Why Democrats need to focus on Supervisor elections
Currently, all five Supervisors are Republicans, and their monopoly on power is not a new phenomenon. Going back 30 years, there have been 24 different Supervisors, and only one of them has been a Democrat (and he didn’t even serve a full term). During that same time frame, there have been 37 different elections for Supervisor, and none of those races have even been close.
In many of those elections, there was no Democrat in the race. In the few instances where a Democrat was on the ballot, they usually didn’t get past the June primary. In the rare scenario where a Democrat is on the November ballot for Supervisor, they always lost by double-digit margins.
It is tempting to explain this Republican dominance as the natural by-product of living in a historically conservative county. That may have been true in the past, but things have changed. Plus, the Supervisors are not elected on a county-wide basis; they are elected by district. District #1 (Santa Ana / Garden Gove area) has a 16-point voter registration advantage for Democrats. District #4 (Anaheim / Fullerton area) has a 8-point voter registration advantage for Democrats. There are enough Democrats to win these races.
It’s hard to imagine that Democrats are losing because they don’t care; the more likely explanation is that they don’t know. Many Democrats do not know that theses races matter. Many Democrats do not know that June matters. Unlike Federal and State races which are guaranteed to have a general election in November, county races can be won in June, if any candidate receives more than 50% of the vote. Often times, that is exactly what happens. Many Democrats also do not know who the Democratic candidate is, because county races are non-partisan, meaning no party affiliation appears on the ballot.
Republicans have capitalized on this ignorance by using the Board of Supervisors as a pipeline to cultivate candidates who regularly ascend to higher office. For example, the California state senate only has 13 Republicans, and 3 of them were on the Orange County Board of Supervisors in 2014; a current Supervisor is currently a leading candidate to replace Ed Royce in congress.
Also, Supervisors get to redraw their own maps every 10 years, after census results are made available. Last time, one Republican Supervisor acknowledged that his colleagues gerrymandered the maps in their favor (see article here). It had meaningful impact on subsequent elections. There is no reason to believe the same thing will not be done in the future.
That is the bad news. The good news, is that a lack of information can be fixed. By heightening the collective awareness amongst Democrats, we can have a place in our county government. By electing Democrats to the Board of Supervisors, our shared values can be represented, and our policy goals can be advanced. Furthermore, we can put an end to the Republican pipeline of candidates, and start building a pipeline of our own.
This year, three districts are up for election. In District #2 (Newport, Costa Mesa, Huntington, etc.), the Democratic candidate is Brendon Perkins. In District #4 (Anaheim, Fullerton, etc.), the Democratic candidate is Joe Kerr. In District #5, the Republican incumbent is running unopposed. Even though Democrats in Districts #1, #3, and #5 do not have a candidate to vote for in 2018, they can still help Democratic candidates in other districts. After all, once a Supervisor is elected, they make decision on behalf of the entire county, not just their respective district.
So, get the word out, and let’s turn all levels of Orange County blue!