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East County Election Races Heating up

East County Election Races Heating up
Large and small races in the East County worthy of interest are the competitive 77th Assembly District, Mayoral races in El Cajon and La Mesa, and -- believe it or not -- seats on the Padre Dam Municipal Water District Board.


We look at large and small races in the East County worthy of interest, including the competitive 77th Assembly District, Mayoral races in El Cajon and La Mesa, and -- believe it or not -- seats on the Padre Dam Municipal Water District Board. We also get an update on candidate hunger strikes in the 52nd Congressional District


Miriam Raftery, Editor, East County Magazine

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This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.


MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, coming up on These Days, the high-tech outing of a college freshman at Rutgers University last month apparently lead to the young man's suicide. It's one of several suicides reported recently among gay students. We'll hear what San Diego schools and student groups are doing to protect LGBT students from harassment. But first, we'll check in on the issues and races that voters in San Diego's east county will be deciding next month. That's all ahead this hour on These Days. First the news.

And I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. Some long time politicians are looking for reelection in San Diego's east county. But there's at least one state assembly district that's wide open for the first time in years. And the usually less than exciting race for members of the Padres dam water board is making waves. That plus we'll give an update on the hunger strikes for debate in the first second congressional district. My guest, Miriam RAFTERY is editor of East County Magazine. Good morning Miriam.

MIRIAM RAFTERY: Good morning.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let's start with that wide open race, it's the 77th state assembly district. The seat is vacant because Joel Anderson is running for state senate.


MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We've got two very different candidates, it's Brian Jones versus mark Hanson.

MIRIAM RAFTERY: It's I clear contrast for the voters here. Brian Jones is the vice mayor of Santee, he's a minister, a member of the large Son Rise church out there. Mark Hanson is a long time head of the charity nonprofit full disclosure here, he's nonprofit, Hartland, Actually gives the public and fiscal sponsor who sponsored our initial grant for east county magazine am Mark Hanson was a two time teacher of the year, he's been administrator of two of the major school districts out here. And now his new venture is heading up united green, which is bringing green job and green tech companies to the San Diego area.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So Brian Jones is the Republican and mark Hanson, the Democrat; is that correct.


MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What's the registration in the district.

MIRIAM RAFTERY: It's definitely a heavy Republican tilt. So in that sense, Jones obviously has a clear advantage. However, Hanson is very well known out there. He's taught a lot of kids. He was also a teacher at the school district out there. He's a cedar fire victim who helped folks rebuild, you know, after the fire. His charity did a lot of good work out there. So he's well respected as well. And really, I think that's two key issues in this race that seem to be emerging as the main ones.

One of them would be jobs, and the other would be education. Now, both candidates, actually claim some experience creating jobs, Brian -- mostly he's were retail jobs so not the high paying, and he's brought in some construction, temporary kind of construction jobs. Mark Hanson on the other hand, is looking to bring in -- he says he's actually travelled throughout the country, and met with 32 -- actually he met with 200 executives top green tech, to come to California and bring in 2200 jobs, and that would include a wind turbine manufacturing facility that would go in east county as well as some other green tech company, you know, for San Diego. So that's one of the big issues.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now it would be a little bit of know upset, however, if a Democrat did win the 77th assembly district.

MIRIAM RAFTERY: Well, it would, they have not had a Democrat in that seat since Bob Wilson in the late '70s, early '80s, as I recall. But it's certainly not unheard of. It's happened before. But definitely it would be considered an upset and a pick up for the Democrats if that happens.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And as we said, it's wide open this year so we'll see.

MIRIAM RAFTERY: Yeah, the education I just want to touch on is the other big issue. Brian Jones somewhat surprising to me, actually said in a debate, among the Republican primary candidates that he doesn't think education funding is a problem in California that actually he thinks we need more budget cuts in success sack, yet if you talk with any of our east county -- Jim Kelly was sort of decrying the amount of money the state has taken away from the districts out here, they're all facing bigger class sizes, teacher cutbacks, pension cuts, you name it. So that was more of an interesting position, I think. He does want to restore local control to the districts about how money is spent, which Hanson does as well.

