A Sneak Preview of 2016 Elections in San Diego

by on December 30, 2015 · 4 comments

in California, Election, History, Media, Politics, San Diego

ballot box san diegoBy Doug Porter

Over the last few days of 2015 I’ll engage in speculation about what to expect for the coming year.

Here we’ll take a quick look at what San Diegans will be asked to vote on, a logical move since we’re headed into a presidential election year with a gaggle of ballot measures vying for voter approval in California. Later on in the year I’ll do in-depth profiles of candidates and ballot measures.

Then in future posts, we’ll look at the legal system (including the race for City attorney) and regulatory actions likely to be a big deal in the coming year.

City Council Seats in San Diego

The odd-numbered city council seats are up for grabs this year. Republicans in Districts Five (Mark Kersey) and Seven (Scott Sherman) have the incumbency advantage.

san diego logoThe Big Deal race, at least in terms of money will be in District One, where Sherri Lightner is termed-out. Two Democrats (Barbara Bry and Joe Lacava) are vying for the opportunity to challenge Republican Ray Ellis as he makes his third second try for the seat. Look for upwards of $2 million to be spent on winning this seat, as it’s likely to determine the balance of power on the city council.

District Three is shaping up to be a battle between up-and-coming Democrats vying to replace termed-out Todd Gloria.

My favorite race to watch will be in District Nine, where Marti Emerald’s decision to retire has prompted an unusually large number of interesting people to declare their candidacy. It’s shaping up to be a contest where there are choices beyond the lesser of two evils. The most exciting thing to watch will be the challenge of energizing of voter blocs not usually heard from in local elections.

Congressional Contests

Photo by Annie Lane

Photo by Annie Lane

In the normally competitive 52nd Congressional District, incumbent Democrat Representative Scott Peters will have to count on his friends in the Chamber of Commerce in facing Republicans Jaquie Atkinson and Denise Gitsham. The Democratic Party may support Peters, but he’ll attract no support from progressives and labor.

Representative Susan Davis will face only token Republican opposition in the 53rd District congressional race. The same is true for Democrat Juan Vargas in the 51st.

Republicans Darrell Issa (49th), Duncan Hunter (50th), and Dana Rohrabatcher (48th) all have incumbency and a favorable partisan voter registration edge in their districts.

Democratic incumbent Senator Barbara Boxer is retiring. Three Democrats, six Republicans and one independent candidate have all declared their candidacy, and there are more than a dozen other names that have surfaced in the press. In terms of name recognition, the top two Democrats are Attorney General Kamala Harris and Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez. Oceanside Republican Assemblyman Rocky Chavez is already complaining about the GOP not taking this race seriously.

The State Legislature

todd-gloria-150x150City Councilman Todd Gloria is running to replace termed out Toni Atkins for the 78th Assembly Seat.

The State Senate contest between Democrats Toni Atkins and Marty Block (incumbent) is churning stomachs all over the State of California. There is little discernible difference in their political positions on the issues.

It’s a personal deal. She says he promised to only serve until 2016 in return for her considerable support in 2012. He says that’s not the case. Atkins is a fundraising machine. Block has been promised substantial support from fellow Senators, a situation that may be subject to change come the January 31st campaign filings.

The County Board of Supervisors

via NBC 7

via NBC 7

The big deal is incumbent Dave Roberts run for re-election. He’s the only Democrat on the Board of Supervisors. He’s also considered damaged goods, thanks to some sensational press triggered by unhappy former staffers.

Political consultant Tom Shepard dropped him as a client and that’s never a good thing, especially since three already elected Republicans are poised to challenge him.

Encinitas Mayor Kristin Gaspar, Escondido Mayor Sam Abed and Assemblyman Brian Maienschein are lined up to challenge him. (Update: Maienschein will stay with the safe seat he has in Sacramento)

Mayor of San Diego

Incumbent Republican Kevin Faulconer has no big-name opposition, thanks to polling showing him to be popular with city voters. I know of two Democratic activist women who are considering a run. Socialist Gregory Morales is also running.

