What happened in the 3rd Ward race?

    The incumbent certainly has the edge in this and in all races.  Since the year 2000, the incumbent has won all of the city-wide races (Mayor, City Attorney, City Clerk and City Treasurer). Since 2001, there have been 15 council elections in San Bernardino involving an incumbent.  Of those 15 elections, only four candidates have beaten incumbents: Virginia Marquez beat Esther Estrada by 30 votes in the 1st Ward in November 2009, Jason Desjardins beat Dennis Baxter by 80 votes in the 2nd Ward in November 2009, Chas Kelley beat Joe Suarez in the 5th Ward election in November 2003 in a landslide, and Rikke Van Johnson beat Betty Dean Anderson in the 6th Ward by 79 votes in the 6th Ward in the same election.

    Based on this data, I would give the edge to the incumbent, and I would be surprised if John Valdivia won.   I would expect the more affluent areas of the Third Ward (the area adjoining Cooley Ranch in Colton will provide most of the voters.   A key difference between the 1999 and 2003 races and today is vote by mail.  I would expect that the Mayor would be more popular in the Third Ward, so that the endorsement would prove valuable.  I would expect the impact of the fire union walking precincts in the Third Ward would have less impact than, say, in the Fifth Ward.  Crime is probably an important issue to residents of the Third Ward as it is city-wide, and I think the statistics are less important than how people feel about the issue.  I think John Valdivia’s endorsement by the POA can help him on that point.  The gradual decline in city services city-wide could have an impact on the race (for example, street lights and potholes not being repaired).  Both candidates have made jobs an issue, and the economy has hurt the Third Ward, particularly Hospitality Lane.

    In short, the biggest surprise for me on election day was not just that John Valdivia won, but the margin.  The lesson from the 3rd Ward is that if your constituents do not think you are doing a good job, or that if you do not reflect their ideology, you can be voted out, even if you are an incumbent.  Two things have been stated by various anonymous wags on the Internet.  One is that the election was decided by “low information voters.”  I think that the contrary is true, only motivated voters vote in municipal-only elections.   I think you see a consistency in the number of votes in the Third Ward from 1999 to 2011.  In 1999, there were 902 votes cast in total.  There were 915 cast in 2007.  There were 1,123 in 2011.  If anything, November 2006, when Tobin Brinker first won, there was a Congressional election (in a Democratic year in a Democratic ward).   Tobin Brinker recived 1,344 votes in that election.  The second whisper from the anonymous pundits  is that the infusion of money on behalf of John Valdivia bought the election. I don’t think that is true either.    If that were true, then Jan Misquez would have won in 2003.  The numbers suggest that John Valdivia ran a good campaign, including get out the vote, and more importantly, that Tobin Brinker lost 977 votes over five years.  That suggests a council person that was not meeting the needs of their ward, not a bought election nor low information voters.

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