Mark Hanson being a teacher -- was a two time teacher of the year, he actually does want to see some ways to bring more money it. His idea is a prison reform system similar to what they had in Europe whether instead of prisoners costing the state a lot of money every year, they actually produce money for the state by doing a certain amount of manufacturing, getting job training while they're in prison so when they come out, there's less recidivism. But the money that's generated from the products they make, he would take that and use that to fund education so we could start rolling back some of these horrible tuition hikes and getting more money into the K through 12 schools.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That's the 77th assembly school district, and I want to let everyone know if they want to find candidates in the east county, they'd do well to look at east coincident magazine.

MIRIAM RAFTERY: Yes, some of them were a while ago, so if you click the politics button, east county at the top of the page, you'll find them all. And actually today, I'll put up links.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Great. Now move on to El Cajon mayor, five candidates are running for mayor of El Cajon. They're vowing to tackle some serious issues, what are the main issues in this race.

MIRIAM RAFTERY: Well, there are several, El Cajon has the highest poverty rate in San Diego County now. They've done some good things there's some redevelopment going on downtown, they've improved some of the buildings, and yet, there's an awful lot of vacant store fronts still. More than the neighboring communities. They kid have a sales tax increase that was rather controversial that voters approved.


MIRIAM RAFTERY: The theatre, the close of the theatre downtown is a huge issue because many of the businesses were promised move into downtown, we're gonna have this heater and it'll bring people in, and now it's closed for at least a year. For a remodel that's yet to gip. And there are some very very different views among the candidates running ranging all the way from the incumbent -- I'm sorry.


MIRIAM RAFTERY: Yeah, mark Lewis to the two challengers, Todd Moore and John mike Garcia who they say want to bring in professional theatre management. They think closing it down for an extended period is a really big mistake. They want to figure out a way to bring back headliners, you know?

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Right. To revitalize that particular theatre. And anything -- is there anything that really distinguishes these three major candidates for mayor of La Mesa? I'm sorry, El Cajon.

MIRIAM RAFTERY: This is El Cajon. Well, there's a lot of things, let's see. Garcia is -- he's actually a very interesting person of he's an Iraq war vet ran who actually had a brain injury, so it's quite amazing he's come back from this to run. He's very conservative, he wants to cut taxes more, he doesn't have and political experience at all. But a lot of energy and enthusiasm. But then we have Todd Moore, are who was on the police force for many, many years, one of his main concerns is penalty safety. He says there's been a 27 percent cut back, and they're down to just three cops on a beat at a time, so he's very conserved and wants to beef up public safety. You upon, the Union Tribune kind of editorialized and suggested maybe he was a puppet of the police union. But in fact, he actually has voted in the past -- I mean, he was in the union against a pay cut for police officers so he does need to be a bit of an independent thinker who could buck the trend. And he has some very something ideas for what to bring in downtown. He wants to bring in a farmers' market, and he wants to build a convention center. I think over where -- you know over where there used to be know old hotel outside of downtown of he's got some interesting different ideas. And then of course we have the incumbent.


MIRIAM RAFTERY: Right right. And he's been around a long time, he's been popular with some and controversial with some others, and he feels that a lot of the problems are a function of the economy and the state raising the budget, and he's proud of some of the things he's done with regard to allowing the revitalization that already has occurred.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Moving over to the city of La Mesa, talking about public safety, that's one of the major issues at least with one of the candidates running for mayor of La Mesa. Tell us about that.

MIRIAM RAFTERY: Well, there are two candidates. We have the incumbent mayor art Madrid who'd been around for 25 years, I think it is, as mayor now, and I think they just about built the town around him. He's the one who's hoping to lead it through the centennial in 2012. And really his opponents haven't been able to pick on his politics too much. It's been other issues, Mora Lothian is a realtor, successful realtor, who's running against him. And she is sort of wanting to beautify downtown more, issue and she's brought up the fact that the crime rate has gone up. Although not the violate crimes. Some of the petty crimes. Some of that has to do with La Mesa's proximity to the trolly, and freeways, and I think budget cuts may have something to do with that.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Speaking of mayor, art Madrid, how long has he been in office.

