Jess Durfee Shines Light on Election Outcome

This past Saturday’s club meeting was a wonderful respite from the week’s election gloom and doom. We heard from Jess Durfee why Californians in particular are suffering such election shock. We do indeed live our own kind of blue bubble here in California, so seeing results from across the country so different from our own had to be unsettling. But as Jess chided right out of the gate, “Depression doesn’t get you anywhere.”

Jess, former chair of the San Diego County Democratic Party and a DNC member, first reviewed the national results. Hillary Clinton won the national popular vote yet Trump won enough of the Electoral College votes to make him President-Elect. Democrats had hoped to win back the Senate, but that too failed. Only two seats were regained, Tammy Duckworth from Illinois and Maggie Hassen from New Hampshire won their races. However that was not enough as 5 total were needed to give Democrats Senate control. The current breakdown is now 48 (D) to 52 (R). Similarly although a few gains were made in the House we are still only at a breakdown of 191 (D, net gain of 6) to 232 (R). As of this writing 12 seats were still too close to call.

Looking at our own statewide results however, the picture is much brighter. Democrats moved California back into Super Majority status in Sacramento. Democrats now have the clear majority in both the Assembly and the Senate. As Jess explained, “It’s great to live in California – we’re a beacon of hope. We may end up being the Sanctuary State!”

California is looking extremely bright for Democrats. Democratic party voter registrations have been running roughly 1,000 MORE a month than Republican registrations for the last several years. Currently Democrats outnumber Republican registrations in San Diego County by 107,835. When Jess arrived on the scene in 2004 it was quite the reverse – there were 60,000 more Republicans than Democrats back then. We have been making great gains in the County resulting in 72% of our 114 endorsed candidates winning their elections.

North County is doing very well. Dave Roberts won his race for County Supervisor paving the way to add a few more Democrats since Ron Roberts and Bill Horn will be termed out in 2018. These two districts are highly Democratic so it is hoped at least one more Democrat will join Dave on the Board in the future. Likewise Democratic presence on our coastal city councils has been moving up the coast, including Cori Schumacher’s win in Carlsbad, the first non-Republican to win a Carlsbad city council seat.

The most important part of Jess’s talk however, was what can we do locally? As Jess explained, “We’ve increased our numbers but we haven’t changed the culture. Many organizations, such as our local Chambers of Commerce, are still run by old institutional Republicans.”

Jess also explained it’s important to stop the June elections. Often a vacant seat is put on the June (primary) election rather than waiting for the November election when there is a much higher turnout. Democrats are hard to get to the polls especially in primaries or off cycle special elections. San Diego City was just able to pass this change by amending their city charter and now it’s important to make sure the county charter is amended as well. That would impact such positions as Sheriff, DA, Assessor and Treasurer.

Another focus area is SANDAG (San Diego Association of Governments) which deals with transportation and open space issues. Each city Mayor appoints a representative so the more Democratic controlled cities we can win the more we can influence SANDAG’s direction as they work to spend billions on transportation and parks.

Likewise nationally the future is most important. We need to keep working to take back Congress in the 2018 mid-term election (the one that Democrats tend to not show up for!) Picking up 2 more Senate seats will make a difference in checking Trump’s agenda. We also need to think long range and rebuild the party infrastructure nationwide. “We are at the lowest point in history for controlling states,” Jess explained. Currently only 13 states now are controlled by Democrats. If we lose one more state we won’t even be able to block a constitutional amendment. “We’ve got to get organized and focus on states before the next census in 2020”, said Jess. “Republicans have gerrymandering down to a science so 2018 plus 2020 must put us in the majority of states to support redistricting efforts.”

Additionally we’ve got to figure out how to frame an argument that works in red states to help eliminate the electoral college, something that can only be done with a constitutional amendment.

The last priority is the rebuilding of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) itself. There are 20 delegates from California on the DNC and Jess is one of them. Normally the selection of DNC officers is based on a list handed down by the winning President but this won’t be the case now. Jess and his 19 other co-delegates are determined to have a full listening and vetting process before they decide who they will vote for as DNC chair. They will be sending out a survey to all of us as our input on what we want in our next chairperson and what direction we want the party to go. According to Jess, “We need a full time chair whose whole focus is the party’s path to the future.”

Click on the link below to view Jess’s presentation.