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In an election that’s expected to be tough for Democratic candidates across the country, Stephen Whitburn has hammered home his party affiliation with San Diego voters.

Campaign signs typically highlight candidate names and some type of slogan related to an issue in the election. Whitburn’s county supervisor campaign rolled out this lawn sign: “Stephen Whitburn: Democrat.”

On Nov. 2, Whitburn will be vying to unseat Supervisor Ron Roberts and represent the region’s urban core. Roberts and his four colleagues on the county board are Republicans, which Whitburn has made a point of highlighting while debating and canvassing.

“All five are from the same political party, which I don’t think is healthy. It’s always good to have different viewpoints at the table,” Whitburn said most recently during a KPBS debate this morning. “In this case, all five supervisors are Republicans. I’m a Democrat.”

Along the campaign trail, Whitburn has put party affiliation at the forefront of his introduction, even before hot topics like the economy and firefighting. By doing that, he’s aimed to rally registered Democrats who outnumber Republicans by a two-to-one margin in the district.

Both Roberts and Whitburn have received financial support from their respective political parties, but the parties have mostly stayed out the race since the June primary. The county’s Republican Party has spent about $24,000 on the race and the county’s Democratic Party has spent $17,000.

If Whitburn succeeds in making the election a partisan race and Democrats show up to support him in droves, winning Republican and independent voters becomes vital for Roberts. As of Oct. 21, voter registration in the district was 131,000 Democrats, 68,000 Republicans and 68,000 decline-to-states.

Because a partisan race could play to Whitburn’s advantage, Roberts has downplayed party affiliation during debates and candidate forums. At the end of the KPBS debate this morning, he reminded listeners that the county supervisor seat is officially nonpartisan.

“I’ve never engaged in partisan-ism in terms of making decisions or anything else for the county of San Diego,” Roberts said.

Please contact Keegan Kyle directly at keegan.kyle@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5668 and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/keegankyle.

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