San Diego GOP straw poll at CNN debate watch party

Carly Fiorina had a big fan at Wednesday night’s GOP debate watch party — Susan Lew, owner of the host Emerald Chinese Cuisine restaurant in Kearny Mesa.

“I am Carly supporter,” Lew said, displaying one of the placards made available to guests. “I’m here to watch her beat Mr. Trump.”

Pundits may have given the former Hewlett-Packard CEO the edge in the CNN debate, but a straw poll tallied midway through the 3-hour show saw front-runner Donald Trump win the night locally.

Phil Feeney of Oceanside, Margie Wilhelm of San Marcos and Judy Gast of Ramona showed their Ben Carson colors at GOP debate watch party. Photo by Ken Stone

San Diego Republican GOP Chairman Tony Krvaric announced the top five finishers in the poll taken at the party-sponsored event: Trump, Ben Carson, Fiorina, Sen. Rand Paul and Sen. Ted Cruz. No percentage breakdown was given, but an overheard ballot-by-ballot tally indicated the vast majority of votes went to the top three.

Before the debate, North County Supervisor Bill Horn said: “I’m just here to see who I’m going to vote for.”

Who might prevail? he was asked.

Republicans attending the GOP debate watch party had their pick of placards. Photo by Ken Stone

“Given the fact that Trump doesn’t need any money and really is politically incorrect — I’m close to that side,” Horn began. “But I like Ben Carson. I think he is extremely intelligent.”

During the debate, shown on seven screens, the audience of 300 was fairly quiet and attentive. But the most excitement came when Fiorina challenged Trump.

“You ran up a mountain of debt,” Fioria told Trump, which brought cheers and a woman’s loud “Yes!” at the upscale restaurant. “Thank you for pointing that out.”

When Fiorina suggested arming the Kurds, yells and applause were heard.

The real-estate billionaire drew laughter as well, especially when he suggested Paul provided plenty of material to mock the Kentucky senator’s looks.

Only scattered applause greeted Trump’s assertion that “nobody has control of me.”

Carson received applause for his flat tax modeled after biblical tithing, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie drew San Diegans’ applause when he addressed Trump and Fiorina with the idea that average workers “could care less about your careers.”

Krvaric, the party chair, arrived about 90 minutes into the debate to cheers of “Tony! Tony!”

“This is a bottom-up party,” Krvaric said, standing in the center of the restaurant. “This is not where party elites get to decide who the nominee should be. So don’t stand on the sidelines.”

He said no matter who gets the nomination, the San Diego GOP “will campaign for him or her vigorously.”