Political Observers Eye Latino Influence After Sam Abed’s Underperformance in Escondido

As of Monday night, retired Marine Colonel Paul McNamara was leading two-term Mayor Sam Abed by about 900 votes in Escondido. If the trend continues as it has for the past week, we’re looking at another political upset in what was once a reliably conservative enclave of San Diego County.

It didn’t occur in a vacuum. Consuelo Martinez also appears to have defeated longtime conservative incumbent Ed Gallo in District 1.

“If the results hold,” the San Diego Union-Tribune notes, “the political makeup of what has been a very conservative City Council for the better part of two decades will have been turned on its head. Consuelo Martinez’s decisive win over longtime conservative Councilman Ed Gallo means a far more liberal majority will now control the city.”

The Latino vote seems to have made a decisive difference this time around. While Latinos have been the majority in the city for the past decade, they weren’t turning out in large enough numbers during elections past. That has changed. In 2011, there were less than 11,000 registered Latino voters in the city. Today, there are nearly 19,000. In 2014, when Martinez first ran against Gallo and lost, just 3,259 people in the district had voted. This November, at least 4,488 people in District 1 came out to the polls. (Ballots are still being counted.)

Democrats already hold an advantage with Latino voters in Escondido. Of the 19,000 Latinos registered to vote, 8,262 are registered as Democrats and only 2,923 are Republicans.

When it comes to Abed, Latinos and Democrats had plenty of additional reasons to support his opponent, who considers himself a moderate Democrat. Mayor Abed has been an outspoken critic on immigration matters, going so far as to as to champion a move by the city council supporting President Trump’s lawsuit against sanctuary cities. In 2006, he also supported an ordinance that would have penalized landlords who rent to undocumented immigrants.

San Diego Mesa College Political Science Professor Carl Luna said Abed’s apparent loss is evidence that North County is changing.

“The suburban vote and the Latino vote are breaking against the long-held Republican,” he told the Tribune.

But the shakeup still surprises Abed’s allies on the Council. John Masson said he’s “flabbergasted.” Mike Morasco said it raises real questions about the political future of the city as a whole.