Mixing It Up

San Diego swung blue this past election with several standout political races going Democratic. Democratic candidates such as mayor Bob Filner, city councilmember Sherri Lightner and district representative Scott Peters won by small margins, despite San Diego’s typically right-leaning constituents who have voted Republican in all but three of the past 17 presidential elections (two of which were most recently to elect Obama). This marks a distinct turn in San Diego politics away from its conservative reputation to reveal that this city is a microcosm of differing political interests.

The 2012 elections in San Diego were closer than we have seen in years. Take for example, the mayoral race between Democrat Bob Filner and Republican Carl DeMaio. DeMaio was a leader when he finished first in the June primary with 31.32 percent of the vote, but when it came to the election, Filner won with a slim majority of 51.56 percent. This marks Filner as only the second Democrat in the last 40 years to clinch the mayoral position in San Diego, and the first in 20 years. This outcome, as well as the other named offices turning Democrat, shows a divisive population that made its way to the polls this year.

The diverse political population is reflected in the data of registered voters. In this small subcategory, which comprises 74.64 percent of the local population, 35.31 percent are registered Democrats and 34.07 percent are Republicans — a near split down the middle. This reflects the close numbers in elections, such as Scott Peters’ by-a-hair victory with a majority of 2,660 votes over Brian Bilbray. With this election, San Diego sheds the conservative image portrayed in San Diego’s major daily paper, the U-T San Diego, which runs its own section on conservative news called “Seeing Red.” While this Republican-charged and anti-Obama publication caters to its readership, it gives the appearance that San Diego is not a county that actually had a voter majority for Obama in both presidential elections. To understand San Diego’s views, one cannot simply look to a single publication.

UCSD’s organization Student Organized Voter Access Committee took special efforts this year to activate the campus politically, which may contribute to the close numbers in this past election. According to the Cooperative Institutional Research Program Freshman Survey, a national survey conducted by UCLA in 2011, college students’ political and social views lean in a more liberal direction overall. This is likely to have swung the balance, since SOVAC promoted voter registration both at on-campus booths and online.

Most notably, SOVAC brought mayoral candidates Carl DeMaio and Bob Filner to campus for a live debate. Proposition 30 on the ballot mobilized a lot of the youth vote as many students desperately looked to avoid the sting of tuition increases for another year. Designating a record eight polling places on campus to encourage even the laziest students to take a moment to fill in some bubbles further activated the student population.

San Diego is truly a microcosm of political interests and should not be placed in the conservative category, as it didn’t make the top 10 Republican counties in California. The county brought in education-minded Democrats but also shot down Prop. 30, showing a mix of political ideas. This past election marks a new identity for San Diego — one that can’t be defined by a party.

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