How San Diego Elected a ‘Birther’ Judge

How San Diego Elected a ‘Birther’ Judge

Photo courtesy of KPBS

Gary Kreep, who voters elected a San Diego Superior Court judge, appears on KPBS Evening Edition June 20.

 

One of the most intriguing results from the June 5 election involved two candidates for San Diego Superior Court judge: Gary Kreep and Garland Peed.

Kreep, a constitutional law attorney and head of a nonprofit legal foundation, narrowly defeated Peed, a 27-year county prosecutor. The countywide result came down to less than 2,000 votes.

Judicial elections typically receive little public attention, but Kreep’s victory attracted national scrutiny because he is prominent advocate for the “birther movement,” which claims President Barack Obama was not born in the United States. Kreep has participated in commercials questioning Obama’s eligibility for office.

The two candidates’ last names have also drawn a fair amount of snickering and mockery. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, for example, struggled to discuss the election on her June 7 show while trying to retain her composure. Still laughing, she wiped tears from her eyes at the end of the segment.

Together, these factors have fed speculation that the roughly 400,000 people who voted in the election were ill-informed and randomly picked candidates based on their names. Had voters been adequately informed about Kreep’s background, the argument went, his opponent would’ve won.

“I doubt that more than a handful had any idea who he was when they marked their ballots,” wrote Andy Cohen for the San Diego Free Press, a progressive news website. “More likely the voters saw his funny name and thought it would be a riot to put a guy named ‘Kreep’ onto the bench.”

In an editorial, the alt-weekly San Diego CityBeat directly chastised county voters for supporting Kreep. It wrote, “Did you really think he was the best man for the job? Or did you choose him because his last name tickled your fancy?”

In an interview with Kreep last week, KPBS’ Joanne Faryon also asked whether the names had played much of a role in the election’s outcome. Kreep called the suggestion ridiculous and rebuked Maddow and Cohen for making it.

“[They] said today my election is the reason people shouldn’t be allowed to vote for judges,” Kreep said. “The liberal elitist establishment believes that the common people are too stupid to make the decisions.”

Instead, Kreep told Ramona Patch last week, his victory should be attributed to his campaign strategy. He purchased a “tremendous amount” of slate mailers from various organizations and robo-calls to voters. (He spent $14,000, CityBeat reported.)

It’s impossible to measure whether the names greatly influenced the election’s outcome without exit polling, but I decided to examine precinct results for any indication of a discernible pattern. The map below shows who won each precinct, according to unofficial results released by county election officials.

The map doesn’t show a random pattern but rather a clear geographic divide between rural and urban parts of the county.

My takeaway? The results undermine the idea that many voters randomly selected the candidates based on their last names. If that factor had been widespread, a very distinct and bizarre difference exists between what urban and more rural voters find funnier.

At first glance, the geographic divide appears to follow a more historic split between conservative and liberal voters, but party affiliation doesn’t appear to be a consistent indicator in this case. (See this U-T San Diego map of party registration for reference.)

Peed, for example, won precincts with some of the highest concentrations of registered Republicans (like Point Loma and Rancho Bernardo) as well as areas dense with registered Democrats (like Hillcrest and North Park).

Kreep’s support also extended beyond rural areas historically won by Republican candidates. Much of the South Bay, where a majority of registered voters are Democrats, backed Kreep for judge.

So what do you think? What might explain the trends above? Please share your insight in the comments section below or email me directly. If you voted June 5, who did you vote for and why?

Keegan Kyle is a news reporter for Voice of San Diego. He writes about local government, creates infographics and handles the Fact Check Blog. What should he write about next?

Please contact him directly at keegan.kyle@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5668. You can also find him on Twitter (@keegankyle) and Facebook.

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Keegan Kyle

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64 comments
Christopher Crotty
Christopher Crotty subscriber

It's just like negative campaigning. Politicos would stop using them if they didn't work, but they do, so stop whining.

