It's hard to be a member of the Republican Party in Los Angeles County. However, it's not difficult to get elected — as long as that office is nonpartisan.
No Republican in California holds statewide office, and GOP'ers in Sacramento are so deeply in the minority that they might as well be on vacation — should anyone decide that our flat, dusty and boring state capital is worthy of such diversions.
A check of registration statistics indicates that Republicans are fighting not only for relevancy, but from becoming third place, numbers-wise. Closing in? Decline-to-state voters, individuals presumably fed up with the antics of Democrats and Republicans.
This, though, does not translate at the local level. Almost all local offices in the state are nonpartisan, and that stands true in the six cities covered by our newspaper group: Burbank, Glendale, Pasadena, South Pasadena, San Marino and La Cañada.
Of the 80 or so elected officials in the area, 42% are Republicans, 46% are Democrats, and nearly 10% have no party affiliation at all. You might expect this to be closely in line with local party preferences. Not even close.
Democrats make up 43% of the electorate in the six-city area, Republicans pull in 29%, while the ranks of the decline-to-state voters stands at 23%. These figures are as of May 21 of this year, the latest available, and come courtesy of the California secretary of state.
Countywide, the gap widens: Democratic registration is 51%, Republicans 23%, and decline-to-state voters make up 21% of the total.
Now, the reason behind this relative party parity seems simple, borne out by the comments of our local elected types. Potholes are neither Republican nor Democratic; the mechanic who fixes the broken axle on your Ford only cares that your credit is good, not who you voted for. Members of both parties want safe streets, smart kids and a civically engaged population.
San Marino Mayor Richard Sun isn't a member of any party, and never has been. Affiliation is unimportant to him when voting for state or federal offices. It is simply irrelevant, he said, at the local level.
Burbank Mayor Dave Golonski, a registered Democrat, said municipal policies rarely hinge on party politics.
“David Gordon is a Democrat,” he said, referring to a member of the council with whom he frequently spars, “so you couldn't say there's a partisan divide.”
Golonski noted that the council is routinely barraged with requests to weigh in on national or statewide issues. They rarely do, he said, because that's not their job.
Larry Applebaum, the president of the Burbank Unified School District board of education and a registered Republican, notes, logically enough, that education is not partisan. He said it’s politically wise to be centrist, noting the board needs to work with state legislators from both parities.
“We don't talk about it much, because at the end of the day it doesn't matter,” he said.
Though partisanship might not affect local governance, national policies and politics clearly touch us all. Because of this, our group of papers will be attending both the Republican National Convention and the Democratic National Convention for the first time — as far as I can tell — in decades.
As editor, wannabe photographer and resident guinea pig, I'm going to be first, traveling to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. Look for daily updates at a new online section: www.glendalenewspress.com/news/election.
During the four days of the convention, starting Monday, I'll be hosting a live, online chat with local party watchers, pundits and officials at 6 p.m. Pacific time. As I receive confirmation as to who'll be joining me, I'll post it online. The chats will be unscripted and unfiltered, and will be open to questions from the general public.
Afterward, assuming I'm not blown away by Hurricane Isaac, I'll pass the show over to Steve Appleford, our features editors and resident political junkie. He'll be covering the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., from Sept. 3 to 6.
On to Florida! It's going to be a wild week.
DAN EVANS is in Tampa covering the RNC. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.