Democrats dominate here in GOP-dominated region
A good item for a treasure hunt list in South Lake Tahoe would be a campaign sign for Republican Congressman John Doolittle.
Yet signs for Doolittle’s opponent, Democrat Charlie Brown, dot the sides of roads along the city’s main arteries.
It’s one of a number of indicators of the region’s political make-up. Simply put, more Democrats live at Lake Tahoe when compared to the rest of the counties.
“It’s a little disconcerting,” said Republican and South Lake Tahoe business owner Evan Williams. “We have a blue city in a red county in a blue state.”
Even in Nevada’s Douglas County, one of the most red areas in the state, there is a presence of Democrats at the lake. While only one small precinct, East Fork, with five registered voters in the valley portion of Douglas County chose Democrat presidential nominee John Kerry in 2004, no others did.
However, voters in two precincts in the Lake Tahoe area, Edgewood and Daggett, went Kerry’s way.
Cindy Trigg, co-chair of the Douglas County Democratic Central Committee, said it’s not difficult living in a county dominated by GOP voters.
“We can laugh with each other. We can work well with each other,” she said about Republicans she knows. “Sometimes we’ll get into a really heated conversation but it’s never directed as ‘you’re wrong, I’m right’ or ‘you’re right and I’m wrong.'”
South Lake Tahoe’s mix of wealthy residents concerned about the environment and an abundant working-class combine for a Democrat-leaning voting base, said Rich Meagher, chair of the El Dorado County Democratic Central Committee.
“We need to do a better part of turning out the Democrats and making sure the ones we have out there go out and vote,” he said.
Tahoe voter turnout was the same message delivered by the chair for the El Dorado County Republican Central Committee.
John Stelzmiller said the committee hasn’t had a representative from Tahoe for nearly five years. He attributed it to long drive times from Tahoe to the West Slope as well as less people overall wanting to get involved.
“We just don’t have people that have the time to get up there and register voters … It’s not the easiest thing to find people who want to put forth the effort,” Stelzmiller said. “It’s a thankless job.”
As the only Democrat on the five member El Dorado County Board of Supervisors, Tahoe representative Norma Santiago said it’s all about communication and not differences.
“I can turn to a very conservative Republican and talk to him or her about economic development issues, transportation issues, even environmental issues and try to come to some agreement about what the overall objective is,” Santiago said.
One benefit of being a Democrat pocket in a red county, Santiago said, is candidates visiting South Lake Tahoe to campaign. For example, Congressional candidate Brown went to a house party in Montgomery Estates, off Pioneer Trail, in September.
“The Democrats up here talk to the Democrats down in the rest of the county,” Santiago said.
“I don’t know when we’ll ever see El Dorado County as a blue county but what we can do is start toward that process by sticking to the issues, addressing the issues of importance to the constituents and to help build bridges of resolutions,” Santiago added.
Voter registration records from 2000 indicate shifting allegiances or a population change. Six years ago South Lake Tahoe had 2,947 registered Republicans (31 percent) to 3,968 registered Democrats (41 percent).
Now the registered Democrats are at 38 percent of the city’s voters compared to 27 percent of registered Republicans.
Placerville, which had an equal number of registered Republicans to Democrats at about 2,160 people each six years ago, has tipped to the Republican side, at 40 percent to 36 percent.
Williams, who writes conservative columns for the Tahoe Daily Tribune, said he hardly if ever gets feedback on his positions and would embrace a “nuts-and-bolts” debate with a Democrat. While speaking, he seems to have accepted his role in the political minority of South Lake Tahoe.
“Paradise has its price,” he said.