Sunday, January 18, 2015

Why Do So Many Northern Californians Win Statewide Races Despite The Population Advantage of Southern California?


Gavin Newsom and Eric Garcetti, into tech

When I first moved to California, the U.S. senators were both from Northern California. Democrat Alan Cranston, from a prominent Northern California family was from Palo Alto, when he was elected to the first of 4 terms starting (1968). Republican S.I. Hayakawa was born in Vancouver, Canada,but was the president of the University of San Francisco and lived in Mill Valley when he was elected to his single term.Since 1992, that's the Dianne Feinstein seat, another Bay Area politician.. Caught up in John McCain's Keating 5 scandal, Cranston decided not to run for a 5th term and that seat went to Marin County congresswoman Barbara Boxer in 1993. As you know by now, Boxer isn't seeking reelection in 2016 and a made scramble is on between Democrats trying to figure out if they want to go for the Boxer seat, the Feinstein seat, which will come up by 2018 or the gubernatorial mansion when Jerry Brown is termed out in 2018. Conventional wisdom has it that the frontrunners are former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, former San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, San Francisco billionaire/environmental activist Tom Steyer. There are a dozen other top candidates looking at one or more of the opportunities from both northern and southern California. But I'm sure you've noticed that the 3 top candidates are from San Francisco (population 837,442) not from Los Angeles (population 3,884,307) or even San Diego (population 1,355,896).

How does that happen? Top Democratic election consultant Paul Mitchell of Political Data Inc says it's because L.A. County is last in the state when it comes to vote-by mail-- although there is one community in the L.A, area that's an exception-- the exception that proves the rule.
Bay Area counties have 3.4 million registered voters. L.A. County has 4.8 million voters. But 1.7 million Bay Area voters cast ballots in November, 200,000 more than voted in Los Angeles County.

The numbers were stark in the primary, too, when 569,621 Bay Area Democrats voted, compared to 434,752 L.A. County Democrats, according to Paul Mitchell of Political Data.

Mitchell calculates that if L.A. Democrats turned out in the percentages that Bay Area Democrats did in the June primary, there would have been 383,681 more votes cast by Democrats.

Former Speaker John A. Pérez, who represented Los Angeles, understands the implications. He lost the primary for controller by 481 votes to Betty Yee, a San Franciscan, who won the seat in November.

Granted, there wasn’t much to compel voters to go to the polls in California in 2014. Turnout will improve in 2016, a presidential campaign year. But the pattern has held true no matter the election cycle.

Theories abound for L.A.’s lackadaisical approach to voting. Poverty could be relevant. Mitchell attributes the dismal showing to the paucity of permanent absentee voters in Los Angeles County.

Bay Area voters embrace mail-in ballots. The percentage of L.A. County permanent absentee voters is last among the 58 counties.

“Remember, we are also only talking about registered voters,” Mitchell said in an email. “So, the argument can’t be about the high number of non-citizens in L.A., or the lower registration rates to begin with. The discussion, however, should be about how L.A. has chronically low absentee voter rates. That is definitely one of the drivers.”

Latinos are notably absent from the permanent absentee roles in Los Angeles County. Mitchell’s data show that only 10 percent of Latinos voted in the June primary, and only 26 percent of them are permanent absentee voters.

Contrast that with the heavily Armenian Los Angeles suburb of Glendale, where politicos long have encouraged vote-by-mail and where 40 percent of Armenian voters are permanent absentee voters. Turnout among Armenian Americans was 23 percent in Glendale, significantly above Los Angeles County’s overall turnout.

“You have to use every method available,” Glendale Mayor Zareh Sinanyan said. He’s one of two Armenian Americans on the City Council. Glendale’s elected clerk and treasurer are Armenian Americans, as are three school board members. “Anything to expand the democratic process.”

...It’s a stretch to say that as go the Armenians of Glendale, so will go the next California Senate seat. But the data show that in a statewide contest, geography matters. So do postage stamps.
Despite reports in the robotic and always clueless DC-media to the contrary, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti was never interested in Boxer's seat. He's a very disciplined politician who's always seen his career trajectory through the governor's mansion, not through a legislature. In 2018 there may be an epic battle between Garcetti and the widely disliked Newsom, a neoliberal stooge who people mistake for a progressive because he engineered a publicity stunt of illegally marrying gay couples at City Hall. Hopefully the smart people around Garcetti are working on that permanent absentee voting piece for L.A. County right now.

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