By Maureen Gupta / Indivisible North San Diego County Blog
In a previous article, I discussed the pressure building on Duncan Hunter to resign, given his campaign fund ethics issues. What if he is forced to resign?
It’s a big “if,” but worth considering.
Rep. Hunter’s resignation would trigger either a special election or a replacement appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown.
Here’s how a special election works: A primary election is called and, if one candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, he or she wins. If not, there is a run-off election between the two top candidates, no matter their party affiliation. Once the dates are announced, the usual procedures apply as with any general election, including mail-in ballots and in-person voting.
We can look to District 34 as an instructive example. Rep. Xavier Becerra vacated his position as a U.S. congressperson on January 24, 2017, just before he was sworn in as California Attorney General. Twenty-four candidates, including 1 Republican and 19 Democrats, ran in the first election, which just concluded. Since no candidate received more than 50%, there will be another run-off election between the top two candidates in June. Here’s a recent LA Times article on that election.
Though the results aren’t final, it appears that the voter turnout rate for this special primary election was around 14%. In contrast, turnout for D-34, a heavily Democratic district, was 40% in November 2016. The two run-off candidates are Latino and Korean-American. Even though nearly half of D-34 is Latino, turnout was not high enough to give a clear win to the leader, Jimmy Gomez, or any of the other Latino/a candidates. The Korean-American candidate, Robert Lee Ahn, benefited from a large voter registration and turnout effort in the Korean community.
These are the lessons for a potential D-50 special election:
- Multiple candidates dilute the field
- Low voter turnout is likely
- New registration and get-out-the-vote efforts make a difference for identity candidates
Looking at identity and ethnicity in D-50, our district is about 30% Hispanic. (Source)
The total number of registered voters in D-50 is 374,449. Turnout for the November 2016 election was over 75% in the district. The party breakdown by percentages:
It is worth noting that the total number of registered Democrats combined with the “Other” category outnumber the registered Republicans. That is a large swing population.
The chart below shows numbers of registered voters by party, and how people in D-50 cast their votes for the Presidential and Congressional Candidates in 2016. In the Presidential stack, Hillary Clinton is blue and Donald Trump is red. “Other” shown in green. In the Congressional stack, Patrick Malloy is blue and Duncan Hunter is red. (Source: California Secretary of State.)
Looking at November 2016 election results above, 20,000 MORE people voted for Duncan Hunter than voted for Donald Trump. This suggests that voters may have (it’s not clear) crossed party lines to re-elect the incumbent Hunter. Or, those in the large “other” category favored Hunter.
Patrick Malloy received 12,000 FEWER votes than Hillary Clinton. This comparison suggests that Malloy was not a strong enough candidate to sway even those who voted for Clinton. Another indicator is that the total D-50 votes cast for a presidential candidate (292,878) was greater than the total votes cast for the Congressional seat (283,593). Some people just did not vote for their U.S. Representative. (Raw data source)
We will eventually have more precinct-by-precinct voting data for the Congressional seat. But until then, the LA Times has put together an excellent visualization of how the Presidential candidates fared in each precinct of the 50th District.
Looking through this map, one can easily see that the towns of Fallbrook, Escondido, and El Cajon voted solidly for Hillary Clinton. Building on these strengths will be the pathway to replacing Rep. Hunter with a Democrat.
Our goal is to flip the 50th District. Lots of people, including the national Democratic Party, don’t think it’s possible. Here is how to do it:
- Have a strong candidate lined up early, in case of a special election—someone who will unite the progressive opposition and overcome the Republican side on the first go. Energizing Latinos would seem to be a requirement. A socially liberal military vet (like Doug Applegate in D-49) is an angle worth exploring, too.
- Build on Democratic strength in the strongly Latino communities that voted for Clinton in November 2016. Register eligible voters and be prepared to get out the vote.
- Realize that if dark money floods in (like in the Jon Ossoff GA election to fill Tom Price’s seat), a populist grassroots candidate who captures the public’s attention will be the only way to overcome negative advertising and what might be a well-financed Republican candidate (who might be State Senator Joel Anderson).