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#ShowUsYourMailers: In County’s District 3, Campaign Mailers Try To Make Quick Impression

Photo by Alison St John

Campaign mailers from the San Diego County Board of Supervisors District 3 race, May 24, 2016.

Political campaign mailers are filling the mailboxes of targeted voters in the San Diego County Board of Supervisors' District 3.

The flyers from the three candidates’ campaigns give an indication of their top priorities. In contrast, mailers sent out by independent political action committees, or PACs, sometimes are more of an indication of what voters want to hear. By reading the small print on a glossy mailer, voters can find out who paid for it.

Issues

All three candidates — incumbent Democrat Dave Roberts, and Republican challengers Escondido Mayor Sam Abed and Encinitas Mayor Kristin Gaspar — mention public safety as a priority. The county operates the sheriff’s department and the district attorney’s office.

A mailer from Roberts, who has held the seat for the last four years, focuses on foster-care children and features pictures of the supervisor with his six adopted foster children.

Special Feature Voters Guide

Abed, a Lebanese immigrant, uses one of his mailers to tout his history working with law enforcement to deport criminal illegal immigrants.

Gaspar, who started a physiotherapy practice with her husband, emphasizes her small-business background with a mailer saying she wants to make San Diego more friendly for small business.

PAC mailers stick to poll-tested issues

Gaspar’s small-business focus is one reason the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce has thrown more than $100,000 into the independent PAC Citizens for Fair & Honest Leadership Supporting Kristin Gaspar for Supervisor.

The jumbo-size mailers hitting mailboxes are the ones paid for by the chamber's PAC. The mailers list Gaspar’s priorities as "Water Reliability" and "Neighborhood Infrastructure."

Neither of those issues is central to the responsibilities of the county Board of Supervisors. Water is not an issue mentioned on Gaspar’s own campaign mailers, nor is neighborhood infrastructure — though on her website she does refer to traffic as a problem.

Political consultant Bob Schuman said the PAC mailers may reflect the sponsor’s agenda rather than the candidate’s. Schuman said PACs are legally required to operate completely independently of the candidate’s campaign.

When asked what the priorities are in endorsing candidates, Allison Phillips of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce said they include opposing the minimum wage, supporting managed competition and a balanced approach to climate action plans, none of which is mentioned in the mailer.

Though Gaspar does not list water reliability as one of her priorities, she responded to a question about how she relates to the priorities highlighted on the PAC mailer.

"I think everyone recognizes that water sustainability is a critical issue facing government from the federal to state to local levels," Gaspar wrote in an email. "I’ve been very involved in water policy as the former president of the San Dieguito Water District and talk about the issue frequently."

Photo by Ron Ranson

A mailer from Kristin Gaspar's campaign for San Diego County Board of Supervisors' District 3 race, May 26, 2016.

In relation to infrastructure, Gaspar wrote, "At the city level, I support (San Diego) Councilman Mark Kersey’s Proposition H, which will dedicate $4 billion into infrastructure in the city of San Diego over 25 years, without raising taxes. I opposed SANDAG’s proposal because I do not believe it devoted enough resources to infrastructure and was an enormous — and regressive — tax increase."

Proposition H, also called "Rebuild San Diego", will be on the city's June 7 primary election ballot. Proponents like Kersey say it offers a solution to the multibillion dollar problem of aging or missing infrastructure in the city.

A Gaspar campaign mailer shows she has signed a pledge with Americans for Tax Reform not to vote to raise taxes under any circumstances.

Political consultant Chris Crotty said messages like "water reliability" on PAC mailers may have little to do with the candidate's stated goals or the office they are seeking.

“That’s obviously been poll-tested and been determined as something that will move voters in one direction or the other," he said. "It doesn’t really matter what office you are running for as long as you hit on a message that resonates with voters.”

Issue 'too boring' for mailers

Land use and housing developments in unincorporated areas, like Lilac Hills, are key issues for whoever holds the supervisor's seat in November. But the issue does not appear on the mailers.

"That's too boring" Crotty said.

The days of small postcard mailers crammed with candidates and endorsements are numbered, and mailers are getting bigger and glossier with poll-tested, simple messages, Crotty said.

“Then maybe you look at it for five seconds and that’s a successful piece of direct mail," he said.

Both Gaspar and Abed have the challenge of reaching hundreds of thousands of voters in the sprawling District 3, if they are to challenge incumbent Roberts. The district covers northern parts of the city of San Diego, north to Encinitas and Escondido.

It would be physically impossible to get the job done going door-to-door, so likely voters will probably see more jumbo mailers in their mailboxes in the next two weeks. Some mailers will contain indications of the candidates' priorities. Others may simply carry messages that polls have revealed will catch voters' attention, even if only for a few seconds.

You can show us the mailers you receive by tweeting a picture to @KPBSnews with the hashtag #ShowUsYourMailers, or e-mail it to kpbsmailers@kpbs.org. You can also submit it through our Public Insight Network query.

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