Primary election post-mortem

By Gordon Clanton

North coastal columnist

For the political junkie, every election brings both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, pleasant surprises and bitter disappointments. What lessons can be learned from the June 8 primary election?


Two Republican incumbent county supervisors were pushed into November runoffs for the first time since 1998. Bill Horn (District 5, North County) will face Vista teacher and City Councilman Steve Gronke, an independent. Ron Roberts (District 4, downtown San Diego) will meet Democrat Stephen Whitburn, communications manager for the American Red Cross.

Both challengers face uphill fights against well-funded incumbents who are skilled at using the county budget to promote themselves politically. Roberts is at greater risk because District 4 has a two-to-one Democratic registration advantage. Horn’s margin of victory was narrow in 2006. Much depends on whether organized labor will spend big for Gronke.

Voters also approved (by almost 70 percent) a ballot measure that imposes term limits on supervisors.


Voters re-elected all four sitting judges who were challenged by a stealthy slate of candidates supported by the religious right — mostly by a margin of almost two to one. But this vote reminds us that more than one-third of county voters are inclined to support the agenda of intolerance of some Protestant fundamentalists: Anti-evolution, anti-abortion, anti-gay.

Deceptive propositions

Despite the $56 million spent by their corporate sponsors, both Prop. 16 (the spawn of Pacific Gas & Electric) and Prop. 17 (concocted by Mercury Insurance) were defeated by voters statewide by about 4 percentage points. Both measures, however, won majority support in San Diego County (57 percent and 59 percent respectively).

If this column were an awards show, the prize for most dishonest campaign in the recent history of California politics would go to the Prop. 16 team. How can they look at themselves in the mirror?

Key North Coastal races for November

Democrat Francine Busby will face Republican Congressman Brian Bilbray in the 50th District — deja vu. Democrat Crystal Crawford, soon ending 12 years of distinguished service on the Del Mar City Council, will challenge Republican Assemblyman Martin Garrick in the 74th District.

Although Democrats now narrowly outnumber Republicans in San Diego County, Republicans still hold large majorities in North County supervisorial districts, state and federal districts, and in most of the cities. Only Del Mar and Encinitas have more Democrats than Republicans.

Stay tuned. The political carnival is the Greatest Show on Earth.

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