Despite Dem’s Registration Advantage, GOP Still Holding Most County Posts

(November 6) While both the Republican and Democratic parties saw San Bernardino County as an inland oyster from which a key political pearl might be plucked this electoral season, neither was able to make a sweep in capturing victory in the most hotly contested and volatile races, splitting evenly in the county’s two most amped up contests. Outside of those electoral battles, both were able to meet their own minimalist expectations in this year’s “safe” races.
For more than three decades, San Bernardino County has been a Republican stronghold, one of the few GOP  holdings in a state that has steadily trended toward domination by the Democratic Party. In 2008, the number of registered voters in the county identifying themselves as Democrats, some 314,000, eclipsed the number of those registered as Republicans, 312,000. Nevertheless, because Republicans turn out in far greater numbers at the polls than do Democrats as well as in voting by absentee, the Party of Lincoln has continued to dominate the county politically. In recent years, three of its four congressional representatives have been Republicans . Five of its eight assembly members were Republicans. Three of its five state senators were Republicans. Though county and municipal offices are considered non-partisan ones, those positions, overall are predominantly occupied by registered Republicans. Of the members of the board of supervisors, until 2012, four of five were Republicans. In the last two years, three of the five are Republicans. Of the county’s 24 incorporated cities, only three – San Bernardino, Colton and Rialto – had city councils with a majority of Democratic Party-affiliated members.
In this year’s election, within San Bernardino County, Republican Paul Cook easily outdistanced Democratic challenger Bob Conaway in the 8th Congressional District race, 58,825 votes or 68.32 percent to 27,277 votes or 31.68 percent.
In the 35th Congressional District, two Democrats vied against one another, with Norma Torres vanquishing Christina Gagnier in the San Bernardino County portion of the district 23,590 votes or 61.96 percent to 14,485 votes or 38.04 percent.
In the sliver of the 39th Congressional District located in San Bernardino County, Republican Ed Royce outpolled Democrat Peter Anderson 7,840 votes or 68.12 percent to 3,500 votes or 31.88 percent.
In the San Bernardino County portion of the 27th Congressional District, Republican Jack Orswell pulled down 5,288 votes or 64.7 percent compared to Democrat Judy Chu, who received 2,884 votes or 35.29 percent. Chu, however, one the overal contest, as the 27th is predominantly Democratic  outside San Bernardino County,
In State Senate District 16 voting in San Bernardino County, Republican Jean Fuller overwhelmed Democrat Ruth Musser Lopez, 12,397 votes or 65.34 percent to 6,576 votes or 34.66 percent.
In State Senate District 20, Democrat Connie Leyva cruised past Republican Matthew Munson, 36,547 votes or 60.93 percent to 23,438 votes or 29.07 percent.
In State Assembly District 33, Republican Jay Obernolte defeated Democrat John Coffey, 37,232 votes or 65.98 percent to 19,199 votes or 34.02 percent.
In the small portion of State Assembly District 36 in San Bernardino County, Republican Tom Lackey carried 2,360 voters or 70.13 percent to Democrat Steve Fox’s 1,005 votes or 29.87 percent.
In State Assembly District 40, where the registration between Democrats and Republicans is almost evenly split, Republican Marc Steinorth outgunned Democrat Kathleen Henry,  31,774 votes or 56.37 percent  to 24.597 votes or 43.63 percent.
In the portion of State Assembly District 41 lying within San Bernardino County, Republican Nathaniel Tsai outpolled Democratic incumbent Chris Holden 9,625 votes or 56.71 percent to 7,347 votes or 43.29 percent.  Despite his strong showing in San Bernardino County, Tsai did not win the overall race, having lost in Los Angeles County where voters favored Holden with 40,718 votes or 63.15 percent to Tsai’s 23,759 votes or 36.85 percent.
In heavily Republican State Assembly District 42, which covers portions of both San Bernardino County and Riverside County, Republican Chad Mayes, the former mayor of Yucca Valley, dominated in the in San Bernardino County portion of the district, pulling down 12,560 votes or 65.27 percent while Karalee Hargrove, a Democrat, received 6,682 votes or 34.73 percent.
In heavily Democratic State Assembly District 47, Democrats Gil Navarro and Cheryl Brown, the incumbent, vied against one another. Brown polled 18,665 votes or 57.11 percent to Navarro’s 14,025 votes or 42.89 percent.
In State Assembly District 52, which straddles Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties and where registration heavily favors the Democrats on both sides of the county line, Republican Dorothy Pineda had a surprisingly strong showing in San Bernardino County where she garnered 11,542 votes or 45.09 percent to Democratic incumbent Freddie Rodriguez’s 14,054 votes or 54.91 percent.
In that small portion of State Assembly District 55 in San Bernardino County, the voting numbers favored Republican Ling-Ling Chang, 6,551 or 61.48 percent, to 4,105 or 38.52 percent for Democrat Gregg Fritchle.
By far the most interesting and engaging races in San Bernardino County were those for Congress in the 31st Congressional District, which covers all or portions of Upland, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands, Rialto, Loma Linda, Grand Terrace, Colton, Muscoy, Ontario and San Bernardino, and the race for Fourth District County supervisor.
Though Democrats have a seven percent registration advantage over Republicans in the 31st, Gary Miller, a Republican is currently the Congressman there. He captured the newly formed district in 2012 when a surfeit of Democrats, including Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar, ran in the open primary, diluting the Democrat vote and allowing Miller and one other Republican running, Bob Dutton, to capture the two top spots in the June election and qualify for the November 2012 General Election, which Miller one.
