Encinitas residents who are engaged enough to participate in our poll definitely care about political parties and party affiliation in local elections. Even though the Mayor and City Council are technically nonpartisan, city residents are sophisticated enough to understand that parties have a big influence and that a candidate's party affiliation matters. Nearly 80% of poll respondents acknowledged that party affiliation is important to them.
For those new to local politics, the partisan nature of the Mayoral and City Council races doesn't match the ideal of a nonpartisan process where candidates are selected purely based on qualifications and their positions on local issues that matter to Encinitas. However, there are often highly partisan fights around appointed or elected nonpartisan officials at all levels of government. As an extreme example, think of the US Supreme Court, the ultimate nonpartisan body. While the Justices are supposed to be nonpartisan, selection of a new Supreme Court Justice is a seriously partisan affair and everyone knows it. Parties want candidates that reflect their political philosophies, approaches to solving problems, and values, even in nonpartisan positions.
At a local level, party affiliation is important in several dimensions, not the least of which is representation on SANDAG (the San Diego Regional Association of Governments) and other inter-governmental bodies.