The carnival of local politics

The April 23 column offered a gossipy early preview of the June 2016 elections. Many boldface names were dropped along the way.

To some this appeared premature. The election is a year away. The general election, with its presidential allure, is 17 months out.

But now is the exciting time when campaigns are being launched and scuttled, the time when the field for any given seat is being narrowed by attrition or by negotiation.

There is a certain drama about this, drama that is entertaining in its own right, independent of the substance of politics. The story of our society and of our communities at this moment in history is every bit as entertaining as “House of Thrones” or “Game of Cards” or “Downtown Abby.”

The political landscape is a vast carnival with many levels and races, where a visitor can move among the stages and storylines. Politics is untidy, indeterminate, not a well-made play. Let’s scan the local political scene as theater.

Democratic Supervisor Dave Roberts, wounded by accusations by former staffers, will be challenged by Republican Sam Abed, mayor of Escondido. Other challengers are lining up at the mic. If Dave were to resign, the other board members (all Republicans) would appoint his replacement. Stay tuned.

The battle to replace termed-out Democrat Sherri Lightner will determine the balance of power on the San Diego City Council. Republican Ray Ellis, who ran against incumbent Lightner in 2012, got 46 percent of the vote in the primary but lost in November. This time around, Ellis will face two able Democrats, Joe LaCava and Barbara Bry, one of whom will meet Ellis in November. A drama unfolding.

Democratic Congressman Scott Peters voted recently to support President Obama’s trade authority package. The legislation was defeated because of the opposition of a majority of Democratic members. Local labor leaders told Peters they would recruit a candidate to run against him if he voted for the trade package — though I hope they will not. High-tech interests threatened retaliation if he voted No. Tough spot, Scott.

The complex nature of the trade-authority vote is signaled by the scatter of local congressional votes: Democrat Susan Davis, like Peters, supported the president. Democrat Juan Vargas did not vote. The Republicans split. Darrell Issa voted Yes. Duncan Hunter said No. Strange bedfellows all around. Watch for the sequel.

Politics as drama. Tragedy and comedy. Tune in next week.

Gordon Clanton teaches sociology at San Diego State University. He welcomes comments at

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