Although the primary election is still months away, I’ll go out on a limb now to make a prediction: Ray Ellis will win the District 1 City Council seat in June, giving Republicans their first Council majority in more than two decades.
Discerning meaning from election results is like taking a Rorschach test – everyone sees what they want to see. Some will no doubt interpret the outcome as a referendum on Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s leadership; others will blame ex-Mayor Bob Filner for sullying the Democratic brand in San Diego. Perhaps others will point to Ellis’s impressive (or Barbara Bry’s disappointing) campaign performance.
Don’t pay much attention to these explanations. The outcome of this year’s election was largely predetermined five years ago: The credit – or blame, depending on your point of view – goes to the San Diego Redistricting Commission, the seven-member citizen group that’s formed every 10 years to set new boundaries for City Council districts. The maps the commission drew in 2011 made it very hard for Democrats to translate their large voter majorities into a sufficient number of City Council victories.
Although Democrats have a huge voter registration advantage in San Diego – and President Barack Obama carried the city by overwhelming margins in 2008 and 2012 – Democratic voters are concentrated in a few Council districts in the southern part of the city. Indeed, David Alvarez’s and Marti Emerald’s districts are so blue that the San Diego County Republican Party has stopped bothering to field credible candidates there.