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Now that the count looks to be pretty much complete, I think I can say one thing for certain: Republicans cannot blame their loss in the District 1 City Council election on Barack Obama.

That’s not to say they aren’t trying. In explaining away the District 1 loss, Duane Dichiara — who ran Republican Phil Thalheimer’s campaign — had a great quote: “You can build the best sandcastle on Earth but if a tsunami comes, it’s not going to survive.”

He said he wouldn’t have done anything differently. Thalheimer said that as well.

I think we’ll have to study the results from across the city to see whether the Obama wave really affected the other areas of town, but I think the Republicans are doing themselves a disfavor if they truly hold to the belief that some kind of unavoidable national enthusiasm for the president elect left them helpless in local elections.

Let’s look at the results.

The District 1 race is the easiest to analyze for this because it was the only City Council race that was actually contentious in 2004 and 2008. And, for comparison purposes, we are lucky to actually have the same Republican candidate. And we have one other advantage in analyzing this: Phil Thalheimer, the Republican in question, ran an anti-establishment, (or as Sarah Palin might say: maverick) in his previous campaign. He railed against developers in ’04 and spurned the Lincoln Club.

This time, Thalheimer ran as a much more traditional San Diego conservative Republican. Developers were cool again and the Lincoln Club worked its butt off for him. So we get to see how that evolution in personal campaigning worked out for him.

As the count stands now in the 2008 race, (and if the count changes, it will be quite minor) here’s where we’re at in the District 1 race:

Sherri Lightner39,945 votes
Phil Thalheimer37,120 votes

So, what was the count in 2004, when Democrat Scott Peters won re-election despite massive spending by Thalheimer against him?

Scott Peters38,087 votes
Phil Thalheimer31,535 votes

That means at least 7,443 more people voted in this election in District 1 than did in 2004 in the same district.

Obama bump? Did the new prez bring a bunch of new Dems to the polls for Lightner? I’m not seeing it.

Looks like Thalheimer — who ran as more of a Republican this time — increased his vote count by 5,585 over his 2004 showing. Lightner only got 1,858 more votes than Peters did in 2004.

Seems like, if anything, the Republicans were actually able to do better this time in District 1.

They just got out campaigned.

SCOTT LEWIS

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