Democrats Maneuver in San Diego

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 27, 2018 — Two noteworthy Democrat events happened in San Diego over the past few days.

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D)

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D)

First, the California Democratic Party state convention, meeting in San Diego over the weekend, actually denied veteran Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) the party endorsement. Though the delegates came close to endorsing state Senate President Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles), he also fell short.

In the vote to award the party endorsement for the 2018 US Senate race, it was state Sen. de Leon capturing 54 percent of the delegate votes as compared to only 37 percent for incumbent Sen. Feinstein. A total of 60 percent was needed for endorsement. This is not the first time that the liberal grassroots delegates have turned away from Feinstein. According to an NPR account of the convention proceedings, the party delegates chose then-Attorney General John Van de Kamp over Feinstein in the 1990 governor’s race.

The lack of an endorsement will not hurt the senator’s campaign, however. A January Public Policy Institute of California poll (Jan. 21-30; 1,705 California adults) favored Sen. Feinstein over Mr. de Leon, 46-17 percent, when tested in the jungle primary format. She has an even more commanding lead in campaign resources. The year-end Federal Election Commission disclosure report finds her holding just under $10 million in her campaign account as compared to an embarrassingly low $359,000 for de Leon.


In the San Diego/Orange County open 49th Congressional District (GOP Rep. Darrell Issa retiring), Democrats are optimistic about their conversion chances despite a six-point party registration deficit within the Pacific Coast district. In 2016, the 49th recorded the closest congressional vote in the country, with Rep. Issa surviving against retired Marine Col. Doug Applegate (D) by a slight 1,621-vote margin, while President Trump was only attracting 43.2 percent of the vote.

Applegate is returning to compete for the open seat, but his fundraising is lagging ($682,845 raised; $249,463 cash-on-hand), and party leaders are thinking that he might be more effective in a lower-profile race. One reason that they may be willing to eschew a candidate who did so well is that two others appear to be running better early campaigns. Attorney Michael Levin (D), whose campaign committee is filed with a Sacramento address while listing his home in Long Beach, had raised $1.24 million by year’s end with over $486,000 in the bank.

Former State Department official Sara Jacobs (D), who has invested more than $1 million of her own money into the campaign, shows almost $1.24 million in her campaign account.

With the Republicans fielding three established candidates, Assemblyman Rocky Chavez (R-Oceanside), Board of Equalization member and former Orange County Assemblywoman Diane Harkey (R-Dana Point), and County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar (R-Encinitas), experience favors the GOP. All have been successful in several contested political campaigns while the Democratic candidates have won none. Therefore, Democratic leaders are trying to winnow the field in order to avoid a scenario where the party vote is split to the degree that two Republicans are able to qualify for the general election.

Survey USA ran a poll of the impending qualifying race scheduled for June 5. Their study (Feb. 10-13; 775 CA-49 registered voters, 510 likely June 5 jungle primary voters) finds a closely bunched field. Applegate places first, but with only 18 percent of the vote, with Assemblyman Chavez closely on his heels at 17 percent. Harkey is the only other candidate in double-digits, posting 10 percent. Levin is next with eight percent, Supervisor Gaspar follows with seven percent, and Jacobs records only five percent support. Clearly, this survey finds that virtually any combination of two of these candidates could reasonably expect to qualify for the general election.

Interestingly, though leading in the first poll, Applegate may be willing to switch into an open district county supervisors’ campaign. He recently moved his residence into that local seat, but still may not qualify. Under California law, one must be a resident of a particular district 30 days before the candidate filing deadline – in this case, March 9 – and it is unclear to the public whether Applegate would meet that requirement.

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