In a November 19th San Mateo Daily Journal editorial, "Supervisor Vacancy Deserves an Election," the paper said, "It has been more than 10 years since the county has had a seriously contested election for the Board of Supervisors." It opined that one reason for this is the high cost of running a county-wide campaign.
The newspaper is right. A competitive county-wide political campaign might cost up to $200,000. Maybe more? For most candidates, raising that kind of money would be extremely difficult, if not impossible.
That's one reason that most counties in California elect their Supervisors by district - not county-wide like San Mateo County does.
From time-to-time District elections has come up for debate in the county. Right now board members run from a District (five districts) but they get voted on by everyone in the county. The basic argument of which approach is best comes down to this: running county-wide helps the office holder keep a broader view when considering public policy while the other side says that district elections guarantees competitive races because less money is needed to run.
The Daily Journal agrees with the money argument. They said, "Until supervisorial races are district-wide and not county-wide, that will surely not change." (They were referring to a lack of competition).
According to the Peninsula Politics Blog, the appointment process the Board is using to fill the upcoming vacancy caused by the elevation of Supervisor Jerry Hill to the State Assembly could cause a political backlash - it will be interesting to see if that happens but it will be more interesting to see if the idea of district elections goes anywhere.