Attacks on Julie Thunder for deceptively changing her voter registration from "Republican" to "No Party Preference" right before announcing for mayor are resonating with voters. A more complete picture of Julie's Republican partisan affiliation emerges when the registration change is seen in context with her list of Republican donors, her campaign treasurer's co-founding of a Trump-supporting "Build the Wall" PAC, her close ties to Republican D3 Supervisor Kristin Gaspar, past endorsements of consistently Republican candidates, and recent endorsements by right-wing leaders.
A number of Thunder supporters insist that partisan affiliation doesn't matter. Their arguments go something like this: The Mayor of Encinitas is technically a non-partisan office, so why not elect the best person for the job regardless of political party? Why do political parties and partisan affiliation even enter into the picture?
The truth is that over 75% of Encinitas residents care about the partisan affiliation of their mayor and City Council members. There are some good reasons why:
1. In a highly polarized time, partisan affiliation tells you something about a candidate's values and political philosophy, which will guide their decisions while in office. Some issues are simultaneously local, regional, and national. Values that underpin partisan affiliation also inform key decisions about whether and how to mitigate climate change, what guidance to follow in re-opening businesses in the pandemic, how to deal with homelessness, how to reduce inequality, promotion of racial justice, support for mask wearing, and many others.
2. Your local leaders consult with, are supported by, and are influenced by regional leaders that are organized into networks based on partisan affiliation. Local decisions about policy fit into a framework of regional policy that is often guided by partisan values and political philosophy. Elect Mayor Blakespear and you get a regional political network that includes Congressman Mike Levin, Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, State Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner Horvath, and many other Democratic leaders. Elect Julie Thunder and she'll be consulting with Republican D3 Supervisor Kristin Gaspar and other regional Republican leaders.
3. Possibly most important of all, decisions you make about candidates for local offices have a profound effect on what happens later at the regional and even national level. Your local government is the entry point for candidates that will in many cases go on to higher office. Their service in our city becomes a key qualification for their next rung on the ladder. Your local candidates may go on to become governors, senators, members of Congress, state legislators, big city mayors, and the members of the Board of Supervisors.
Just to cite two specific examples for the third point above: If you elect Kristin Gaspar as a seemingly moderate Republican Encinitas Mayor in 2014, a few years later you have Kristin Gaspar, Republican District 3 Supervisor - and then hard-right Republican congressional candidate for the 49th district in 2018. Elect Tasha Boerner Horvath to City Council and a few years later you have a Democratic shut-out in the 76th district of the State Assembly (and Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner Horvath).
If you care about partisan affiliation regionally and nationally, you must pay attention locally. Elections have consequences that extend far beyond the term of office that you're voting for... and the immediate issues that may be driving campaigns.
So yes, partisan affiliation matters. Encinitas does not exist in a vacuum. Your candidates are not isolated from the tidal forces that are driving regional and national politics. Your decisions have ripple effects that will influence regional policy and decide who ascends to future regional, state, and even national offices.