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Study: South San Diego, Democrats Gain Political Power

A study found that the city's political center has moved from North County to San Diego, south of Interstate 8 and Democrats are expected to enjoy advantages in future local politics.

At a meeting a day after being sworn into office as the first Democratic mayor of San Diego in more than 25 years, Bob Filner started his brief talk with four simple words.

"This is my home," he told a crowd of about 100 business owners, politicians and civil servants at the South County Economic Development Council's holiday breakfast in the Chula Vista Marina.

Filner called himself one of San Diego's first mayors from South County and said he plans to pay more attention to the city's southern half.

The former Congressman's election is part of a sea change in San Diego politics, a National University System Institute for Policy study released Wednesday said.

The policy brief concluded that San Diego's voting electorate "has become more independent, more diverse, and more similar to other large urban areas. These new trends are likely permanent, and will have a stronger impact on the outcome of future election cycles."

As part of the shift, the "electoral center" of the city of San Diego has shifted south of Interstate 8 "after decades of northern city neighborhoods dominating citywide elections."

Filner, who had been a 10-term congressman representing the South Bay,
won nearly every precinct south of the freeway, where the population is much
denser, according to the report.

Filner was the first Democrat to win a San Diego mayoral election since
Maureen O'Connor in 1988, picking up 52.5 percent of the vote to beat the
Republican Carl DeMaio for the technically nonpartisan office.

San Diego south of Interstate 8 "will become of increasing interest to both political parties," the study said.

Analysis of San Diego County Registrar of Voters data found that Democratic Party voter registration more than doubled in San Diego since the last mayoral election in 2005. While Republican voter registration declined, Independents made up near 40 percent of new registered voters in the past two years.

Independents will remain a decisive portion of San Diego's voter block in the immediate future. The authors said Independents eclipsed the GOP as the second-largest group in the city of San Diego as of this October.

"If candidates can appeal to a majority of Independents, they will be one step closer to victory," the study said.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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