On Election Day, Columnist Dick Spotswood of the Marin IJ wrote “What’s A Win For North Bay Republicans?”. In it he stated:
In the 2008 general election, the Republican nominee in the 6th Congressional District was Sonoman Mike Halliwell. He faced off against nine-term incumbent Lynn Woolsey (Dem-Petaluma). In 2008 Halliwell garnered 24.8% of the Sonoma vote and 22.42% of the Marin vote. That’s just about par with the Republican registration in the two counties.
The year in the 6th CD, its Republican Jim Judd of Cotati against Lynn Woolsey. In the 6th Assembly District it’s Republican Bob Stephens of San Rafael against Assembly member Jared Huffman who is trying for his third and final term.
It doesn’t take a political genius to understand that Woolsey and Huffman will win. The question remains: can these two Republicans make an advance in this Democratic stronghold?
If either Judd and Stephens get less than 25% of the vote they will have accomplished nothing but bring in the usual GOP vote. That means that the Tea Party and the militant Republicans will be proven to have no significant North Bay presence.
On the other hand, if either achieves over 25% of the vote but less than 35%, they will have made progress, slow progress for sure, but progress all the same in restoring local Republicans back to political credibility in Marin and Sonoma counties.
With 100% of the precincts reporting, Jim Judd stands at 30.4%, so by Mr. Spotswood’s reckoning, the Jim Judd for Congress campaign has made headway. Assembly candidate Bob Stephens, mentioned too, received 30.2%. One who posted an even larger percentage was Lawrence Wiesner, the Republican candidate in State Senate District 2. He pulled in 36.9% against incumbent Noreen Evans. However, Mr. Wiesner, unlike the other two candidates has run for various offices before in this area, so his voter name recognition would be higher.
I agree with Dick Spotswood to a degree. Certainly the increased percentages represent tangible progress. It’s heartening news for those of us who think our perpetual incumbents are not serving us well. However, I am not sure that the higher percentages can really be attributed to the hard work done by the campaigns. Volunteers poured their hears and souls into contacting voters and making the case for these Republicans. I saw this (and helped) at the Jim Judd headquarters. But, this was a year in which some voters, as I mentioned in my previous post about the Jim Judd for Congress Election Night Celebration, realized without any help from local campaigns that Congress needed reforming. As we saw across much of our country, many areas did boot their incumbents and choose new representation in both the House and Senate, nationally, and in their governorships and state houses. It was a virtual certainty that a percentage of those who live here who don’t normally vote for “the other main party” would this time simply of their own volition. Oh, I’m sure that some minds were swayed by confident and able phone bankers on the Republican side hereabouts. But, I think the gains made here in District 6 (and nearby) in 2010 were mainly a characteristic of the general voter unrest that was sweeping the country.
Why can’t Republican campaigns here make more significant inroads, even in such pivotal election years as this? The Democrat majority here (and those of other parties too) is still too comfortable. Many know people who have lost jobs and homes, but overall, most still aren’t being economically pinched too badly. This leads to little participation or interest in political concerns. When I did phone bank duty, most callers just wouldn’t be bothered. And this applied to Republicans I spoke with also. Many voters won’t educate themselves more than very superficially about issues and thus when they vote — if they do — they go for name recognition on the ballot. This is extremely frustrating for those of us who try to understand the issues and the candidates. An informed electorate is vital to good decision-making at the polls.
The media too does a generally poor job of delivering fair and balanced information about candidates to the voters. The newspapers seldom allow the candidates to simply present their views (the exceptions are a few opinion pieces that were published). Instead, both supposed journalistic pieces and editorials are rife with slant and judgments from the “reporters” and the editors. This is not the way a free society’s press ought to handle its obligations to the voters.
Fortunately, the Internet allows candidates to present themselves on their own websites and through other sites too. However, too few of the total electorate really takes the time to read the information available.
The Republican Party is a virtual stranger to candidates here. Monetary support is nearly nonexistent, as is any other kind of support. The national and state Party just writes us off because of the Democrat voter registration superiority here. This must change. The Party needs to put some effort into districts like District 6 and invest in growing the percentages on Election day.
So, yes, Jim Judd’s campaign as well as those of other Republicans did make some headway. But it remains to be seen whether this “bump” was an anomaly due to the palpable discontent nationwide this election cycle, or whether it will serve as the basis for further, sustainable growth.
Perhaps after the Citizens Redistricting Commission completes its work next year (and with passage of Prop. 20 and the defeat of Prop. 27 that will be possible) more of the congressional districts in California will have more reasonable boundaries and won’t so blatantly favor incumbents. Whether changes in Northern California will make discernible difference is questionable because there are, quite simply, more Democrats here than Republicans no matter how you slice up the California landscape. However, fairer redistricting lines will boost the morale of a lot of voters, I think.
Someone I know very well told me the other day that maybe a candidate just has to keep running for office over and over to get that name recognition so that finally the voters who cast their ballots on that basis will elect him or her. To a degree I understand that. In a way it is the candidates paying their “dues” to the voters and the political process. But across the country, we saw new faces to politics gain seats. Their voters were engaged enough to learn their names and vote for them. I would prefer that Congressional District 6 became a place where deserving, honest, capable candidates could defeat an incumbent who is re-elected by rote more than by true merit of her own. We’re not there yet. But we won’t give up.