Crotty
Crotty

It's just like negative campaigning. Politicos would stop using them if they didn't work, but they do, so stop whining.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

If nothing else Bob, I am always willing to respond :) Although I'm sure you could write my responses for me, I think I am pretty clear communicating my underlying philosophy on government.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

If nothing else Bob, I am always willing to respond :) Although I'm sure you could write my responses for me, I think I am pretty clear communicating my underlying philosophy on government.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

Like the ones I get that pretend to be from the republican party ut supporting democrat candidates and issues? I have no idea if Kreep did this, but it's common election practice here for a long time and I bet it wasn't the right that started it.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

Like the ones I get that pretend to be from the republican party ut supporting democrat candidates and issues? I have no idea if Kreep did this, but it's common election practice here for a long time and I bet it wasn't the right that started it.

Carol Skiljan
Carol Skiljan subscribermember

Kreep's name was listed first in the ballot designation. First position picks up alot of votes from uniformed voters.

louwood
louwood

Kreep's name was listed first in the ballot designation. First position picks up alot of votes from uniformed voters.

Arizona Bread
Arizona Bread subscriber

I appreciate your response Jim. You make some good points.

Arizona Bread
Arizona Bread

I appreciate your response Jim. You make some good points.

Fred Williams
Fred Williams subscriber

Now we should watch and see how Kreep applies the law, and how Peed continues to advance his "favored" career.

Fred_Williams
Fred_Williams

Now we should watch and see how Kreep applies the law, and how Peed continues to advance his "favored" career.

Maura Larkins
Maura Larkins subscriber

Actually, ignorant voters tend to cancel each other out. It's the voters who have been influenced by others, rather than making up their own minds, that are the problem. For example, voters who were influenced by the slate mailer that Mr. Kreep sent out that appeared to be from Obama supporters.

Maura Larkins
Maura Larkins

Actually, ignorant voters tend to cancel each other out. It's the voters who have been influenced by others, rather than making up their own minds, that are the problem. For example, voters who were influenced by the slate mailer that Mr. Kreep sent out that appeared to be from Obama supporters.

Maura Larkins
Maura Larkins subscriber

Mr. Kreep's actions are exactly the sort of dishonesty that is a violation of professional standards for judges.

Maura Larkins
Maura Larkins

Mr. Kreep's actions are exactly the sort of dishonesty that is a violation of professional standards for judges.

Maura Larkins
Maura Larkins subscriber

sdnative1958--I agree with your main idea, but how about we change it to, "Anyone who won't spend 5 minutes on the Internet to perform due diligence research before walking into a voting booth ...should NOT vote regarding issues or candidates he or she is unfamiliar with. LEAVE IT BLANK IF YOU DON'T KNOW THE CANDIDATES!

Maura Larkins
Maura Larkins

sdnative1958--I agree with your main idea, but how about we change it to, "Anyone who won't spend 5 minutes on the Internet to perform due diligence research before walking into a voting booth ...should NOT vote regarding issues or candidates he or she is unfamiliar with. LEAVE IT BLANK IF YOU DON'T KNOW THE CANDIDATES!

Theresa Acerro
Theresa Acerro subscribermember

I absolutely would not have voted for him if I had known his background.

truthseeker
truthseeker

I absolutely would not have voted for him if I had known his background.

Scharnhorst
Scharnhorst subscriber

being a birther should automatically disqualify him from any judiciary position. It shows lack of cognitive function.

