REGION — The state is known for its jungle primary election where the two top candidates, regardless of party, move on to the general election.
However, the central committee elections will be decided on the March 3 primary. The committees conduct each party’s general business, approve budgets, coordinate campaign activity and endorse candidates and local measures, respectively.
The committee delegates are based on the seven-state assembly districts in San Diego County, while each also has executive staff including the county party chair, along with other committees conducting business, according to both party’s websites.
San Diego Democratic Party chair Will Rodriguez-Kennedy did not respond to questions prior to press time, while Republican Party chair Tony Kravic declined to comment.
Another responsibility of the committees is fundraising and managing campaign donations for each of the party’s candidates, which is a source of concern for some. Former Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña (D-San Diego), who is also running as a delegate in District 77, said if oversight lacks then it could be a legal way “launder money,” citing an example of a “recent elected” official.
She said at least one Democrat has come under fire for taking campaign contributions donated to their campaign and giving it to the party, which in turn gave it back to the candidate running for office. “Under state finance laws, elected officials can donate unlimited amounts of money to their county parties,” Saldaña said. “Some people are concerned about that. They can become legal money laundering. In the case of a recent elected, hundreds of thousands of dollars went into the Democratic Party from the candidate … and it’s supposed to end there. If there’s no oversight, then people will direct how that money is used. And that appears to be the case.”
The delegates also attend the national conventions, along with setting the platform for the local party.
Gina Roberts (R-Valley Center), a transgender woman running for re-election in District 75, said her committee sets policy goals but isn’t 100% on following the national agenda. Pointing to herself as an example, she said while some in the party may disagree with transgender lifestyles, no one has ostracized her from the party or laid out a policy against the LGBTQ+ community.
Roberts said it’s a lot of responsibility, but fun, as it allows her to champion candidates and recommend them to voters.
“It’s a really great opportunity to influence politics in a positive way,” she said. “There’s a fair amount of responsibility.”
The committees, Saldaña and Roberts said, are private entities comparable to a board of directors, but they must follow state laws and regulations regarding fair practices and donations. Also, the committee elects each chairperson along with hiring staff to run the day-to-day operations.
As for the election structure, each is slightly different. Each has six seats up for election, with Republicans taking the top six and the Democrats taking the top three men and women regardless of their overall finish. Saldaña said the Democrats’ method is more inclusive compared to the Republicans.
Running for the position only takes 20 signatures from the candidate’s district and they are on the ballot. However, special interests back numerous candidates to further their agendas and take the committees in different directions, Saldaña said.
One example is the contentious Measure A ballot measure regarding the public’s right to vote on large-scale development projects in the county.