Call us as outdated as a 1994 political campaign button, but whatever happened to certain elective positions being nonpartisan in nature?
Elections for national and state offices have always pitted representatives of the Democratic and Republican parties, (and sometimes a third-party candidate,) against each other. But it seems that the “them-vs.-us” partisanship has leaked down to county and municipal elections as well.
It used to be you would pick a mayor, city council candidate or county official based on his or her resume. Once elected, the winners would work on important issues with other members of the board, without giving much thought to political party affiliations.
Not so much now.
An example presented itself on Election Night, as Bob Filner, the presumptive next mayor of San Diego, was speaking to the media. Filner is a longtime Democratic congressman from the city’s southern section. No sooner had the TV lights turned on when Filner began boasting that, for the first time in the city’s history, a Democratic mayor would lead a Democratic-majority council. He seemed very proud of himself and his declaration was met with cheers from labor union members who were in the room with him.
That’s what we call getting off on the wrong consensus-building foot.
Two other regional races, allegedly nonpartisan, got bogged down with party affiliations as well. For county supervisor, Democrat Dave Roberts defeated Republican Steve Danon while the District 1 San Diego City Council race saw Democrat Sherri Lightner defeat Republican Ray Ellis. (Her win assured a Democratic majority on the council.)
Several years ago the then-head of the county Republican Party declared “There’s no such thing as a nonpartisan election.” Sadly, it’s become more and more the case.
As to where this trend may lead, look no further than the United States Senate or the state Legislature in Sacramento. In both examples the two political parties have become so entrenched in maintaining their positions of power that there is little hope of any meaningful legislation being passed.
It could happen here. Perhaps it has already begun.
Three other observations:
• We underestimated voter resentment toward the controversial Poway Unified School District capital appreciation bonds. Voters lined up behind board challenger Kimberley Beatty and sent 14-year-member Linda Vanderveen into an unplanned retirement. Sixteen-year incumbent Andy Patapow kept his seat, probably because his few public comments about the CABs were not as strongly supportive as those of Vanderveen’s. Had there been a second challenger in the race, Patapow likely would have seen his long political career end as well.
• The CABs also haunted former PUSD board member Jeff Mangum in his attempt to be elected to the Poway City Council. His campaign, launched early in the year, was doing fine until media started paying attention to the CABs in August. Despite his best efforts (“You can’t explain this in 60 seconds”) Mangum stumbled and never regained his political footing, finishing third behind Steve Vaus and Jim Cunningham.
• Returning to partisan politics any notion that inland North County is “safe Republican territory” should be set aside with that 1994 campaign button. Meet Democrat Marty Block, the new state senator representing Rancho Bernardo and (maybe, depending on the final vote count) Democrat Scott Peters, our congressman.
The best thing that can be said about the election season is that it’s over. Sadly, it’s what we say every two years.