I am challenging Gary Kreep in the upcoming November election for Seat 37 – California Superior Court Judge. This race stands out as the only one of six county-wide races from the June primary to advance to the general election in November. No matter where you live in San Diego County this race will appear on your ballot.
Last August the Commission on Judicial Performance censured Judge Kreep for 29 different violations of the Cannons on Judicial Ethics that govern the behavior of judges in our local courts. Though these ethical violations were varied the ones that caught my attention were those involving unprofessional and disrespectful treatment toward women and minorities in court by Judge Kreep. I was already aware that Judge Kreep had participated in a lawsuit to prohibit President Obama’s name from appearing on the ballot in 2012 premised on the debunked theory that our nation’s first black president’s birth certificate lacked authenticity. This was known commonly as the birther movement. Upon seeing the nature of Judge Kreep’s ethics violations it confirmed my suspicions that his values did not reflect those of San Diego County and that that he needed to be removed from his position of authority in our community.
Three other members of our local legal community were equally stirred to force a correction and also filed to run against Judge Kreep in the June primary. These were then-Attorney (now Commissioner) Victor Torres, Deputy Attorney General Tim Nader, and Assistant United States Attorney Steve Miller (Ret.).
The outcome of the June primary was interesting for the manner by which the electorate in San Diego County was fractured. Less than 20 percentage points separated each of the five candidates. Despite this fracturing of the electorate the voters of San Diego County held Gary Kreep to a mere 30.5 percent of the overall vote whereas collectively, the four challengers received over 69 percent of the overall vote. I received 26.35 percent, trailing the incumbent by just over 4 percentage points. This resounding rejection of a sitting Superior Court Judge is unprecedented and highlights this race as unique in our county’s electoral history. It is interesting to note that state-wide there were 22 Superior Court Judges challenged at the ballot box in June. 21 of these incumbents were successful in ending these primary bids by earning over 50 percent of the votes, generally by very wide margins. This race stands out as the sole remaining challenge to an incumbent judge in the entire state.
A quick look at this map gives an immediate impression of the overwhelming amount of red. It should be noted, however, this map only displays the color code of the candidate who received the greatest number of votes in a particular precinct regardless of whether that number was a majority or a plurality of less than 50%. In other words, just because a precinct is red does not mean (and usually does not mean) that Gary Kreep received a majority of the votes in that precinct just that he received more than any other single challenger. Because the voters splintered their votes between the incumbent and four challengers in many of the red precincts the incumbent received less than 30% of the vote.
Starting with those voters who supported Tim Nader it is important to note that Tim, like me, is a registered Democrat and sought and received support from within the party, its clubs, and office-holders. Tim is a Deputy Attorney General, member of the South Western Community College School Board, and has held office previously as a City Councilmember and Mayor of the City of Chula Vista. Tim was rated as highly qualified by the County Bar.
The first thing that stands out when one looks at this map is the communities of relative strength. The first area of strength that stands out is the South Bay (particularly Chula Vista). This is no surprise in light of Tim’s past and continued role as an elected office holder in this part of the county. Secondly, Tim did particularly well along the SR-8 corridor drawing in a significant number of votes from communities from Point Loma all the way to La Mesa. Lastly, Tim did well in the San Diego 1st City Council district along the SR-56 corridor including La Jolla and Carmel Valley, but also Del Mar and Rancho Penasquitos. Tim had pockets of significant votes in other parts of the county as well (particularly in the north coastal area).
Next, Commissioner Torres ran his race outside of the institutional support of any political party. That being said, he received significant support from numerous groups and individuals such as the Lincoln Club, Latino American Political Association, the San Diego Union Tribune, several judges, and numerous attorneys throughout the county. Commissioner Torres received the highest rating from the County Bar Association (exceptionally qualified). Commissioner Torres was a private attorney at the time and likely drew support from those who recognize and appreciate the unique challenges that go with running a successful small business.
