Peace through victory - the American way.

Monday, July 18, 2005

A Tipping Point For San Diego's Democrats.

San Diego's Democratic candidate for mayor picked up an endorsement from a Democratic state official, Treasurer Phil Angelides. This is not the first such endorsement Donna Frye has received.
"Three weeks ago, Frye was endorsed by Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi. The two endorsements signal the probability of strong support from statewide Democratic interests if Frye is in a Nov. 8 runoff election."
(Click here for San Diego Union Tribune story.)

The mayoral campaign is nominally non-partisan. Candidates run on their own not as party standard bearers. But that doesn't mean local politics is free from partisanship. Frye is the only Democratic candidate in the mayoral race. At a work lunch last week every one of my colleagues said they were voting for her. No surprise there; all were Democrats and they tend to toe the party line.

San Diego is changing from a Republican to a Democratic city. The 9 member City Council has 6 Democrats. Well, the 6 member City Council has 4 Democrats, now that the Republican mayor has resigned and two Democratic council members have been convicted of crimes and are likely to be out of office soon. The city's voter rolls show that the Democratic voters outnumber Republican voters 39 percent to 33 percent. (Click here for registrar's report.)

This mayoral race is a test of the strength of the new Democratic dominance in San Diego. The election is going to be a partisan affair. Frye will have a very hard time getting Republican votes because of the ill feelings many still have over the aftermath of the last mayoral election when she refused to concede despite receiving fewer votes than the winner. Instead she allowed her followers to pursue a divisive and meritless lawsuit that sought to have invalid write-in ballots be declared legal votes. Not coincidentally that suit was only dismissed when Mayor Dick Murphy agreed to resign.

Frye is pretty much guaranteed to reach the primary by holding Democratic voters. The big question for her is whether she can win in the two-candidate runoff in which she will have to reach beyond the 39 percent of the electorate that belongs to her party. In order to win she's going to have to appeal to that 22 percent of San Diego's voters who decline to state a party when they register.

Given Frye's large party base all she has to do to win is carry half of the non-partisans. She has a very good chance of winning the election. The Republican candidates Jerry Sanders and Steve Francis both trail her in the polls. They start from weakness with a party base of only 33 percent of the electorate. Sanders has run the least partisan campaign of the two so he could have more appeal to non-partisan voters but there is little about him to motivate Republicans to support him. On the other hand, Francis has run a bread and butter anti-tax, anti-spending Republican campaign. He could energize the party base more than Sanders but his partisan appeal is less likely to lure non-partisan voters.

The numbers paint a bleak picture for Republicans hoping to hold on to the mayor's office. To win the Republicans have to hold all their voters and take nearly all of the independents or they have to peel off Democratic voters from Frye. That's probably not going to happen because the Democrats are going to go all out to put Frye into office. Here's what San Diego County's Democratic Party website (website here)says about the mayoral election:
"Democrats from here in San Diego to Sacramento, even to Washington, need to be looking at the bigger picture in the race for mayor of San Diego.

"As you know, Donna Frye is poised to be the city's first Democratic mayor in 13 years. That's important to the Party for two reasons. First, because we want our values represented on issues like affordable housing, a living wage, environmental protection, open government, and so many other matters where Councilmember Donna Frye has shown her commitment.

"Second, having a Democrat in charge at City Hall is important because it would deprive Republicans of their only big-city mayor in the state. Regardless of what happens in the 2006 gubernatorial election, the Republicans will be desperate for a candidate for governor in 2010.

"Let's assume that following the 2006 General Election, Democrats continue to hold the statewide offices we now have and that we regain the Secretary of State office. Let's also assume the Democrats have maintained control of both houses of the legislature and therefore the high-profile legislative-leadership positions.

"If we Democrats hold all those positions going into the 2010 election, where do the Republicans go for a candidate for governor (or for that matter any statewide office)?

"The Republicans from Sacramento to D.C. are desperately looking at the mayoral special election in San Diego because they are looking down the road to 2010. We need to do the same and deny them their future gubernatorial candidate by electing Democrat Donna Frye now."

The bigger question for Frye and her party is not whether they can win the election, it's whether they can manage the city and bring its finances back into order after they win. It's no coincidence that San Diego's descent into fiscal ruin has come as a Democratic majority has emerged on the City Council. San Diego's problems all stem from overly generous contracts given to city workers. Those problems are not going to go away easily because those same workers' unions are the power base of the council members and because the unions are in no mood to do anything but fight to keep their benefits, the taxpayers and the city be damned.

Chapter 9 Bankruptcy is looking like a better option every day.

-tdr

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