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County Supervisor Horn Narrowly Wins Re-Election

Photo credit: Courtesy photos

Oceanside Mayor Jim Wood, left, is seeking to unseat five-term San Diego County Supervisor Bill Horn, right.

Tweets from KPBS News reporters and editors covering the primary election, June 3, 2014.

North County voters were almost evenly divided Tuesday in the county supervisors race that had Oceanside Mayor Jim Wood challenging incumbent Bill Horn, but Horn appeared to have pulled out a victory.

Horn, who has represented the 5th District for 20 years, defeated Wood by 1,378 votes out of 56,562 votes cast. Horn was seeking his sixth and final four-year term.

Both Horn and Wood are Republicans, though supervisors races are nonpartisan.

No county supervisor has been defeated in 20 years.

Wood, true to a personal tradition when he is on the ballot, thanked his supporters at a pizza parlor in Vista, and went home to Oceanside for the night.

Horn was at a party hosted by the San Diego County Lincoln Club at the U.S. Grant Hotel. He said he came to thank his supporters and was not yet ready to concede with many more votes to be counted.

In the past, when he has faced opposition, Horn has been strongest in early returns, with his lead shrinking over the course of the night.

Horn was backed in the campaign by business and development interests, while Wood has attracted support from labor unions and environmental interests.

County Supervisor Ron Roberts, who represents the 4th District, which includes central San Diego, was unopposed and won re-election Tuesday.

Photo by Angela Carone

County Supervisor Ron Roberts, shown at the U.S. Grant Hotel, was unopposed and re-elected, June 3, 2014.

Political baggage

Both candidates have faced allegations that tarnish their political image.

The latest for Horn is a report by inewsource, a KPBS media partner, that uncovered he used a nonprofit for years to avoid paying taxes on his real estate transactions. He has said he did nothing wrong.

Wood's past includes a mention in a lawsuit alleging sexually inappropriate comments while he was in the Oceanside Police Department.

The district

The 5th District covers a huge area of North County, combining urban and unincorporated areas that have very different interests.

The cities of Carlsbad, Oceanside, Vista and San Marcos all lay within the boundaries, and the borders stretch east, beyond undeveloped backcountry to Valley Center and the desert beyond.

The issues

The five county supervisors are responsible for the Sheriff’s Department and the jails, so law enforcement is an issue, plus much of the funding for the fraying social safety net comes from the county’s budget.

But the issue that most sharply divided the two candidates was land use. As the economy improves and the region’s population grows, the big question is: Where can developments happen?

Horn was supported by farmers and large landowners who are angry that the county’s latest land-use zoning plan limits development. That reduces the value of their property. Horn favors multiple amendments that open the door to residential and commercial development in rural communities that have battled it for decades.

Large developers also support Horn’s campaign, so environmentalists have turned to Wood who said he would uphold the county’s growth plan because it took years of local community input to pass.

Finances and special interests

Horn amassed almost $300,000 in campaign contributions, and hundreds of thousands more have been spent by a number of independent political action committees to re-elect him.

Among the developers backing Horn were Accretive Investments and Newland Sierra, LLC , both of which have proposals for large development project.

Competing glossy fliers flooded the mailboxes of likely North County voters, with four independent political action committees supporting Horn and one backing Wood.

Wood's campaign had collected a little more than $30,000 in contributions. A labor union representing county employees has contributed $100,000 to support his candidacy through a PAC by the name of “Citizens against career insider politician Bill Horn.”

Wood was supported by former county Supervisor Pam Slater-Price, a moderate Republican with environmental credentials, and Olga Diaz, a Democrat on the Escondido City Council.

Labor groups were divided in this race, with the San Diego County Deputy Sheriffs' Association supporting Horn, while a county employees union, SEIU Local 221, and the Oceanside Police and Fire departments backed Wood.

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