It’s been a fast paced year in the political realm, and it’s not just the national scene that has seen its share of changes and challenges. The Lake San Marcos Democratic Club was pleased to host Jessica Hayes, Chair of the San Diego County Democratic Party, at the June monthly meeting. Jessica is new to this role as of January, 2017, replacing Francine Busby who previously held that position. Prior to her current role, Jessica was the Vice-Chair of the South Area (the county is split into four regions, East, South, Central and North).
Jessica opened her talk with the adage that Democratic candidates in the county were elected with crossover Republican votes. “It’s about the message”, Jessica explained, “and we got your hope right here!” Democrats “kicked butt” in San Diego in the 2016 election. 77% of our candidates were elected and all but two of the propositions Democrats supported won with the crossover vote. The GO Teams made a big difference. Turnout was 84% where GO team contacts were made, vs. 67% where they were not. “This will be even more important in 2018” Jessica said.
While Jessica reviewed the new tools that have been put in place for both GO Team members as well as candidates, it became apparent that there is a renewed interest in Democrats running for all levels of elected positions. There are currently over 140 active candidates and more than 100 showed up for the March training program, when normally only a dozen or so have attended in past years.
So what’s next for the party in San Diego? The Central Committee is new this year after the January election, and their focus is to gear up for 2018. It is essential that the party unite and explain to voters that the down ballot candidates are “the Trump farm team”. Candidates at the local city level often then feed into the County Board of Supervisors so the goal is to pick off the Republican candidates and reach out to Independents as well. A “listening tour’’ is planned so independents can be heard and convinced to vote Democratic in 2018. “We need to combat fake news,” Jessica explained, “people need to trust someone so that’s why outreach is so important, especially this cycle”.
Jessica feels that the current administration’s excesses may indeed create a backlash for 2018. She sees both Issa and Hunter as vulnerable as does the Democratic party in Washington. And the new California voter registration laws are significant. These new laws will automatically register voters as well as change how provisional ballots are handled. All ballots will now be counted regardless of where they were dropped off. New voter registrations are putting the Democrats way ahead with new registrations running at 42% registering Democratic, 18% registering Republican and 34% registering No Party. 64% are permanent mail voters vs. 22% in 2014.
Turnout for 2018 will be critical. Focus will be on important demographics such as millennials, disaffected Democrats, and a concentrated effort to re-engage the Bernie Sanders wing of the party. “We are the ones who will protect health care and the environment and protect children’s education – We’re here!” Jessica proclaimed. Now we have to get that message out along with asking “What have you gotten from the Republicans holding the line?”
“We have access to seats we never had before as long as we stay focused, keep our heads down and do the work,” Jessica said in closing.