June 6, 2012—It was a long night for poll watchers in San Diego. Or at least it seemed long, as the County Registrar of Voters’ computer system (wags were saying its was a pair of Commodore 64’s using Compuserv) crashed right after the first batch of results were posted and didn’t come back on line until 11 pm.
In the end, there were few surprises in local races. It’s DeMaio v.Filner come November and both local Propositions passed by large margins. The one local upset was SDUSD School Board President John Evans coming in second to Mark Powell by a mere 46 votes.
Turnout throughout California was abysmal, with a mere one in
three four registered voters bothering to cast their ballots. It’s a new record low for the State. In minority neighborhoods turnout was even lower, often in the teens.
Dan Walters, writing in the Sacramento Bee, summarized the impact of no-show voters very succinctly:
Whatever their causes, ever-lower voter turnout and an imbalanced electorate contribute to California‘s political dysfunction. Politicians target their messages to the few people who do vote and ignore nonvoters.
They cater to the interest groups that sponsor their campaigns and are unafraid of adverse reaction from their nonvoting constituents.
It’s not the only reason that California faces chronically unbalanced budgets, the nation’s worst traffic congestion, a perpetual water crisis and an education system whose outcomes are near the bottom. But were Californians to get serious about curing those symptoms, a first step would be to start paying attention to elections and campaigns and prove, by voting, that they must be taken seriously.
The final results in San Diego, California and Wisconsin left no doubt that the real winners in yesterdays’ election were deep pocketed contributors freed from prior restraints by the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United decision. (There’s humorous “video” of the infamously wealthyKoch Brothers celebrating here.)
In Wisconsin, supporters of Gov. Scott Walker had an 8 to 1 edge in financial support, with 66% o that money coming from out of State, including donations by no less than thirteen billionaires. Of note in the Badger State contest, and largely ignored by the media, was the Demstakeover of the state Senate, a development that may offer a check to any future plans that Gov. Walker may have.
The other really interesting thing about the Wisconsin primary was that the big labor get-out-the-voter effort may well have backfired on them, driving pro-Walker voters living in union households to go to the polls in significant numbers, according to an analysis in the Washington Postthis morning.
Enough with Cheeseheads Already, Let’s Talk Local Races
The one party system is alive and well in the 49th (Issa), 50th (Hunter) and 53rd (Davis) Congressional districts, with all the incumbents winning more than 50% of the vote, giving them a free pass for the November elections.
The most hotly contested Congressional race, in the newly redrawn 52nd district, saw a slugfest between Scott Peters (Big Money) and Lori Saldana (Big Grass Roots Effort) for the right to compete with incumbent Republican Brian Bilbray come November. Although it was a squeaker, Saladana’s heroic door-to-door effort was not enough to overcome Peters’ TV blitzkrieg. She lost by less than one percent. The big question here is, given the divisiveness on the Dems side in this contest, could either candidate overcome the taint left by the primary contest enough to beat Bilbray come November?
San Diego’s Mayoral race was pretty much as the polls had predicted, with DeMaio coming in first (32.11%), Filner second (a surprisingly strong 30.11%), Fletcher third (23.98%) and DA Dumanis bringing up the rear (13.10%). Best and crankiest quote of the night goes to Filner, who when pressed by KUSI about his seemingly low visibility in the primary, replied: “What are you complaining about? I’m in the run-off.”
The UTSD quotes Filner this morning as dismissing DeMaio’s candidacy as one of “doom and gloom”, with him going on to say:
“I do agree with Carl on one point that people don’t want business as usual at City Hall and yet the guy who’s saying that has the support of the biggest developer in the city and the owner of our newspaper and all of the building industry and all their lobbyists,” he said. “So I am the one who is going to produce real change … I am the one who’s going to reduce and end the stranglehold of special interests on City Hall.”
The paper, which wholeheartedly supported DeMaio, gave his take on the race:
“San Diegans have been clear they don’t want business as usual at City Hall anymore,” he said. “… In my administration, on this journey, we are leaving no San Diegan behind. And we’re going to talk a lot about a vision that we’re committed to uniting all San Diegans behind. We’re going to finish the job of fiscal reform.”