Ballot Measures – June 2016

Battle_over_city_s_minimum_wage_not_over_1922530000_7443119_ver1.0_640_480The only confirmed local measure is the City of San Diego Minimum Wage Increase Veto Referendum, placed on the ballot by the Chamber of Commerce (and assorted front groups) in an attempt to negate a vote of the City Council.

The opponents of the minimum wage increase argued that this was an issue the people should have the opportunity to vote on. Once they got enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, then they asked the city council to simply cancel the ordinance.

It was as nasty and cynical a campaign as I’ve ever seen in San Diego. And, based on what was said on KPBS Midday edition on Monday, it looks like consultant Jason Roe and his ilk are going to be on the airwaves predicting doom and gloom if low paid workers get a bump.

The Fight for Fifteen people and organized labor groups are going to support an increase in the local minimum wage in June and a proposition for the November ballot increasing (in steps) the statewide minimum to $15.

There are rumblings about other ballot measures. Councilman Mark Kersey hopes to get something in front of voters limiting the ways the city can spend future tax revenue increases. The allure of more money to fix potholes is supposed to blind us to the fact that a) it’s not enough money and b) the likely result will be cuts to other city services down the road.

It’s also possible we’ll see a proposal to validate the Mayor’s plan for saving the local National Football franchise.

downtown5The Citizen’s Plan for San Diego is currently collecting signatures. Proponents say it would overhaul and increase San Diego’s hotel tax. Hoteliers could elect to finance a new Convention Center expansion downtown away from the coast with or without an adjoining sports facility. It would also create a new, legal path marketing San Diego with hotel tax dollars.

The City council has directed staff to begin preparing language for proposed ballot measures intended to clean up San Diego’s archaic city charter. Since there’s no actual language to view at this time, we’ll have to wait until it comes before the council for approval.

There is one statewide measure up for consideration in June.

Both chambers of the legislature are asking voters to approve allowing a two-thirds majority vote in the respective chamber of the state legislature in order to suspend a state legislator. It also suspends the pay, privileges, and powers of a suspended legislator.

This measure is up for a vote because the legislature discovered, much to their horror, that they were unable to suspend the salaries or benefits of three indicted State Senators back in March, 2014.

Statewide Measures, November 2016

mjballotboxThere are, as of this writing, 73 initiatives and referenda cleared for signature gathering. Most of them won’t make it. But a lot will, thanks to a relatively low bar for the number of qualifying signatures needed thanks to low turnout in the last general election.

There will most likely be a measure on the ballot to legalize marijuana. The two major groups (there were others) competing to get this on the ballot have agreed to a compromise. The money to support an effort is assured, so all it will take is that verification of signatures.

There will also likely be some kind of measure about raising the minimum wage. Again, there are two groups (actually factions within the Service Employees International Union) with proposals.

From In These Times:

It looked like the culmination of an incredible series of victories for low-wage workers. A major union local in Californiaannounced that they had acquired enough signatures to qualify a ballot measure to raise the statewide minimum wage in increments to $15 an hour by 2021. Notable elected officials like 2018 gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom and dozens of other politicians, unions, community organizations and even small businesses had signed on. A recent Field Poll showed that 68 percent of the electorate supported the increase. Amid nationwide protests for higher wages, the stars were aligned to giveover 19 million workers in California—12 percent of the total workforce in America—an unprecedented wage floor.

Then, out of nowhere, another group announced that they, too, would launch a mostly similar ballot measure, risking voter confusion and competing resources for something that would otherwise pass with a strong campaign.

The punch line? The two groups are actually part of the same union.

The strange turn of events reflects a long-simmering feud between the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) state council, made up of SEIU locals throughout California and encompassing over 700,000 members, and one of its affiliates, SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (UHW). SEIU-UHW already has their minimum wage initiative in the field, but the state council announced theirs anyway. Both sides believe the dispute will eventually reach some resolution. But the ugly legacy of distrust and backbiting threatens to put low-wage workers in the middle of a squabble they had nothing to do with.


