By Miriam Raftery
August 30, 2012 (San Diego’s East County) – Congresswoman Susan Davis and Congressman/Mayoral candidate Bob Filner were among the many candidates on hand last weekend for the grand opening of a Democratic Party campaign headquarters at 7839 University Ave., Suite 106, La Mesa.
County Democratic Party Chairman Jess Durfee spoke of “fulfilling a promise” to help Democrats in East County. While much of East County remains solidly “red”, redistricting has shifted many communities in East County into Democratic districts and voter registration is increasingly favoring Democrats in some areas that have long been considered Republican strongholds.
La Mesa has turned “blue” with a majority Democratic registration. El Cajon has only a slight Republican edge. Voters in La Mesa, Mt. Helix, most of El Cajon and some other neighborhoods in Republican Duncan Hunter’s Congressional district have been shifted into Davis’ district.
Davis said many of her constituents are “delighted that redistricting happened.” Her speech focused on reelecting President Barack Obama as Democrats’ top priority. Party faithful lined up to pick up Obama campaign materials inside the new party office.
“President Obama is building middle class prosperity from the middle out,” Congresswoman Davis said. Noting that some have criticized the President on the economy, she faulted Tea Party Republicans who took control of Congress two years ago, creating gridlock. Despite that, the President has “done so much faster and better than the Bush administration,” she said, citing healthcare reforms and repeal of don’t ask, don’t tell in the military as examples. If Democrats regain control of Congress, she predicted, “We can build an economy and environment to last.”
David Secor, Democratic candidate running against Rep. Hunter, called attention to Hunter’s extremist views on women’s issues. “He authored the Personhood Act,” he said of a bill that would deny abortion to women even if they are raped or their lives are in danger. “He’s on a plane akin to Todd Akin and Paul Ryan. “We are starting Republicans for Secor,” added the candidate. “The only way to change or get real reform is to get Hunter out.”
A key focus for the County party will be electing Filner as mayor. His platform includes creating jobs, strengthening education, protecting our environment and creating more livable neighborhoods.
A host of candidates for state and local races also introduced themselves.
Jay Steiger has served on the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District’s budget committee and as a PTA president. Now he’s running for the LMSV school board. “I’m running for my son, Dylan, and the other kids,” said Steiger. “I will get the word out to parents, community members and even students.
Lemon Grove Councilman George Gastil called his community a “little city with big dreams” that has maintained core services in challenging times. “Lemon Grove is building up,” he said, noting new buildings going up as part of transit-centered redevelopment and that “we will have the first public art since the giant lemon.” Gastil noted that Democrats lost a majority on Lemon Grove’s council in the last election but hope to change that in November.
Racquel Vasquez is running for the seat. She has served on Lemon Grove’s Planning Commission and works for the City of San Diego Public Works Department. She wants to focus on “public safety, building a stronger community, and economic development.”
Patrick Dean is making his second run for La Mesa City Council. He’s been attending Council meetings regularly. “It’s time for La Mesa to lead the City,” he said, noting that Republicans control the Council even though La Mesa has a Democratic majority in voter registration. The only Democrat on the Council, Dave Allan, has announced plans to step down and is not seeking reelection.
Dean wants to create more bike lanes and walking paths, focusing on a “transit friendly” community. (Democrats also savored appetizers cooked up by Dean, a chef, for the occasion.)
Lori Kern Greenberg is running for the Helix Water Board, challenging long-time incumbent Chuck Muse. “They raised rates 50% over the last four years and they are going to raise them again,” she said. “We need new representation on the board.”
Pat Hurley is running for Assembly against incumbent Brian Jones. “We held this incumbent to under 50% in the primary and we’re going to win,” he predicted, adding that he intends to use “shoe leather and phonecalls” to get out the vote.
Ben Kalasho, a businessman, is running for El Cajon City Council which currently has five Republicans. He’s been focusing on voter registration to boost his odds, with backing from both Democrats and El Cajon’s large Chaldean community. “I’m the only Democrat running and I’ve got the Police endorsement,” he said, adding that he is “working very hard to make changes” and believes he has a strong chance to win.
Josan Feathers will easily win her race for reelection to the Valle De Oro Community Planning Group. After filing her candidacy papers, she learned that nobody else filed to run. Durfee cited Feathers as an example of why people should run for office, adding, "That's the best kind of candidate," since she wins automatically without having to wage a campaign.