Originally published February 13, 2012 at 7:22 a.m., updated February 13, 2012 at 2:38 p.m.
Jess Durfee, chair, San Diego County Democratic Party
Thad Kousser, Associate Professor, Political Science, U-C San Diego
Although the California Democratic Party did not make an endorsement in the 52nd Congressional District at its state convention Saturday, the head of the San Diego County Democratic Party said the group still considers that seat ripe for a Democratic takeover.
“It’s a golden opportunity, and it’s one we’ve been looking for for awhile,” Jess Durfee told KPBS Television’s “Evening Edition.”
Durfee said the newly redrawn district is one-third Democratic, one-third Republican and one-third Independent. Republican Rep. Brian Bilbray currently holds the seat, but two Democrats, former Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña and Port Commissioner Scott Peters, are running for it.
Saldaña missed the Democratic endorsement by one vote Saturday, but Durfee said the party would make an endorsement in June.
“I think the delegates voting in that endorsement felt, and correctly so, that this is a district where the way the numbers are, the way the makeup of the candidates are, it’s a situation where one of the Democrats will be in the top two,” he said.
Durfee said those delegates who did not vote for an endorsement were possibly not ready to make a decision.
“It’s a very emotional thing, a lot of people are involved and each candidate worked hard to get their base of support, but at the end of the day the decision was to not endorse and then in June we will absolutely have an endorsed candidate,” he said. “And that will be the candidate who comes out number two, and the number third candidate will be, I hope, another Democrat who can help that candidate.”
Durfee said he was “a little surprised” state Senator Juan Vargas won an endorsement.
“But kudos to state Senator Vargas for going out there and doing his work and securing those delegate votes,” Durfee said.
Durfee also said he was not concerned about Congressman Bob Filner’s mayoral campaign, despite Filner’s low fundraising numbers.
“I’m working very closely with the Filner campaign, talking to them on a regular basis and I know that they’ve got a very good strategy, a very good timeline of rolling out their campaign,” Durfee said. “I’m confident that voter contact will start at the end of this month, which will actually be ahead of the other candidates.”
Durfee said although the emphasis has been on how much money each candidate has, it is more important that San Diegans hear from a candidate and his supporters.
“We’re going to be out there talking to them,” he said. “You can’t buy that volunteer base.”
The weekend's gathering of California Democrats also showcased two of the party's rising stars, with state Attorney General Kamala Harris and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom showing off their formidable political skills.
They are seen as the party's most likely future candidates for governor and U.S. Senate.
Newsom is the former San Francisco mayor known for issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.
Harris generated headlines last week when she secured a deal with the nation's largest banks that eventually will send California $18 billion. She gave a rousing speech defending the middle class, saying it was working families — not banks — that were too big to fail.