By Mateo Camarillo
The Presidential Primary election is over. The following are some observations.
The election day turn out in the city of San Diego was 28%. Some mail in ballots are still being counted that will raise the level to +/- 1/3%. This is the lowest level since voters were debating whether the country should enter WWII in 1940. This level of disinterest is reflected in several ways including two city council districts races that were uncontested (only one candidate).
In District 9, a Latino majority District, the civic participation as reflected in 9,880 total votes cast out of 53,098 eligible voters was 18.6% voter participation for a contested race. Two districts had only one candidate needing a total of one vote to win. They had almost twice the number of votes cast than the votes cast in D 9. A democracy works when voters have a choice and the majority participates.
Political Parties influence elections but in recent years their influence is diminishing. In San Diego, the largest identified group of voters is Independents: Decline to State. This pattern is even more pronounced with the younger voters. In addition to political parties, special interest groups that make direct and indirect political contributions (money and human resources) are making a significant impact on election outcomes.
In the City Council District 9 that had the lowest voter turnout, the labor unions and the Democratic Party made endorsements before they knew who the candidates were. I lost an election where I was outspent 12 to 1; my opponent had 7 special interest groups making independent campaign effort in her behalf; and limited voter participation (less than 19 %).
Ethnic, cultural and racial minorities are a majority in the City of San Diego and it is projected that by the 2020 Census count, Latinos may be a majority of the population.
Some people say that Latinos need more experience in the political process to be elected which currently has few Latinos elected: zero US Congressional representatives from San Diego; zero San Diego County Board of Supervisors; one San Diego Unified School District representative where the majority of entering students are Latinos; and one San Diego City Council representative. Rudy Ramirez has been elected to the Chula Vista City Council and lost as a candidate for the state 79th assembly District which has been represented by a Latino since 1970. Does he lack experience?
Denise Ducheny has been an elected San Diego Community College Board of Trustee; an elected State Assembly member; and elected State Senator. She was defeated in her US Congressional race. Were there other factors beyond experience in this race where she lost?
In the next 10 years major changes need to take place to keep alive the American Dream of opportunity for all in our democratic society including holding elected officials accountable to their constituents to reinforce the premise that voting and civic engagement makes a difference in improving your quality of life irrespective of your party affiliation, income, age, ethnic, cultural or racial status.
Mateo Camarillo was a candidate for San Diego City Council District 9, but lost to Marti Emerald. Camarillo has said the reason he ran as a candidate was to give Latino voters more options.