Scharnhorst
Scharnhorst

being a birther should automatically disqualify him from any judiciary position. It shows lack of cognitive function.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

As far as judging solely by the law, I can see you have not sat in on many court cases. Believe me when i tell you that it isn't that simple.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

As far as judging solely by the law, I can see you have not sat in on many court cases. Believe me when i tell you that it isn't that simple.

john eisenhart
john eisenhart subscriber

Jim, I agree with you. Can we please get past the Left vs. Right paradigm. Coke vs Pepsi lazy journalism. Looking at Barry Soetoro's history it becomes apparent that he is a very very unique person. Do you think that anyone can be elected President? That is simply, impossible my friend It is tightly controlled and the candidates are groomed years before. Bush, Regan, Clinton, Obama are all the same. I just want the truth! as John Lennon said. Just give me the truth Barry.

mr architect
mr architect

Jim, I agree with you. Can we please get past the Left vs. Right paradigm. Coke vs Pepsi lazy journalism. Looking at Barry Soetoro's history it becomes apparent that he is a very very unique person. Do you think that anyone can be elected President? That is simply, impossible my friend It is tightly controlled and the candidates are groomed years before. Bush, Regan, Clinton, Obama are all the same. I just want the truth! as John Lennon said. Just give me the truth Barry.

Arizona Bread
Arizona Bread subscriber

How come if Libertarianism is so appealing so few Americans have any interest in it? It's a fair question.

Arizona Bread
Arizona Bread

How come if Libertarianism is so appealing so few Americans have any interest in it? It's a fair question.

michael-leonard
michael-leonard subscriber

And, of course nobody knows how someone will do in any job. Who endorses whom has absolutely no bearing on the matter - and neither does political ideals. It's a judicial post and all cases should be judged solely by the law.

mlcred
mlcred

And, of course nobody knows how someone will do in any job. Who endorses whom has absolutely no bearing on the matter - and neither does political ideals. It's a judicial post and all cases should be judged solely by the law.

shawn fox
shawn fox subscriber

Thanks Keegan for a very fair analysis of the situation. It shouldn't surprise anyone that a hard core progressive takes the elitist view that the masses are too dumb to know what to vote for. That's the way progressives think, and why they believe that we need big government to take care of people. Does that surprise you? It shouldn't. They have always believed that, and they always will. This is very different from the libertarian viewpoint that educated people are capable of participating in a free market with very little government intervention. The data in this election does not appear to be much different from the data associated with any other election.

shawn1874
shawn1874

Thanks Keegan for a very fair analysis of the situation. It shouldn't surprise anyone that a hard core progressive takes the elitist view that the masses are too dumb to know what to vote for. That's the way progressives think, and why they believe that we need big government to take care of people. Does that surprise you? It shouldn't. They have always believed that, and they always will. This is very different from the libertarian viewpoint that educated people are capable of participating in a free market with very little government intervention. The data in this election does not appear to be much different from the data associated with any other election.

shawn fox
shawn fox subscriber

Cohen's assertion makes no logical sense since both candidates had funny last names. hereinsd, thank you for the interesting comment. That is one of the things that I took into consideration when casting my vote. My guess is that many people cautiously chose to vote for an outsider, rather than someone who has been part of the system for so long. Cohen's argument smacks of elitism, and insults my intelligence. Additionally, many taxpayer guides and constitutional organizations supported Kreep. Many people will choose to research the candidates, while others pick the one that is endorsed by the majority of taxpayer or constitutional organizations. Voting for judges is obviously very difficult since the candidates receive far less publicity then the typical senator or congress critter.

shawn1874
shawn1874

Cohen's assertion makes no logical sense since both candidates had funny last names. hereinsd, thank you for the interesting comment. That is one of the things that I took into consideration when casting my vote. My guess is that many people cautiously chose to vote for an outsider, rather than someone who has been part of the system for so long. Cohen's argument smacks of elitism, and insults my intelligence. Additionally, many taxpayer guides and constitutional organizations supported Kreep. Many people will choose to research the candidates, while others pick the one that is endorsed by the majority of taxpayer or constitutional organizations. Voting for judges is obviously very difficult since the candidates receive far less publicity then the typical senator or congress critter.

