Jess Durfee, former chair of the San Diego County Democratic Party and currently on the DNC representing California and our area, addressed club members at the November monthly meeting. He put into focus what many Democrats have been feeling regarding the election outcome. “It will be interesting to see how President Obama will continue to govern on our principles and fend off GOP obstacles”, Jess said. “We’ve heard ‘find common ground’ before and it hasn’t happened.”
According to Jess, this isn’t abnormal that the party in the White House loses in the mid-terms. It’s happened historically many times in the recent past. This year a number of senior Democrats chose to retire so the party knew that there would be losses. One third of the Senate is up for re-election every two years so this landscape of a difficult year for Democrats was known 6 years ago and yet “we failed to put forward a message that resonated with voters” Jess explained. But now it’s time to start preparing for 2016, and according to Jess, that’s all good news. As a DNC member he will advocate returning to Howard Dean’s “50 state strategy” which is all about the ground game of getting out the vote in every state.
In 2016 the GOP will have to defend 24 Senate seats. 7 of those seats are in “purple” or blue states and of the 24 few are incumbent Democrats. Our own Senator Barbara Boxer will be up for re-election as well. Based on the currently low balance of funds of around $200,000 in her campaign coffers vs. the normal $4 million level historically at this point in the cycle, Jess speculated she may choose to retire. This would become an open seat which Jess feels should stay Democratic and with potential candidates such as Kamala Harris, Gavin Newsom, John Chaing and Dave Jones and others there is no “farm team” shortage.
Regarding the 2016 Presidential race, Jess feels “Hillary is running until she says she’s not.” He thinks she will run and all indicators point there as she seems to be actively campaigning and doing all the right things to build political favors.
The outcome of the election in San Diego was much better for Democrats than in the rest of the country. 62% of the endorsed county candidates won. Our county party had tremendous resources available to spend on slate mail pieces, door hangers and other communications, making San Diego County only one of 4 in the state able to do this level of outreach.
Locally, city councils of Encinitas, Del Mar, Lemon Grove, San Diego, Solana Beach and Chula Vista all have Democratic majorities now, with Oceanside also leaning Democratic with Jim Wood, Esther Sanchez and Chuck Lowery. If we can simply get the vote out each election Democrats can continue this winning trend as Democrats hold a 30,000 registered voter edge over Republicans. This trend of more new registrations for the Democrats over Republicans has continued every month since 2010.
Overall Jess feels 2016 looks very bright for California. In addition to the Presidential election which drives higher turnout and a registration advantage, a new law of “same day registration” will also kick in. This is significant for certain populations such as college students who only need to be motivated once to get to the polls, register and vote all on the same day.
The local races we now need to prepare for are the County Board of Supervisors, San Diego city mayor, council districts 1 and 7 in San Diego (which will determine the majority rule) and defending Scott Peters in Congressional District 52. The San Diego City Mayor’s race is particularly important, even for us in San Marcos, since that role influences SANDAG, environmental issues and the culture of the whole county. Jess speculated that since Toni Atkins will be termed out, she as well as Todd Gloria could be potential candidates for that position. Kevin Faulconer will run again, but another advantage for Democrats in that race is that raising the minimum wage for the city will also be on the ballot. Jess feels that is “the perfect issue for a Democrat to take out an incumbent Republican.”