SD Rostra

Buzzkill: The future of the Republican Party in San Diego

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:

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:

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.

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