Don’t Let These Hot Local Races Fly Under the Radar

by Francine Busby

You’d have to live on the Mars not to have heard of our tumultuous U.S. Presidential campaigns. But what do you know about candidates running for Superior Court, County Board of Education, or Community College Board? The truth is that even the most informed voters are often in the dark about candidates in these “down ballot” races. That’s unfortunate, because they really do matter.

Currently all five members of the County Board of Education are Democrats, and four of them will be up for election on the June Primary ballot. Those incumbents are all being challenged this year by Republicans who are reported to be heavily funded by charter school businesses – and it’s not because they’re committed to public education. Rather, the challengers are plotting a political takeover of the board, as recently took place in Orange County. They would also be in a position to hire the next superintendent and control the nearly half-billion-dollar budget. While there certainly is room for improvement for children’s education in public schools, the diversion of public funds to independent schools– which are not required to provide the same breadth of services or pay, benefits, and pensions to teachers –will only make matters worse.

That’s why it’s so important that we elect Guadalupe Gonzalez in BOE District 2 (South Bay) andreelect Gregg Robinson in District 1 (Central San Diego), Rick Shea in District 2 (North County), and Mark Anderson in District 4 (East County). If not, we are likely to see a significant shift in funding priorities throughout San Diego County toward publicly funded charter schools that drain resources from our other public schools. (Check out the Voice of San Diego article on these races.)

Similarly, Republican candidates are challenging two highly qualified Democratic Superior Court Judges, Keri Katz and James Mangione. Both of these judges were appointed by Governor Jerry Brown after being vetted through the rigorous Judicial Nomination Evaluation process. Judges have enormous power over people’s lives, so that multi-step process ensures that qualified candidates are appointed. By contrast, just about anyone can add his or her name to the ballot and run to be a judge – competent or not. In large districts such as those judicial offices, candidates often don’t have the resources to run campaigns to reach out to educate and inform their voters. In the case of judges, funding and organizing county-wide campaigns is nearly impossible. They really count on our help. As the San Diego County Democratic Party has grown, we have been able to increase our support for these candidates, including through our Grassroots Organizing Team.

As a member of the GO Team and a former candidate, I have walked many precincts and knocked on countless doors to talk to voters and deliver door hangers with our official slate of endorsed candidates. Without a doubt, the most common comments I hear are “Thank you for volunteering to do this!” and “I appreciate this, because I had no idea who to vote for in all these races.”

As we have expanded our outreach to voters over the years, we have significantly increased our victories in down ballot races. In 2012, 74% of our endorsed candidates won. In 2014, with the lowest turnout in California history, 64% of our endorsed candidates were elected, including 20 new seats picked up by Democrats.

When Democratic voters are informed about our candidates, they vote for them in greater numbers, and we all win.

These victories result in elected officials who support our values and translate our priorities into meaningful legislation. With our growing ranks of registered Democrats in San Diego County –now outnumbering Republicans by 46,000 countywide — our opportunity to elect more Democrats has never been greater.

Accordingly, neither has our challenge been greater to meet the growing need. I urge you to join the GO Team in your neighborhood. Just emailgoteam@sddemocrats.org or call (858) 277-3367 to get set up with your precinct list, doorhangers, and everything else you’ll need to get started.You’ll really feel like you are participating in our democracy and making a difference. It’s a nice way to get to know more Democrats in your neighborhood and connect with candidates, elected officials, and Party leaders who are grateful for your support.

Our candidates for Superior Court, boards of education, city and county offices, and so many more are counting on us to deliver for them — so that they’ll be elected and deliver for us.”

Francine Busby is the Chair of the San Diego County Democratic Party.

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