Really Sick Stuff Over Plastic Bags

plastic bag ban logoThe evil minions who want to kill sea life with plastic bags have a ballot measure for November 2016 designed to confuse voters into undoing an already passed law banning the use of one-time plastic bags.

And they have a second measure waiting in the wings, seemingly enviro-friendly but actually designed to unravel the financial underpinnings of SB270, the original bill banning plastic bags.

Undoing the 1990’s Anti-Latino Movement

Back in the 1990’s former Republicans drummed up a lot of voter anger aimed at Latinos. Proposition 187, banning state services to immigrants, was overturned in the courts. It also effectively ruined the Republican party as a force in California politics.

The California Multilingual Education Act (aka Senate Bill 1174) will repeal most of 1998’s Proposition 227, the “English in Public Schools” Initiative, thus effectively allowing non-English languages to be used in public schools.

Micro-Management Measures

The Medi-Cal Hospital Reimbursement Initiative would require voter approval of changes to revenues from hospital fee programs. It’s another one of those hair-brained “two-thirds approval” laws as the solution for legislative failures. Look for competing micro-management ballot measures.

The California Public Vote on Bonds Initiative says bond measures over $2 billion would be required to be submitted to the voters. Sounds good, huh? Except I hear it’s a sub rosa attack on Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to build two tunnels to divert water around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The way things stand now, bonds for this construction would be paid for by water users fees.

I don’t know if Brown’s tunnel idea is a good one. But I hate sneaky. I’ll have to take a long look at where the money’s coming from on this one.

A Real Bond Issue

The Public Education Facilities Bond Initiative authorizes $9 billion in general obligation bonds: $3 billion for new construction and $3 billion for modernization of K-12 public school facilities; $1 billion for charter schools and vocational education facilities; and $2 billion for California Community Colleges facilities.

Sex & Drugs

dependence-on-prescription-drugsThe Condoms in Pornographic Films Initiative would require the use of condoms by performers in adult films during filming of sexual intercourse. It also mandates producers of adult films to pay for performer vaccinations, testing, and medical examinations related to sexually transmitted infections.

The initiative will be opposed by the Free Speech Coalition, a trade organization representing the pornography industry.

Last, but not least for today we have the Drug Price Relief Initiative. It would prohibit state agencies from paying more for a prescription drug than the lowest price paid for the same drug by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA, in case you don’t know, pays substantially less for its drugs, because it can actually negotiate with drug companies.

You can expect to hear a lot of bullshit from Big Pharma in the coming months (and it’s already started via Steven Greenhut at the UT) about how drug prices pay for research and development. And maybe there won’t be a life saving drug the next time a sick child–maybe YOUR sick child–needs one.

Just remember that the drug industry spends $19 in marketing for every $1 they spend on research and development. And that they get huge tax breaks on R&D monies.

Presidential Election Prediction (Not!)

You didn’t really expect me to make any predictions on the presidential contests, did you? Come on. It’s way too early. And I’ll get around to it in due time, just like I’ll be writing about the candidates and issues not covered in this preview.

I love election years. And nowhere else but the San Diego Free Press will get the kind of in-depth progressive perspective that we offer.


This is an excerpt from Doug Porter’s column at SDFP.


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

molly Molly December 30, 2015 at 8:57 pm

Thanks Doug for keeping at it. Many people are so turned off to politics and elections that they don’t think about all this, yet it affects them and to their detriment. Off-year voter turnouts as youknow are dismal.
Republicants really want to turn the young off to politics and don’t want them to be able to figure out what they’re doing to our country.


molly Molly December 30, 2015 at 8:59 pm

Forexample. look at all the comments about Tamir Rice, legit most yes, but nothing at this post which isa about a reality that will directly affect everybody.


editordude December 30, 2015 at 9:02 pm

Wish to take this moment and assure our readers that we’re “back” – we had to take a hiatus of several days. PLease also , dear reader, to take this time to encourage our other writers that this would be an excellent time for them to submit articles.


editordude December 30, 2015 at 9:03 pm

Ah, excuse me? No where else? What about our reposts?


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