Both the region’s largest labor organization and the local Democratic Party took a pass this week on making an endorsement in a crowded June county supervisors race. But the local Democratic head said doing so could help its chances against Ron Roberts, the entrenched 15-year incumbent Republican.

A diverse field of four newly minted Democratic candidates is vying to defeat Roberts. With the candidates coming late to the game, the fight is to keep Roberts below 50 percent of the vote and force a runoff election in November when Democrats’ chances likely would improve.

Roberts and Democrats Stephen Whitburn and Shelia Jackson vied for the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council’s endorsement, but it chose no one. Labor Council Political Director (and former reporter) Evan McLaughlin said the council would let voters narrow the field in June and then reassess for the runoff election. He added his organization’s target at the county level is a term-limit initiative that would restrict supervisors to eight years in office.

The Democratic Party didn’t endorse anyone, either. But it rated all four candidates — Whitburn, Jackson, Juan del Río and Margaret Moody — “acceptable.”

Jess Durfee, the local Democratic Party head, said that rating allows the party to feature all the candidates on its literature and mailers. It just can’t use the word “endorse.” The party’s bylaws prohibit it from endorsing more than one candidate.

“We want Democrats out there to know they have choices,” Durfee said.

“The body felt that was the best way to move toward our goal,” he added. “If we threw our support behind one candidate we might not have achieved that.”


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