The Democrats this year coalesced behind Aguilar early on, signaling they were targeting Miller in an effort to gain back Democratic control of the House of Representatives. Miller dropped out of the race and endorsed one of his field representatives, Lesli Gooch. Gooch, however, was unable to get past this year’s open primary when another Republican, Paul Chabot, savagely attacked her during the spring campaign. Chabot managed to capture the top spot in the June primary with 26.6 percent of the vote.  Aguilar, at 17.4 percent, outpolled Gooch and three other Democrats in the race, including former Congressman Joe Baca, finishing second.
Chabot refocused his aggressive and slashing campaign style from assailing Gootch to attacking  Aguilar, hoping to build upon his showing in June. Chabot sought to overcome the GOP’s seven percent registration disadvantage to the Democrats by appealing to the more than 25 percent of the district’s voters who had no declared party preference or were aligned with minority parties such as the Greens or American Independent Party.
Meanwhile, Aguilar was heavily supported by the Democratic National Committee and other Democrat-affiliated organizations, and he outraised Chabot $1.9 million to $428,574 in building up a political war chest and then outspent him $1.8 million to $351,784 during the final five month stretch of the campaign. Despite that spending, Chabot made some progress toward closing or offsetting the party registration advantage of the Democrats and the race was nip and tuck all along. In the end, however, it seems that Chabot’s savaging of Gooch in the primary may have harmed him with the last reserve of Republicans he needed for victory. With 509 of 509 precincts in the 31st Congressional District reporting in at 1:31 a.m. Wednesday morning, Aguilar had eked out a 40,123 votes or 51.04 percent to 38,488 votes or 48.96 percent victory over Chabot.
The other political benchmark race on Tuesday was that between termed-out Republican State Assemblyman Curt Hagman and Democratic Congressman Gloria Negrete-McLeod for Fourth District County Supervisor.
Current Fourth District Supervisor Gary Ovitt, a Republican, represents one third of the 3-2 advantage Republicans hold over Democrats on the county board of supervisors. Board chairwoman Janice Rutherford, who was reelected outright in a two-way race in June, is a Republican as is supervisor Robert Lovingood. Supervisors Josie Gonzales and James Ramos are Democrats. Thus, the outcome of Tuesday’s race controlled which party is to hold primacy at the county seat for the next two years.
Negrete-McLeod, who had converted the lion’s share of the money in her federal campaign coffer to usable cash in the board race, held a commanding electioneering funding advantage over Hagman. Moreover, going into the election, the Democrats held a substantial voter registration advantage over the Republicans in the Fourth District, 64,477 or 40.8 percent to 50,387 or 31.9 percent.
On his side of the equation, Hagman in 2013 forced Robert Rego, who was then the chairman of the San Bernardino County Republican Central Committee, from his position overseeing the GOP in the county and assumed the chairmanship himself.  This gave him tremendous sway over how party money would be spent locally in the current election cycle and further enabled him in the marshalling of party resources in assisting candidates.
In apportioning those resources in a way to assist Republicans involved in partisan battles, Hagman furthered the party’s overarching attempts to reach voters. Simultaneously, he put himself in the somewhat difficult position of being involved in a pitched political battle testing whether he had the mettle to succeed in his own campaign.
When the battle was joined, Negrete-McLeod fired the first several salvos, including hard-hitting attack pieces. She also utilized phone banks to drive Democrats to the polls and made a concentrated effort to reach governmental employee union members who live in the Fourth District to support her candidacy. Hagman hung tough, however, counterpunching Negrete-McLeod’s negative mailers with a blitz of hit pieces targeting her on law-and-order issues in the last week of the campaign.
Ultimately, Hagman prevailed in both the absentee voter tally and election day balloting, capturing 18,837 votes or 52.22 percent to Negrete-McLeod’s 17,232 or 47.78 percent.
The day after the election, Hagman told the Sentinel “I am very humbled and honored by the Fourth District residents’ votes for me. I wish my opponent well and thank her for her public service. I am looking forward to working with the other members of the board of supervisors on the issues that are of such importance to a lot of our residents. In working with the other supervisors it should be easy to create more opportunities across the county and use the momentum that already exists to strengthen our infrastructure and make the county and the state competitive with other counties and other states.”
In evaluating how he had arrived at his victory, Hagman said, “I am a numbers guy and when I saw how well we did with the absentee voters I was surprised, to tell you the truth, and a little bit relieved. We knew it was going to be a very close race and our plan was to work the demographics where we could make our strongest appeal and get the vote out as best as we could.”
In sizing up how the party had fared both in San Bernardino County and statewide, Hagman said, “We’re on a mission to restore the party in California. We have reached the first stage. We picked up two seats in the state senate and two congressional seats overall in California. We are doing much better and now we can start working on our name brand and build up the party. I wish we could win them all, but that is not going to happen. What we have is the wins we could get and we can build upon them.”
With regard to the party falling short in the 31st Congressional District, Hagman said, “Paul did a fantastic job with the resources we had and going up against the Democratic National Committee and their machine. He could not match what they were spending, but he put out our message of creating economic opportunity, building a strong business climate and safe communities. Even though he did not win, he stayed on the theme of focusing across party lines and staying with the issues that will help get those on the Republican side elected.”

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