Jess Durfee, newly retired San Diego Democratic Party Chairman, addressed members of the Lake San Marcos Democratic Club at their monthly meeting this past Saturday. Jess began by recalling what goals he had established for himself when he first took the position back in 2004 and as he read through them all it quickly became apparent that he more than succeeded in achieving all of them.
Before Jess’s presentation, he invited Dave Roberts to also address the club. Dave thanked the club for its endorsement and support. Since Dave is now the only Democrat on the County Board of Supervisors, he and Jess made it clear that Dave essentially represents all Democrats in the county and we should not hesitate to bring issues to him.
Jess summarized the activities of the party which were quite extensive, particularly for 2012 and the recent general election:
- Voter registration efforts by the all-volunteer Voter Registration Team were extremely effective in registering thousands of first time voters. The result was a 20,000 registered voter advantage for the Democratic Party. When Jess first assumed the party chair position, there was an 80,000 registered voter Republican advantage!
- The party was able to support several endorsed candidates, such as Dave Roberts, who were running in jurisdictions that had restrictive campaign finance limits. This included party financed and administered direct mail programs of 25 different versions of mail pieces sent to targeted communities.
- The GO Team success was especially remarkable. GO teamers logged well over 100,000 door knocks, phone calls and distributed doorhangers via hundreds of precinct leaders county wide. For the first time, the GO Team used statistical models developed by the Democratic National Committee and the Obama Campaign to target specific voters for persuasion and turnout. And the data is in for the overall result: among targeted voters who were successfully contacted, turnout was 3% higher than overall voter turnout and 10% higher than the overall average Democratic voter turnout. Of all those voters who were canvassed and identified as “Yes” – voting for our Democratic slate – 90% turned out and actually voted!
- The Democratic Unity Program recruited and coordinated hundreds of additional workers who were motived by support of President Obama, but then canvassed targeted precincts for the whole slate top to bottom as a result.
- New regional field offices were opened in Chula Vista and La Mesa and the party supported Democratic Club offices in Fallbrook and Pacific Beach. Organized get-out-the-vote efforts were also supported out of the Carlsbad and Escondido candidate campaign offices. The party is now committed in the future to extending and expanding such support as it gives each field office more area ownership for local activities.
- Additionally, candidates were supported via training and technical assistance for endorsed campaigns using the online VoteBuilder database. Better online engagement via Facebook and Twitter was used to disseminate information generated by endorsed campaigns as well as provided yet another means for volunteers to make targeted phone calls that reached into their own personal circles of friends and followers.
The outcomes were amazing! San Diego County has now become more BLUE than ever as Democrats won every critical and closely watched campaign in the county, including Mayor of San Diego, San Diego County Council District 1, County Board of Supervisors District 3, and the 52nd Congressional District. The city of San Diego now has a Democratic Mayor and City Council majority for the first time in its history! Fully 71% of candidates endorsed by the SDCDP prevailed in the General Election.
Now what lies ahead for the next Chair of the SDCDP? Future goals include improving the endorsement process so it’s less of a drawn out “marathon”; recruiting candidates who can win – according to Jess “we now know if we run Democratic candidates they can win”; host gatherings of local elected Democratic officials across the county for information sharing on issues and joint fund raising efforts; figuring out how future Central Committee elections will take place given the impact of the new open primary process; and providing more of a support system to elected officials in rallying Democratic voters behind their issues.
Jess was asked what lies ahead for him now given his retirement from the chairman role. He is still planning to serve on the Democratic National Committee. This is extremely important for San Diego County because of the 20 California members on the committee, 19 are from Los Angeles with only Jess as the non-LA member. He also plans to now become an active board member of the LGBT Board in San Diego.
Thanks to Jess Durfee club members had an excellent overview of the successes he achieved for the party, for the causes we all support and for the rise and success of Democratic candidates in turning the county blue. We extend our thanks and best wishes to Jess for continued success in all he takes on in the future.