Wednesday, June 18, 2008 | David Washburn’s slap at the San Diego County Democratic Party in does readers a disservice, to say the least. I’ll cite just a few examples where more serious analysis would have helped.

Consider this year’s mayoral race, in which a Republican challenger spent $4.7 million to promote himself as a kind of progressive independent. He couldn’t even force a runoff against the incumbent.

As Voice has reported in the past, incumbent mayors in the city of San Diego are virtually never unseated. So who is really “openly wondering why established Dems didn’t jump in” other than a writer trying to justify a story?

The glib comparison to a special election for Congress in Mississippi doesn’t shed much light on the political reality in San Diego.

The passing reference to Republican “financial support from the downtown business establishment” understates the huge fundraising disadvantage that our community-minded candidates often face. The fact is that Democrats remain competitive and are building momentum in those races, despite being outspent by 2-to-1 or 10-to-1 or more.

San Diego isn’t the only area where the kind of low turnout seen on June 3 strongly favored our opponents. But our City Council candidate placed first in District 1, where Republicans still lead in party registration. In District 7, our candidate virtually tied to force a runoff for a seat that has always been dismissed as out of reach for Democrats.

This November, when turnout will be more than double what we saw in the Primary, Democrats will enjoy a very different playing field. We’re also looking forward to demonstrating the actual infrastructure we’re building, from data management and professional staffing to a robust training program for our growing army of volunteers.

Unfortunately, this story is long on quotes from armchair analysts and short on facts that might show a more balanced view.

Take the instance where Washburn writes: “Another piece of conventional wisdom holds that the local GOP does a better job targeting absentee voters.” Had he checked, he would have found that the early voting rate among Democrats countywide in June was actually slightly higher than for Republicans.

Campaigns are indeed primarily candidate-driven. But by any measure, the County Democratic Party is vastly further developed than it was even four years ago. We have undertaken a long-term program that will bear fruit over multiple electoral cycles, helping Democratic candidates at every level.

This year’s separate Presidential Primary was one of many factors skewing the June results. But in February, the majority of the vote here went to Democrats, even in some of the county’s most conservative districts.

While some aspects of our plan may take longer than others to materialize, it would be a mistake to ignore the signs of a real “new era in San Diego politics” that a more thoughtful study of the underlying trends would suggest.

By November, Democrats may actually have a countywide plurality thanks to our unprecedented voter registration program and our inspirational presidential candidate. When we translate those numbers into local victories, I hope the Voice will take the time to set the record straight.

Jess Durfee is the chairman of the San Diego County Democratic Party.

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