A glance at these results immediately shows a picture of significant support in numerous regions of the more heavily populated portions of the county. Victor clearly did the best of any of the candidates in the south bay (receiving 100% of the vote in two precincts in National City). There is no visible break or distinction between his support in the south bay, SR-8 corridor, and SR56 corridor. Victor received a consistent flow of votes from throughout this greater metropolitan area across the board in neighborhoods across different income levels, coastal and inland, north and south. Victor’s support continued farther north with a significant number of votes coming throughout the north coastal area of the county and along the SR-76 & 78 corridors from Oceanside across to Escondido.
Next, Steve Miller also chose to run his campaign outside of the political party structures. The son of long time elected District Attorney Ed Miller, Steve may or may not have received votes from those who remembered District Attorney Ed Miller, a well-known local elected Democratic Officeholder. Steve ran his campaign based on his experience as a career federal prosecutor with the United States Attorney’s Office in San Diego. Steve was rated qualified to serve as a judge by the County Bar Association.
Steve’s performance was consistent from the International Boarder to Riverside County and the Coast to Imperial County. The uniformity of Steve’s support throughout the County shows a consistent 11% to 26%. There are a few pockets of greater and lesser support but by and large Steve colored this map virtually the same color across the board.
Next, I sought and received the support and endorsement of the Democratic party as well as the support of numerous Democratic and Republican office holders, organizations and judges from throughout the county (as can be seen from my endorsements page). Balancing family life (married with two kids) and two careers (I am a Deputy District Attorney and Judge Advocate holding the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Marine Corps Reserve) I nevertheless ran a highly energetic campaign seeking support from various groups regardless of political affiliation. One leader in the San Diego and Imperial County Labor Counsel told me to “fire in every direction” and that is what I have done in my speaking engagements and outreach. My campaign signs featured the slogan “JAG to Judge” – a reference to my on-going career in the Marines as a Judge Advocate, and I made an effort to let the voters know that I am a servicemember in this heavily veteran-populated county. Nearly every Police Officer Association supported and endorsed my candidacy due to my role as a Deputy District Attorney and my familiarity with the warrant review process. I spent (and continue to spend) the primary campaign speaking to groups of peace officers, unions and legal associations, business and political clubs, veterans associations (such as the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars) and other politically engaged organizations (Deputy District Attorney’s Association, City Attorney’s Association, Lincoln Club, LAPA, San Diego Criminal Lawyer’s Club, Lawyers Club, Tom Hohmann Law Association, numerous firefighter associations, etc.). I also handed out literature in numerous street fairs and parades (Solana Beach, Encinitas, Carlsbad, Oceanside, La Mesa, Hillcrest, etc.) All of this time and energy spent campaigning paid off when the voters permitted me to advance to the general election in November. The Bar Association rated me qualified to serve as a Superior Court Judge.
Judge Gary Kreep came to the race as the incumbent after having served five years of his six year term. He was coming off a recent censure from the ethics board for numerous violations and was rated lacking in qualifications by the County Bar Association (the same rating he received from the bar in 2012 when he initially ran). Throughout the entire primary campaign Judge Kreep only participated in two of the group forums held by various associations: (the Lincoln Club and San Diego Criminal Lawyers Club candidate forums). He was invited and chose not to go to several other invited events as well: (such as the Deputy District Attorney’s Association and the Latino American Political Association).
Gary Kreep’s performance appears to be a mirror image of three of the four challengers. He did better than the other candidates in the rural areas of the county, and he did poorly in the more densely populated areas of the county. It seems fair to say that as the population density increased Gary Kreep’s support decreased (though from a relatively low level).
One seemingly reasonable inference that can be drawn from this outcome is that the other challengers’ votes should be transferable in November. This is far from certain and would require voters in San Diego County to buck a very deeply established trend to default in favor of the incumbent. It is heartening that the incumbent received less than a third of the vote and makes clear this challenge is obtainable. That being said it is far from certain and will require continued energetic campaigning and advertisements. If you would like to help me to send a message to Gary Kreep that the voters of San Diego County demand ethical conduct in their judges please contribute to my campaign to help me advertise, let me know you would like a yard sign to encourage your neighbors, or let me know you would like to volunteer with my campaign.