Party’s voter advantage fails to show in county
James Rufus Koren, Staff Writer
Created: 11/27/2010 07:12:09 AM PST

Look at the number of registered voters in San Bernardino County, and you’ll see several thousand more Democrats than Republicans.

But look at the results from this month’s election, and the numbers show something different.

Out of seven statewide contests, San Bernardino County voters favored Republican candidates in five, by wide margins in some cases.

“I think one of the disappointing things is that … it’s likely that more Republicans showed up than Democrats,” said Ron Wall, chairman of the San Bernardino County Democratic Party. “Probably about 7,000 more Republicans than Democrats showed up. Ultimately, that’s what matters: how many show up to vote.”

That 7,000 figure is only an estimate based on the county margins of victory for several Republican statewide candidates. Those margins ranged from 2,194 votes – Republican Damon Dunn’s advantage over Democrat Debra Bowen in the secretary of state’s race – to about 64,000 – Republican Steve Cooley’s advantage over Democrat Kamala Harris in the attorney general’s race.

In the gubernatorial contest, Republican Meg Whitman came away with 4,639 more votes than Gov.-elect Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown Jr.

Wall said the election shows the county Democratic Party needs to do a better job of getting Democratic voters to the polls.

“I think we can turn out more Democrats if we do a better job communicating and have better candidates,” he said.

Something the party has already started doing is trying to get Democrats signed up to vote by mail. About 42percent of Republicans in the county are signed up to vote by mail, while about 36percent of Democrats can vote by mail.

“There are more Republicans who vote by mail and the propensity of voting is higher when you vote by mail,” Wall said. “That will definitely be one of the things we’ll be focusing on in the central committee and with our Democratic clubs.”

Another focus, Wall said, will be putting out more information about local Democrats running for city council seats, school boards and other nonpartisan offices.

“In local races, often voters haven’t been as informed,” he said.

Wall said 130 Democrats ran for local offices this month and that of the 48 endorsed by the Democratic Party, 21 won. Democrats won seats on school boards in Fontana and Rialto.

Wall said getting more such local victories is key for the party’s long-term success, but in local Assembly and state Senate races. If candidates can work their way up, they can gain experience and name recognition as they rise, he said.

“The fact we’ve been able to get people on school boards, I think that bodes well for getting people on city councils and in higher offices,” Wall said. “We’re building our farm team now.”

Looking ahead to 2012, Wall said he hopes the party can move on from this year’s disappointing performance in the county and translate a registration advantage – if the party still has an advantage in two years – into more wins at the ballot box.

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