Primary election kaleidoscope

By Gordon Clanton

North Coastal Columnist

Absentee ballots for the June 8 primary will arrive soon. With half the voters signed up to vote by mail, the season of political urgency is here.

  • 50th Congressional District. Two Democrats are competing for the right to run against Republican incumbent Brian Bilbray. Francine Busby, who lost to Bilbray in 2004 and 2006, faces a strong challenge from Escondido attorney Tracy Emblem. Despite a ripple of “anyone but Francine” sentiment, Busby probably will win because of her strong name ID, her history of Democratic Party activism and her financial advantage. But the primary campaign will deplete Busby’s resources, making it even tougher to win in November. The district is 41 percent Republican, 31 percent Democratic, 24 percent nonpartisan.
  • Proposition 16 was written and bankrolled by Pacific Gas & Electric for the benefit of PG&E and other private utilities, including San Diego Gas & Electric. By requiring a two-thirds majority instead of a simple majority, the measure would make it harder for cities to form municipal utility districts, harder for customers to leave PG&E, and harder for alternative power sources to get into the market. PG&E has contributed $30 million to support the measure, while a coalition of opponents raised $30,000 — a financial advantage of one thousand to one.
  • Proposition J asks Del Mar voters to decide whether people who rent houses and duplexes will be required to pay the same tax charged by hotels. Many cities in the region impose hotel taxes on small vacation rentals. Such a tax would raise an estimated $180,000 per year.

Thanks to state Sen. Christine Kehoe, with whom I talked at the recent Planned Parenthood dinner, for her principled opposition to the proposed expansion of the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

  • Supervisor/District 4. Thanks to Executive Director Ryan Hurd for pointing out that the SD County Democratic Party has not endorsed in this primary. All four Democratic candidates were rated as “acceptable” alternatives to entrenched Republican incumbent Ron Roberts.

The challengers are Stephen Whitburn, a former San Diego City Council candidate; San Diego schools trustee Shelia Jackson, housing counselor Juan del Rio and retired teacher Margaret Moody.
The four include two women, one of whom is black, a Latino and a gay man. “What! No Asian candidate?” joked Roberts consultant Tom Shepard.

The Dem strategy is to use the four candidates to get enough votes among them to prevent Roberts from winning in the primary, and then focus resources to support the top Dem vote getter, probably Stephen Whitburn.

BTW: In the previous column, I said the same five supervisors have been in power since 1984. In fact, they have been in power only since 1994. No one noticed this error, because it seems like they have been there much longer.

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