In his victory speech last night DeMaio thanked Bonnie Dumanis for running a good campaign, pointedly ignoring the other two contenders. One of Mayor Sander’s aides was tweeted that he expected to see a mayoral recall election by 2014. Earlier, Sanders made a point of thanking DeMaio for his efforts on behalf of Proposition B.
There were two anomalies in the Mayoral contest worth pointing out.
The first was that Filner defied the odds with his second place finish, given his last place standing in fundraising. More than $6 million was raised and spent in that contest, with the democratic challenger coming up with a mere $400,000. Of all the contests I looked yesterday, this is the only one where an “underfunded” candidate triumphed.
Secondly was Fletcher’s poor showing in despite big buck advertising and an aggressive social media campaign, a social media campaign that may well have been too aggressive. Every single voter who even thought something about Fletcher was bandied about on Twitter as if this was Breaking News. It got the point where you almost expected to heard about the candidate breaking wind as Breaking News. In contrast, DeMaio’s social media campaign was folksy, but persistent, always mentioning one his talking points. Filner and Dumanis’ social media efforts were, by comparison, low key to non-existent.
So the story of Tortoise and the Hare is likely an apt analogy of what this fall’s Mayoral campaign will look like. Expect lots of attack ads from DeMaio—somewhere there’s voice actor who’s going to get a lot of work if he can say “Democrat”, “Obama” and “Filner” with enough obvious distain—along with a sprinkling of reminders that he IS the reform candidate. Filner’s campaign, based on what we’ve seen thus far, is likely to remind voters that he’s the Democrat-not a dirty word-in this race. He’s likely to invoke heartwarming images of his involvement with civil rights and veterans affairs. This can work to his advantage if he can somehow withstand the assault on his character that DeMaio’s handlers will throw at him. The issue of DeMaio being “cold and calculating” versus Filner being “warm and fuzzy” could be an important sub-text to the drama that will unfold in the general election.
Lastly, the margin of support for local propositions A (58.23%) & B (66.19%) should not have surprised anybody. They were both living proof of my Big Money thesis: You can fool all of the people all of the time if the advertising is right and the budget is big enough. The ratio of pro vs anti funding for A&B was very lopsided, needless to say. In the end, neither will make a significant difference, due to being irrelevant (A) or serious litigation (B). Ultimately these propositions were actually just organizing tools for the Far Right dressed up as reforms.
Looking Around the State
This morning’s San Francisco Chronicle fronts with the headline “Top 2 Shakes Up State” purporting to tell readers how Proposition 14, which changed California’s primary system, will have “potentially dramatic” effects. Unfortunately, the story is weak sauce beyond the headline, offering virtually nothing in the way of actual contest where the new system has made a difference.
The Washington Post has a much more detailed analysis of the “reformed” California primary system, saying that redistricting and the new balloting rules began to “remake the face of Congress”. The paper notes that eight veteran lawmakers retired this year rather than run again and holds out the possibility that Democrats could pick up five seats in the House this year.
And then, for those who need a little entertainment with their coffee this morning, there is former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Facebook post, touting the potential for the new system that he pushed hard for:
“California will make history tomorrow,” Schwarzenegger wrote. “We will see our open primary system and new citizen-drawn districts in action for the first time. There is nothing else like it and I know we are starting yet another national trend.”
Finally, there is the ultimate triumph of Big Money with Proposition 29 (the tobacco tax) losing 51 to 49 per cent statewide. Prior to the infusion of a mere $46 million from RJ Reynolds and Philip Morris to support a campaign of distortion and disinformation, voters liked the idea of smokers paying for cancer research by an overwhelming margin. While there was one valid reason not to support 29—the fact that education needs the money desperately—the ultimate takeaway is that Big Money won. As they did everywhere, except in San Diego, where a not-attractive life-long politician (Filner) bested the big bucks.
On This Day… In 1968, Senator Robert F. Kennedy died at 1:44am in Los Angeles after being shot by Sirhan Sirhan. Kennedy was shot the evening before while campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Eat Fresh! Today’s Farmers Markets: Mission Hills (Falcon St. btw West Washington & Ft. Stockton) 3 – 7 pm, Ocean Beach (4900 block of Newport Ave.) 4 – 7 pm, Santee (10445 Mission Gorge Rd./abandoned school parking lot) 3 –7 pm
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