RED COUNTY BLUE COUNTY
While Placer County may hold the largest Republican population in the state of California ” more than 50 percent of registered voters ” it’s the Democrats who have the edge in the Tahoe-Truckee region.
Out of Placer County’s total 182,777 registered voters, more than 92,000 are Republican ” almost double the county’s total number of registered Democrats.
But the numbers paint a different picture for Tahoe-Truckee, one that leans left and sees more diversity in voters’ political ideals.
Within Placer County’s jurisdiction of the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District, Democrats outnumber Republicans by eight percent and independent voters by seven percent.
“In the Tahoe Basin, it’s definitely much more Democratic and left [leaning], than I would say ” than some of our brethren on the western slope,” said Rob Haswell, regional director for the California Democratic party. “I think, obviously, the environment is probably a huge issue up there.”
The same trend rings true for Nevada County, which also holds an overall Republican majority ” though not as strong as Placer County ” but sees a Democrat advantage in the Truckee area.
More than 3,100 Democrats are registered within Nevada County’s portion of the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District, compared to the 2,391 Republicans and 2,164 declined-to-state voters.
What also sets the Tahoe-Truckee region apart from the western slope is the high proportion of voters who don’t toe political party lines. Whereas 17 percent of Roseville’s voters declined to state a political preference, nearly one in three Tahoe voters in Placer County cast their ballot independent from any political party.
Theresa May Duggan, a North Tahoe resident who has been active in the Democratic party for years, attributed Tahoe-Truckee’s liberal leanings to the community’s proximity to water and environmental culture.
“The closer you are to water, the more liberal you are,” Duggan said, noting the strong Democrat populations seen in the Bay Area, Los Angeles and throughout the coast of California. “The environmental issues play into it.”
Despite a dominant liberal scene, local Republicans still see a vibrant and active community, said Judy Holmquist, president of the Truckee Tahoe Republican Women’s Federated Club.
“I think we have a pretty good, big group over here,” Holmquist said, though she noted that the Republican party is not as strong as it used to be. “A lot of Democrats have been moving in.”
But there is no representation for the Tahoe area on the Placer County GOP central committee, said committee chairman Tom Hudson, and there hasn’t been any for the past eight years.
“There’s more Republicans in one neighborhood “-Roseville, of course ” than there are in the Tahoe Basin,” Hudson said.
And rather than exhaust efforts in a region with a limited number of Republican votes, Hudson said the committee focuses its outreach on the areas that yield more results, namely the strong Republican communities on the western slope.
“It’s hard for us to focus a lot of activity” in Tahoe, Hudson said.
Reflecting the national political arena, Tahoe’s Democrats are watching the primary battle between presidential hopefuls Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Republicans in both counties came in support of Sen. John McCain in the state primary.
But when it comes to local issues, conservatives and liberals both said that Tahoe’s affairs transcend polarized party lines.
“I don’t think the [local] issues are partisan, particularly, except for certain philosophies of government that get mixed in,” said John Foster, chair of the Tahoe Truckee California Democratic Club. “But in general, we have specifically Tahoe issues.”
For Duggan, local politicals work towards common interests.
“It really doesn’t matter what party, because it’s all about community,” she said.
With the upcoming Placer County District 5 supervisorial race, party advocates stressed the election is non-partisan and should focus on the issues at hand, as well as community vision ” though the Democratic party publicly endorses Jennifer Montgomery, and the GOP supports the incumbent Bruce Kranz.
“It’s very important for anyone running for a nonpartisan race to remember that they represent everyone,” said Haswell, who is also managing Montgomery’s campaign. “Any type of campaign should be waged with that in mind. But it’s not to say that [parties] don’t support Republicans or Democrats, certainly we do.”
Partisan races for state offices and beyond, however, target their campaigns around the party’s stronghold populations, Haswell said.
“In a partisan race, for sure, you have to go where the votes are,” he said. “Still, in the Tahoe Basin compared to Placer at large, there’s still not a lot of votes.”
Boosting Democrat registration drives, rather than campaign efforts, is the strategic key for Tahoe, Haswell said.
“Go to the areas where you have strength and up your registration efforts,” he said.
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