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California’s Red Lining

6:31 PM, Mar 29, 2011 • By MATT KATZENBERGER
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While Democrats did well throughout the state of California in last November's election, they didn't everywhere: San Diego took a slight turn to the right.


“It’s as if a state flipped parties. It tends to get overlooked because it’s in California, but San Diego County has the equivalent population of Iowa,” says Ron Nehring, the former chairman of California Republican party.

“San Diego stands apart because it’s a large city, a large county, and it has flipped between Republicans and Democrats,” Nehring says. “While California continues to be a deep blue, San Diego provides an island of red.”

In San Diego, Lorie Zapf won a seat on the City Council in a district Republicans hadn’t won since 1987, though her victory only slightly lowered the Democratic majority on the council from 6-2 to 5-3. Voters also rejected numerous Democratic-supported tax hikes, including an increase in the sales tax, a property tax, utility tax, and a fee for state parks.

To get a sense of just how blue the state is, consider the following California statistics: 

  • The Sacramento Bee reports that only 31 percent of residents are registered Republicans and 44 percent Democrats.  
  • No Republican holds a statewide office.
  • In 2010, Gov. Jerry Brown won 53.1 percent of the vote, while Sen. Barbara Boxer was reelected with 52.1 percent.
  • California has 34 Democrats in the House, compared with only 19 Republicans. Both of its senators are Democrats.
  • The California State Assembly roster has 52 Democrats out of 80 representatives, and the Senate roster lists 25 Democrats out of 40 State senators. 

Conservative victories in San Diego also include passing, by nearly 75 percent, Proposition A, which is a countywide ban of project labor agreements. Nearby Oceanside and Chula Vista passed similar bans. The old rules allowed unions were to control municipal construction projects and avoid competition.

Republicans lead in voter registration, too. According to a February 10 report, Republicans have 3,053 more registered voters in San Diego.

So what can the California Republican party learn from these victories?

Nehring says it’s a matter of attitude: “Be on the offense, rather than defense.” And, he adds, the GOP needs to “discard the notion of the nonpartisan office. Unions have been doing this for quite some time.”

But in order to utilize the momentum, Nehring says, the GOP must develop active relationships with the business community across the state, which he credits as key to victories in San Diego.

The GOP, Nehring explains, must work better to attract Latinos and other immigrant communities. “Relationship building cannot only happen when you want something from someone. We have to be at the Cinco de Mayo event…media efforts need to be focused on local ethnic media,” Nehring says.

Matt Katzenberger is an intern at THE WEEKLY STANDARD.

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