. This was a chance for the GOP to simply hold on to a seat, not to mention a majority of the Board of Supervisors. Gaspar, after snatching the seat from a self-damaged Dave Roberts four years prior, got clobbered this go round.

50th Congressional District — I’m tossing this in the mix only because of Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar’s excellent showing against a “hobbled” Duncan Hunter in 2018 (there’s that “self-damaged” thing again), as well as some polling about a month out showing a neck-and-neck race with Republican Darrell Issa. In actuality, Issa always had this in the bag, simply based on the partisan and philosophical nature of the district. Issa won, maybe the only truly bright spot for Republicans anywhere in San Diego.

That means Republicans lost three of the four competitive races to truly watch, while it could be argued that only the three losses should be defined as competitive.

Do I need to even note any of the following?

GOP San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer is leaving office and the run-off election didn’t include a Republican.

Or, if you insist on measuring partisan clout by some of those other offices noted earlier, that District Attorney Summer Stephan also became an independent in 2019.

Or that three high-profile Republicans vying for mayor in the third most populous city in the region, Oceanside, just split the vote against Democrat Esther Sanchez.

Or that Republicans lost fairly high profile races for County Board of Education and Superior Court Judge.

Or, not even noticed in the media, that the once Republican Mayor of La Mesa, Mark Arapostathis (a truly genuine, non-political elected official that replaced me on the city council when I term-limited myself in 2006), quietly also did the party switcheroo some months back? (With Democrat Jack Shu winning a council seat the other night, the once all-Republican La Mesa City Council is now 4-1 Democrat, with longtime friend Bill Baber all by his lonesome.)

Ok, maybe the last paragraph seems too personal, as it is my former city council. So I won’t go on with other examples. But I could.

Not that anyone’s counting — except those who count such things — but here’s where this leaves the Grand Old Party, using the Big Four measurement:

  • San Diego Mayor/City Council — That’s ten total seats, with one Republican remaining, Chris Cate. (Snark alert: Cate is a shoo-in for Republican Caucus chairman. Robert’s Rules of Order doesn’t require a second to elect officers — that’s a good thing for him.)
  • Board of Supes — Five seats, 3-2 Democratic majority. It was 5-0 Republican not that many years ago (without getting into how Republican).
  • Congress — Also five seats, 4-1 Dem. The Issa win holds the lone GOP seat.
  • State Legislature:
    • State Senate — A 2-2 split (although some would say Republican Pat Bates’ district is really mostly Orange County).
    • State Assembly — 5-2 Dem. Prior to two years ago, it was 4-3 Rep.

These are simply the facts. At present I point to no reasons for what has become a long red decline; there will be plenty of time for assessing the reality.

Yet if the Republican Party hopes to have any relevance in San Diego County in the next decade or two, there’s some pretty significant work ahead.

I’m sure many in the GOP will say I’m such a buzzkill.

Nope. That would first require a buzz.


Comments 11

  1. Gee,
    So let’s ask the simple question using Occam’s razor – what has fundamentally changed? BALLOT HARVESTING!!! In the last two election cycles we’ve gotten crushed by these new rules that defy logic.

  2. Thank you Barry.

    I wish the problem was ballot harvesting. That could be addressed easily.

    I’m going to suggest it’s something else. Think we’re watching a negative values trend fifty years in the making that supersedes the micro thinking of our electeds and consultants. Don’t believe this can be addressed by more fundraising and strategy.

    Can’t change things every four years at the ballot box while giving the “Academy” and education to Hobbes and Rousseau. Not going to happen.

    The GOP has responded without principle and given us a binary choice. Both are unjust and immoral. When “we the people” reform our ideas about government our leaders will follow.

    We need to stop thinking binary and short term. We need to go back to our blueprint for American exceptionalism. Self-evident truth. Pursuit of happiness. All men equal.

    Principles over uninspiring and slow death pragmatism.

  3. You are going to see a lot of suggestions about how to fix things here, Barry and they are all going to be good. The simple fact is that RPSDC is going the way of the local Libertarian Party.

    Until y’all change the endorsement process, to empower the most important person in the Republican Party (the volunteer neighborhood precinct captain), y’all won’t win elections in San Diego County.

    I offered a roadmap for local GOP leadership over 6 years ago– today I am called a “crackpot”. I don’t know if Will Rodriguez-Kennedy read the series but I do know that he implemented it… flawlessly…

    … and now, your party organization is almost beyond repair. ALMOST. There is still time to fix it. Good luck.

  4. Some of my fondest moments during my time on the Exec Committee were being a “crackpot” next to my friend – Brian Brady. Will be Brian’s wingman anytime. Anywhere.

  5. @Eric Agreed. The Crackpot Coalition actually stood for something and wanted to give more people a voice in how we operated.

    Thank you, brother. We were a great team because one offered a reason to volunteer and another offered a way to can move the needle. I could write a book about our journey, from the first time we spoke, to Oceanside, to living rooms, to the ExComm boardroom

  6. Wait, both you guys are considered crackpots? And, you both write for Rostra? Wow. Who’da’thunk it?

  7. Instead of getting angry about ballot harvesting…. or changing the new rules. Just get good at it yourselves. Get better at the new game than the other team.

  8. Anyone here know that Donald Trump is president, Republican and proved deadly to most every down-ballot GOP’er? Ask Kristin Gaspar.

  9. This appears to be more of a Hickam’s Dictum dilemma. Many factors played on some races, and only a few on others. Gaspar took no stand with Desmond, trying to appeal to many, until after the election, only to end her race as first runner up.
    When all those dedicated individuals helped her get the slot on the BoS back in 2016, only to try and jump ship in 2016, she lost a lot of her grass roots supporters. Then the strong support of Vaus, over Anderson, that caused a rift for many Republicans.
    If you can’t readily tell what party a candidate is from, then they most likely aren’t a strong candidate.
    Splitting support on two from the same side, typically gets the other side elected.
    Augie and James, ending up with Till.
    Happened in 2016 with Mason and Dustin.
    We keep filling seats.
    Filling seats.
    School boards seem to be popular in the filling seats arena.
    We need to do better a year before the filing deadline, not wait until a week before, and field someone who “lives in the district”.
    Now with Leventhal and Batten, I think we did that, though the Dems prevailed in that instance.
    We need to get stronger candidates, not so much worried about their next election, but rather interested in making a lasting difference, even if it hurts their reelection chances.
    Process, over position.

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