Friday, June 20, 2008

Ben Hueso Happened

Disclosure: I work for the Courage Campaign which has worked on the Blackwater issue, but these opinions are my own.

Earlier this week, I asked What the Hell happened in San Diego in the June 3 election. I explored a particularly underwhelming electoral performance and noted that there was a massive failure of leadership from the city's elected Democrats (active and retired). Councilmember Donna Frye supported GOP mayoral challenger Steve Francis and Council President Scott Peters ran against the Democratic incumbent City Attorney Mike Aguirre. Incidentally, both Francis and Peters failed to make it to the November runoff.

Then yesterday it happened again. Councilmember Ben Hueso, who in May was rallying to Block Blackwater in his council district, announced his endorsement of Republican city attorney candidate Jan Goldsmith. This is particularly notable because Goldsmith's opponent is incumbent Mike Aguirre. Aguirre has been a champion for the city in the fight to force Blackwater's permits into public hearing at a time when a number of other city leaders have...attended a rally and then thrown up their hands.

If Jan Goldsmith as City Attorney would go to bat over Blackwater or any other number of issues that might be uncomfortable for the Mayor or inconvenient for the City Council, I would be absolutely flabbergasted. The campaign, like every other challenge to Aguirre this year, has been centered around a promise to sit down and shut up. The last thing this city needs is another elected official who doesn't have the necessary combination of power and motivation to force important issues.

As the UT newsblog notes, Hueso and Aguirre have never exactly been close. And Aguirre has taken a lot of flack throughout his term as City Attorney for his rabid pursuit of Mayor Jerry Sanders for all manner of scandal- real or imagined. But as Councilmember Hueso well knows because he's at the meetings, the City Council hasn't exactly put on a clinic when it comes to keeping mayoral power checked by the legislative branch. Fighting the good fight has consistently taken a back seat over the past two and a half years to misguided "pragmatism" that largely allowed Mayor Sanders to get anything he wanted.

So what we're left with is Ben Hueso surveying this scene- Mayor Sanders re-elected to a second term with what CW will term a convincing mandate (it's not, the turnout was too low to carry a mandate) and a City Council that will likely go from a narrow Democratic advantage to an even split, further neutering a body that had given itself over to the inevitability of the Strong Mayor government- and deciding that the best thing for the city is that the single dissonant voice of any weight in the city government should be replaced by, as the UT put it,

Hueso said the city attorney's political persuasion is less important to him than getting "the best legal advice."

If the Democratic Party in San Diego is ever going to be able to capitalize on the tremendous infrastructure building being done at the precinct and street-corner level, leading Democrats need to stop undercutting both their party and basic points of fundamental governance at every opportunity.

What happened in San Diego? Ben Hueso and destructive politics like this happened.

Cross posted at Calitics

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Response to the VoSD piece on the SDCDP

From Caltics:

David Washburn's slap at the San Diego County Democratic Party in the Voice of San Diego does readers a disservice, to say the least. I'll cite just a few examples where more serious analysis would have helped.

Consider this year's mayoral race, in which a Republican challenger spent $4.5 million to promote himself as a kind of progressive independent. He couldn't even force a runoff against the incumbent.

As the "Voice" has reported in the past, incumbent mayors in the City of San Diego are virtually never unseated. So who is really "openly wondering why established Dems didn't jump in" - other than a writer trying to justify a story?

The glib comparison to a special election for Congress in Mississippi doesn't shed much light on the political reality in San Diego.

The passing reference to Republican "financial support from the downtown business establishment" understates the huge fundraising disadvantage that our community-minded candidates often face. The fact is that Democrats remain competitive and are building momentum in those races, despite being outspent by 2-to-1 or 10-to-1 or more.

San Diego isn't the only area where the kind of low turnout seen on June 3 strongly favored our opponents. But our City Council candidate placed first in District 1, where Republicans still lead in party registration. In District 7 our candidate virtually tied to force a runoff for a seat that has always been dismissed as out of reach for Democrats.

This November, when turnout will be more than double what we saw in the Primary, Democrats will enjoy a very different playing field. We're also looking forward to demonstrating the actual infrastructure we're building, from data management and professional staffing to a robust training program for our growing army of volunteers. Unfortunately, this story is long on quotes from armchair analysts and short on facts that might show a more balanced view.

Take the instance where Washburn writes: "Another piece of conventional wisdom holds that the local GOP does a better job targeting absentee voters." Had he checked, he would have found that the early voting rate among Democrats countywide in June was actually slightly higher than for Republicans.

Campaigns are indeed primarily candidate-driven. But by any measure, the County Democratic Party is vastly further developed than it was even four years ago. We have undertaken a long-term program that will bear fruit over multiple electoral cycles, helping Democratic candidates at every level.

This year's separate Presidential Primary was one of many factors skewing the June results. But in February, the majority of the vote here went to Democrats, even in some of the county's most conservative districts.

While some aspects of our plan may take longer than others to materialize, it would be a mistake to ignore the signs of a real "new era in San Diego politics" that a more thoughtful study of the underlying trends would suggest.

By November, Democrats may actually have a countywide plurality thanks to our unprecedented voter registration program and our inspirational Presidential candidate. When we translate those numbers into local victories, I hope the Voice will take the time to set the record straight.

Jess Durfee,
San Diego County Democratic Party

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Voice of San Diego piece on the SDCDP

Yesterday the VoSD ran a piece by David Washburn called “Where are the Democrats?”

Points, IMHO:

• The SDCDP is working on capitalizing on the growth of Democrats, but they have coming from just about nothing three years ago whereas the Republicans have been in motion in San Diego for decades.

• Blaming the party for bad candidates is a straw man argument. Until the SDCDP is in a position to groom and foster candidates, these candidates will be self-selected. John Kern’s comments nail this issue .

• Crediting local Republican leaders for their victories is another straw man argument. The local Republicans have benefited in spite of their party organization. With the Lincoln Club and other IE’s, the candidates just need the label and little else from the party. Duane Dichiara’s comment about the Republicans just getting lucky is solid.

• Chairman Durfee’s comments were right on about the criticism being ill-informed and unfair.

• Mr. Berg’s comments about District 3 was also right on but this goes beyond the SDCDP to the general body public who will support whomever they want regardless of the “official” position because the candidates are on the same page.

• As an observer of the SDCDP, Prof. Erie’s comments ring hollow. It has come a long way since 2006 but it has a lot of catching up to do.

• Lorena Gonzalez’s observation about being alone speaks to the infrastructure which is being assembled but wasn’t available when she ran.

Growth periods are not easy, but I agree that the SD Republicans are living on borrowed time.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

SDCDP Chair Jess Durfee Elected to DNC

Congratulations to Jess Durfee, the chair of the San Diego County Democratic Party, who was elected this morning to the Democratic National Committee. The election was part of the California Democratic Party's Executive Board meeting that took place in San Francisco this weekend. Jess, who has been the chair of the SDCDP since 2004, becomes one of 19 California members to the Democratic National Committee beginning in 2009. He also becomes the first DNC member to be elected from San Diego County.
Over at the California Progress Report, Bill Cavala has a piece about Jess Durfee's election to the DNC this morning. [Link]