San Diego County is represented in Sacramento by four Senators, three of whom face re-election this year.
The 40th District, including the southern part of the county and all of Imperial County, is represented by State Senator Ben Hueso. The incumbent Democrat’s general election contest is a repeat of the June 2018 primary, where Hueso won more than 60% of the vote.
Of more interest from a competitive standpoint are the 36th & 38th Districts where two Republican incumbents –Pat Bates and Joel Anderson–face vigorous opposition from Democratic candidates. A victory for either challenger would help negate the possibility of the GOP playing a strictly obstructionist role in the legislature.
A Gas Tax Fuels Road Rage
Democrats actually using the two-thirds threshold in the legislature to pass a tax increase/infrastructure bill outraged GOP activists, who now–through Proposition 6–want to require a supermajority of the electorate to take future actions of this sort.
In 2018 Republicans used the passage of the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017, aka Senate Bill 1, which increased gas and diesel taxes and raised DMV registration fees to generate enough outrage to force a recall vote on Democrat Josh Newman.
His defeat by the GOP’s Ling Ling Chaing cost the Democrats their supermajority in the Senate for the balance of the 2017-2018 session. The timing of the recall election wasn’t too big a deal as much pending legislation sensitive to the two-thirds threshold was already a done deal.
Looking to the 2019-2020 legislative session, Senate District 36, which is roughly split between San Diego and Orange Counties, could be a pickup opportunity for Democrats.
Senate District 36 includes Carlsbad, Encinitas, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Hills, Mission Viejo, Oceanside, Rancho Santa Margarita, San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano and Vista.
In 2014, incumbent Republican Pat Bates had no formal opposition in the primary. Democrat Gary Kephart mounted a write-in campaign, made the fall ballot with less than 1% of the vote, and lost by a nearly two to one margin in November.
Hillary Clinton carried the district in 2016 by three points, a significant shift from Mitt Romney’s 11% margin in 2012.
Republicans have an overall registration advantage of 45,000, concentrated mainly in Orange County. There are, however, more than 135,000 voters claiming no party preference.
Challenger Marggie Castellano must be doing something right, as the Orange County Democratic Party just kicked in $40,000 in support over the weekend.
Marggie Castellano – Democrat
Endorsements include the Democratic Party, Run Women Run, Bold Progressives, DSA-San Diego, and MoveOn.
Her campaign released polling on September 25, showing her 4 points behind Bates. “Pushing the poll” (saying more about the campaigns) gave her 3 point lead.
What I saw as remarkable in the polling data was the incumbent’s low name recognition (21% favorable, 10% unfavorable, 69% don’t know)
Pat Bates- Republican Incumbent
Endorsements include Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, California Republican Party, San Diego Deputy Sheriffs’ Association, Republican Party of Orange County, San Diego County Republican Party, Lincoln Club of San Diego
As of the latest filing (thru 9/22) with the California Secretary of State, Bates has a roughly 8 to 1 lead in fundraising. She is termed out in 2022 and is already raising money for a run at a seat on the Orange County Board of Supervisors.
Senate District 38 covers the inland northern and eastern parts of San Diego County, including El Cajon, Escondido, parts of San Diego, and San Marcos.
Much of this district is Duncan Hunter territory, which means there’s a percentage of Republican voters who’d vote for a rock if it had an R carved into it. Challenger Jeff Griffith is banking on his name recognition as a firefighter in an area where wildfires are always top of mind.
Donald Trump carried the 38th by five points, and incumbent Jones took 57% of the vote in the June 2018 primary.
In a recent San Diego Free Press candidate profile, Griffith described his top two priorities as Medicare for all and increased safety preparedness to better manage the drought and wildfires accelerated by the changing climate.
Jeff Griffith – Democrat
Endorsements San Diego County Democratic Party, California Professional Firefighters, Fallbrook Firefighters Association Local 1622, San Diego/Imperial Counties Labor Council, SEUI 221.
The second generation firefighter has been campaigning jointly with other Democrats in the region.
Brian Jones – Incumbent Republican
Endorsements: San Diego Republican Party, Board of Equalization Chairwoman Diane Harkey, Congressman Duncan Hunter, Peace Officers Research Association of California, Deputy Sheriffs’ Association of San Diego County.
Jones started out as a Santee Councilmember and has ascended the GOP ladder since 2002. During his six years in the State Assembly, he received lifetime “A” ratings from the American Conservative Union, the National Federation of Independent Business, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and the California Taxpayers Association. Also, Jones was named as Outstanding Legislator for 2016 by the California Rifle & Pistol Association for his support of the 2nd Amendment.
The incumbent has a roughly 8 to 1 lead in fundraising.
Hillary Clinton carried SD40 in 2016 by more than 40 point margin. Loretta Sanchez, running against Kamala Harris, won the district by 8 points. It’s very Democratic, heavily Hispanic, and stretches from the coast to Arizona Border.
San Diego County communities in SD40 include Bonita, Chula Vista, Imperial Beach, Jamul, Presa, National City, and the southernmost portion of the City of San Diego.
Ben Hueso – Incumbent Democrat
Endorsements: The San Diego Democratic Party has endorsed Ben Hueso.
Outside of the $265,944.49 incumbent Hueso has raised for his sure-thing re-election, I don’t have much to show you. Depending on which browser you’re using, there’s a security warning when trying to access his campaign website. And if you power past that encumbrance, there’s literally nothing to see; Just a campaign logo.
The Facebook page listed above is his government page, and the Twitter account is left over from his days on the San Diego City Council.
The 100,000+ advantage Democrats have in voter registration in SD40 means he could win from Democrats voting for a rock with a D carved into it. And that’s just as sad as it is when Republicans do it.
Hueso is a reliable vote for organized labor and some liberal causes.
Luis Vargas – Republican
Facebook | Twitter
Endorsements: San Diego County Republican Party
The Facebook link goes to the California GOP page, there is no Twitter account as far as I could find, and his campaign website knew my name without me telling it. Very creepy.
Retired Judge Vargas doesn’t have much of a campaign, but at least he’s got an excuse, having collected just under $8600 in donations. He’s concerned about the legislature being “sadly consumed in the #MeToo sexual harassment scandals.”
Other articles in this series:
- California 2018 Propositions 10-12 | Are They Really About Rent Control, Lunch Breaks and Cage-Free Eggs?
- California 2018 Propositions 5 thru 8: Taxes, Tantrums, Time Changes, and Catheter Cash
- San Diego County Supervisor D4 | Nathan Fletcher vs. Bonnie Dumanis: A Critical Contest
- San Diego’s City Council District 2 | Republican Zapf vs Democrat Dr. Jen: Is a Change Gonna Come
- Climate Change, Clogged Drains, and Lorie Zapf
- San Diego City Council District 4 | Cole vs. Montgomery: How to Make Black Lives Matter?
- City Council District 6: How Can Hough Hew His Way Around An Incumbent’s Advantage?
- San Diego’s City Council District 8 | Martinez vs Moreno: It’s Complicated
- Are You Willing to Look Past Gavin Newsom’s Smile and Carl DeMaio’s Frown in the General Election?
- The Sins of Lorie Zapf – Part 1
- The Sins of Councilwoman Lorie Zapf – Part 2
The San Diego Free Press Progressive Voter Guide, to be published in early October will include these and many other candidates. To see all our coverage for the 2018 elections, go here.
Looking for some action? Check out the Weekly Progressive Calendar, published every Friday in this space, featuring Demonstrations, Rallies, Teach-ins, Meet Ups and other opportunities to get your activism on.
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