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Daniel House pays less attention to federal politics these days. Instead, he reserves his energy for local elections, which he considers less corrupt and within his grasp to change.
House’s view of the value of local elections was the dominant one I heard while surveying voters in Lemon Grove and Spring Valley on Tuesday morning. But he was also one of the few people — and few progressives — who brought up jail deaths in San Diego County, despite the attention the topic received during the campaign to name a new sheriff after dozens of people have died in custody over the last couple years.
House, a 60-year-old Lemon Grove resident who worked in IT, believes law enforcement is not properly trained on how to interact with people suffering from mental illness, so he’d like to see more mental health funding for jails. He cast his vote for Dave Myers because he wanted someone who was more progressive to take the reins after decades of Republican rule.
“I look for someone with a sense of humanity,” is how he put it.
As the politics and demographics of the region change, it’s a real possibility the next sheriff will be a Democrat. Myers, a former sheriff’s commander, has the Democratic Party’s official endorsement thanks to its progressive base. Kelly Martinez, the current undersheriff, has the support of most high-profile Democrats as well as former sheriff Bill Gore and the deputy sheriff’s union.
Martinez was also the first choice among most of the Republicans and independents I interviewed.
Gayle Vincent, a 55-year-old Lemon Grove resident, said she was concerned about any attempts to take money away from the Sheriff’s Department. At the same time, she thought Martinez would provide deputies with more de-escalation training.
Vincent doesn’t just rely on party affiliation when elections roll around, but instead chooses a candidate who best reflects her. In the end, she went with her gut.
“I just have a good feeling about her,” Vincent said of Martinez.
Other conservatives said they were largely motivated by the buildings that burned in La Mesa following a protest in summer 2020 over the murder of George Floyd.
Several conservatives also cited Martinez’s endorsement by San Diego County Gun Owners as a motivating factor.
Alvin Revilas, a 52-year-old Lemon Grove resident and computer programmer, argued that Martinez was the best defender of the second amendment and would ensure that concealed carry permits continue to be issued without outside government interference. He wouldn’t normally vote for a Democrat, he said, but Martinez seems willing to engage with conservatives and hear them out.
“I use the Chick-fil-A comparison: she’s listening to her customers,” he said with a chuckle.
Another Republican, Tom Deise, a retired painter who lives in Spring Valley, said he voted for Martinez because he believes she’ll push deputies to clear more homeless encampments in parks. Yet he acknowledged that it wouldn’t solve the problem.
“I don’t have a solution either, but you can’t stay there,” he said.
After three hours of surveying voters, I found one person who said they voted for the Republican Party’s official candidate, John Hemmerling. That was Tim McGrath, a 66-year-old Spring Valley resident and president of Golden West Community College in Huntington Beach. He didn’t like that Martinez had switched her party affiliation in 2020.
“My perception right now is that the Democrats are softer on crime,” McGrath said.
Not all the conservatives I spoke to were aware they’d crossed the party line, though. Shari Murphy, a 76-year-old Lemon Grove resident and Republican, said she used the registrar’s booklet to guide her decision and ended up voting for Myers. She liked what he’d written about himself in his ballot statement but didn’t know much else.
“I’m just hoping he’s good,” she said.
When I pointed out that Myers has the support of progressive Democrats, she winced and looked at her husband.
“Dammit,” she said, shaking her head. “Well, it’s too late now.”