Democrats Split Over Endorsements In Race For Issa's Congressional Seat

Thursday, March 8, 2018
By Alison St John
Credit: KPBS
Above: There are four Democratic candidates running for Republican Darrell Issa's 49th Congressional District, March 2018.

To endorse or not to endorse in the race for the 49th Congressional District? The question highlights disagreements among Democrats in San Diego.

Francine Busby, the former chair of the San Diego Democratic Party, released a statement urging all Democrats in Republican Darrell Issa’s district to vote for a specific candidate. The current chair of the San Diego Democratic Party stands by the State Party decision not to endorse.

The Democrats have targeted the 49th district in the hopes of flipping it from years of Republican incumbency. But, at the California State Democratic Party Conference in San Diego last month, none of the five Democratic candidates won enough support for an official endorsement.

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As a result, there is a chance the candidates will split the vote and fail to win one of the two top spots in the June primary, leaving two Republicans to run in November.

Busby, chair emeritus of the San Diego Democratic Party, along with Fran Sdao, chair of the Orange County Democratic Party, is calling on Democrats to support candidate Mike Levin.

In the endorsement, Busby wrote, Levin "has built, by far, the strongest campaign. Over the past 14 months, he has mobilized hundreds of volunteers and thousands of small donors. His diligence and leadership have been rewarded with powerful endorsements from progressive organizations and Democratic leaders — most recently, the Congressional Progressive Caucus.”

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The current chair of the San Diego Democratic Party, Jessica Hayes, said Busby has a right to express her opinion as an individual. But Hayes said the state Democratic Party has reminded local parties that they cannot endorse in state and federal races.

Hayes also took issue with Busby’s contention that there was a coordinated effort by three of the other Democratic candidates, Doug Applegate, Sara Jacobs and Paul Kerr, to block the California Democratic Party endorsement.

“We have dynamic candidates, let 'em run,” Hayes said. “We will not be weighing in on this race, period.”