David Cohen
David Cohen subscriber

I suspect he got elected because those supporting his offensive political views were energized to get out the vote for him, while his opponent received the usual lackadaisical support these contests usually receive. Nothing unusual--just the way so many elections are decided.

fryefan
fryefan

I suspect he got elected because those supporting his offensive political views were energized to get out the vote for him, while his opponent received the usual lackadaisical support these contests usually receive. Nothing unusual--just the way so many elections are decided.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

It was ridiculously easy to sit there with my mail ballot and research all the candidates, Kreep was definitely the better man out of the two for people who think keeping establishment oriented people in places of power for decades is not all that conducive to our nations lofty beginnings.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

It was ridiculously easy to sit there with my mail ballot and research all the candidates, Kreep was definitely the better man out of the two for people who think keeping establishment oriented people in places of power for decades is not all that conducive to our nations lofty beginnings.

Sal D'Anna
Sal D'Anna subscribermember

These voters probably never even looked at the name of the candidate as it was irrelevant. The idea that Kreep got elected because of his name is simply preposterous. He got elected because he was not a former prosecutor.

hereinsd
hereinsd

These voters probably never even looked at the name of the candidate as it was irrelevant. The idea that Kreep got elected because of his name is simply preposterous. He got elected because he was not a former prosecutor.

Deb Kegel
Deb Kegel subscriber

It's not just the last names; voters are influenced by the occupation listed on the ballot. Kreep's said Constitutional Law Attorney and Peed's said Deputy District Attorney. Yes, voters should have read up on the 2 candidates for this office at the League of Women Voter's Smart Voter site (which did link to the UT article with more info re Kreep's unusual views) but perhaps more and more voters no longer read the U-T given its current publisher and decidedly slanted views. Did any of the tv stations run profiles on the candidates for the local bench prior to the election?

SDDeb
SDDeb

It's not just the last names; voters are influenced by the occupation listed on the ballot. Kreep's said Constitutional Law Attorney and Peed's said Deputy District Attorney. Yes, voters should have read up on the 2 candidates for this office at the League of Women Voter's Smart Voter site (which did link to the UT article with more info re Kreep's unusual views) but perhaps more and more voters no longer read the U-T given its current publisher and decidedly slanted views. Did any of the tv stations run profiles on the candidates for the local bench prior to the election?

Les DeLashmutt
Les DeLashmutt subscriber

Judges are the position where I take my voting responsibilities most seriously, because they are more likely to affect my life than any other elected official. I just with more people understood the importance of their vote, and did their research.

Les DeLashmutt
Les DeLashmutt

Judges are the position where I take my voting responsibilities most seriously, because they are more likely to affect my life than any other elected official. I just with more people understood the importance of their vote, and did their research.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

And none of that really speaks as to which would be the better judge, although I certainly would rather go in front of someone with the fiscal conservative libertarian ideals of the tea party than some Dumanis and Sanders endorsed insider. Good sense should outweigh cronyism, but too often it does not.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

And none of that really speaks as to which would be the better judge, although I certainly would rather go in front of someone with the fiscal conservative libertarian ideals of the tea party than some Dumanis and Sanders endorsed insider. Good sense should outweigh cronyism, but too often it does not.

Bill Bradshaw
Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

There are plenty of liberal nut cases on the bench, they just aren't this outspoken. I'll wait and see whether Kreep's decisions reflect his personal beliefs before I castigate him. I'm sure they'll get plenty of publicity; in fact Kreep will be the most watched local judge by a mile. Count on it.

toulon
toulon

There are plenty of liberal nut cases on the bench, they just aren't this outspoken. I'll wait and see whether Kreep's decisions reflect his personal beliefs before I castigate him. I'm sure they'll get plenty of publicity; in fact Kreep will be the most watched local judge by a mile. Count on it.

michael-leonard
michael-leonard subscriber

Actual voting, on the other hand, should be easier than it is - moving election day away from that first Tuesday for a start. The increase in mail-in voting is good. Online will come soon.

mlcred
mlcred

Actual voting, on the other hand, should be easier than it is - moving election day away from that first Tuesday for a start. The increase in mail-in voting is good. Online will come soon.