In the voter-registration wars, these haven’t been happy times for Fresno County Republicans.
Fifteen years ago, the Fresno County GOP was celebrating when it overtook Democrats in voter registration totals for the first time in memory. That lead peaked in 2004 with a GOP advantage of more than 24,000 voters.
By mid-2010, however, the Democrats had retaken the lead, and they’ve been growing that advantage ever since.
In newly released registration numbers, however, local Republicans have not only stopped the bleeding — at least for now — they actually closed the gap.
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Last October, Democrats held a registration edge of 13,280 voters over rival Republicans. The lead is now 11,399. That means Republicans closed the gap by 1,881 voters.
Only time will tell whether this is a one-time blip or the start of a trend.
If it becomes a trend, it could be helpful to local Republicans, depending on where the new GOP voters live.
For instance, if they live in the city of Fresno, it could play into the 2016 Fresno mayor’s race. Though the office is officially non-partisan, all three of the city’s strong mayors have been Republican. But the registration trends have been going blue, leading some political watchers to wonder when a Democrat might win the office.
In addition, Fresno City Council Member Clint Olivier, a Republican, is considering a run for the 31st Assembly District, a seat that is strongly Democrat and has been in Democratic Party hands for nearly 40 years. Could new Republican registrants make the seat — and Olivier — more competitive?
As is often the case following a major election, there’s a fallback in voter-registration numbers. The latest registration numbers are no different, with fewer registered voters just about everywhere.
Those numbers should pick up next year as the presidential election approaches.
Even with the registration dip, the power balance is holding steady across the central San Joaquin Valley, with Republicans holding sway in Kings, Tulare and Madera counties and Democrats leading in Merced County.
It’s a similar story in the various political districts, including the competitive 16th and 21st Congressional and the 12th and 14th state Senate.
In all those districts, Democrats have huge voter-registration advantages, but Republicans are the officeholders in all but one — the 16th Congressional. Fresno Democrat Jim Costa holds that seat.
Hanford Republican David Valadao represents the 21st Congressional, Hanford Republican Andy Vidak is in the 14th state Senate and Ceres Republican Anthony Cannella is in the 12th state Senate seat.
And that remains the ultimate challenge for Democrats. They seem to have no problem registering voters, but have huge problems getting those voters to actually cast ballots.