San Diego’s most Democratic, Republican and independent cities and precincts. / Map by Ashley Lewis
San Diego’s most Democratic, Republican and independent cities and precincts. / Map by Ashley Lewis

This post originally appeared in the Oct. 27 Politics Report. Get the Politics Report delivered to your inbox.

For nearly 150 years, through two world wars and massive growth, San Diego County loved the Republican Party. From 1860-2004, only a handful of Democratic candidates for president managed to win over county voters. JFK couldn’t do it. Neither could Al Gore, John W. Davis or James M. Cox (no, we’re not making those last two up).

We liked Republicans so much that Ronald Reagan called us his “Lucky City” and ended his presidential campaigns here. And in 1964, we were one of only five counties in the state that didn’t join the national landslide for LBJ against Barry Goldwater.

In other words, we were deep, deep red for a very long time. Orange County-style red. (Not red enough to ever support Abraham Lincoln, the original Republican president, but that’s another story.)

A new hue: For a decade now, the county has gone blue, voting for both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. We may stay that way. As of Sept. 30, 36 percent of voters in the county are Democrats, 28 percent are Republicans and 30 percent are independent.

We searched voter registration statistics for outliers because we’re extreeeeeeme. Here’s what we found:

  • Most of the 18 cities in the county have more Democrats than Republicans, including cities that may seem GOP-friendly such as Solana Beach, Encinitas, La Mesa, Vista and tiny, rich Del Mar. The most Democratic city is National City.
  • Only six cities have more Republicans than Democrats: Carlsbad, El Cajon, Poway, San Marcos, Santee and Coronado, where all those retired Navy admirals have produced the most Republican city in the county.

As a whole, unincorporated areas — including towns outside cities like Fallbrook, Lakeside and Ramona — are GOP strongholds too.

  • In some cities, the gap between Democrats and Republican registration is measured in dozens of voters or a few hundred. Republicans are in danger of being overtaken by Democrats in El Cajon and San Marcos; Del Mar and Oceanside could easily go Republican.
  • The most Republican precinct is in East County’s town of Alpine. The most Democratic precincts aren’t in places you might expect, like Hillcrest or the neighborhood known as the People’s Republic of Ocean Beach. Instead, they’re in Encanto (part of the historically black southeastern San Diego area) and the upscale northern stretches of Normal Heights.
  • The precinct with the highest percentage of independent voters covers UC San Diego. It looks like political parties aren’t doing a good job of wooing college students, at least those of the UCSD Triton variety.

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at

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