Count on this county to be a bellwether

Times Staff Writer

The bellwether rings true once more.

On Tuesday, Californians voted to reelect Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger over Treasurer Phil Angelides by 57% to 38%. In San Benito County, the results were 56% to 39%.

The close-to-the-mark political performance continues a streak going back to 1998, even though -- statistically speaking -- San Benito is hardly reflective of the state as a whole.

Southeast of Silicon Valley and inland from the Monterey Peninsula, the county has about 56,000 residents, roughly the population of Rosemead or La Habra. It is more rural than the rest of California, and its residents are younger. Latinos make up a much larger percentage of the population, and there are fewer college graduates.


No matter.

Along with backing Schwarzenegger for a second term, the county also went with the winner in every other statewide race but one, often by just about the same margin as California as a whole.

The one exception was the race for secretary of state. San Benito County backed the GOP incumbent, Bruce McPherson, who lost Tuesday to his Democratic opponent, state Sen. Debra Bowen of Marina del Rey. McPherson comes from neighboring Santa Cruz County.

San Benito County matched statewide sentiments on all 13 of the ballot measures.

Denise Cauthen-Wright of the San Juan Bautista Chamber of Commerce said one reason for the county’s predictive powers could be that it is small enough that residents visit with one another. That makes politics less doctrinaire, she suggested, and voters more likely to reflect broader trends.