MIRIAM RAFTERY: I want to say 25 years, he was on the counsel then he was mayor before that. It might even be 30. It's an awful long time. He's led La Mesa through some big changes, they've had major revitalization, they're got a brand-new library, fire station, their downtown compared to some of the other areas is driving, and they've brought in a -- you know, a wine bar and some art galleries, so there's actually a lot that's positive happening in La Mesa as well. Although the crime increase, you know, perhaps tied in part of to the recession, perhaps tied in part to some cuts, you know, is definitely a concern. And I think all candidates running for office in La Mesa are looking at that.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Is there a lot of interest in La Mesa about this mayor's race.

MIRIAM RAFTERY: Well, you know, there is. And it's kind of ironic because, you know, mayor Madrid, of course, the one blot on his -- most serious blot on his 20 some years, was there was that much publicized where he was, you know, intoxicated on I public street, and escorted home by La Mesa police. But it turns out that his opponent has some baggage in her background as well. A couple days before she filed for mayor, her 19-year-old daughter was, you know, essentially found guilty or what you call it? Pled to violating the social host ordinance in La Mesa, a party with a hundred teenagers doing jello shooters at the candidate's house. SO that was from her standpoint, if you had a concern about a candidate who had a problem with alcohol. She also had a somewhat troubled financial background, it goes back a few years most of it, but she was married to a man who was actually convicted of, you know, conning investors. He was convicted of fraud. Yeah, conning investors out of five million dollars, and she did stay with him for 12 years after that conviction, and there was liens and collections and a number of things.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So both of the La Mesa candidates with some flaws but a lot of interest in that particular race.

MIRIAM RAFTERY: A lot of enthusiasm, a lot of ideas and it's gonna be interesting to see what happens out there.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Moving onto a race that isn't terribly interesting usually. But is interesting this time. Is the Padre dam municipal water board. Tell us why this race is now interesting to voter.

MIRIAM RAFTERY: Well, there are several issues, of course. Water rate increases is one. As with almost all the water districts, Padres had some hikes. Two other issues that are unique to this district and one of those is they pushed through the cable ski park for Santee lakes, and many of the residents around there found that appalling because of concerns about the noise, they say it's gonna make is it like Disneyland at Santee lakes. Some people support it, they think hey, it's a great supporting facility. We're looking for the forward to it. And the reality is that the developers run into some financial issues, so there is a possibility actually to stop and revisit. And some of the candidates say they actually want to stop that project, think it should be revisited others are all for it, voted for it. ! And there's also an issue about some Indian remains being basically finding them and the the discovery of them stopping construction of a new project there at Padre dam.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You told us about that before. How do the candidates come down on that? Is anybody for continuing construction.

MIRIAM RAFTERY: Believe it or not some of them think that, yes, we should continue it fight it in the Courts or trying to talk the NAHC to say this is okay after all. And others, you know, are more in the middle saying let's try to compromise. Then you have some, James Peasley is an interesting candidate because he's actually the engineering manager of the Otay water district. And he says, and I quote, it is courtroom that Padre dam proceeded with the project when they should have known that it appeared fatally flawed. And he absolutely says that Padre dam should do the right thing and find an acceptable alternative sight so go somewhere else.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So that's why all of a sudden this water board district race is so interesting in the east county. Of moving along, one last question I have for you for the congressional 52, that's currently an issue held by Congressman Duncan hunter junior. Of the last time we visited that, there was a hunger strike being held by challengers ray will you tell us and Michael Benoit, because they wanted to debate hunter early in the season. What happened with that?

MIRIAM RAFTERY: Well, they won and they didn't won. Fortunately they are eating again.


MIRIAM RAFTERY: They did get duck and hunter, as they call him, Duncan hunter, they got to one debate not as early as they wanted, but the great debate is going to be held on October 15th. So this Friday night it's going to be out at Cuyamaca college, sponsored by the east county Chamber of Commerce. And we will be, of course, covering that, and we'll have details that you can find in our politics section and also on our list of events section. Of if people want to come, I understand it's free. So come on out, it's a chance to meet all the candidates and ask your questions.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And we'll link to your website but once again what is your website address.

MIRIAM RAFTERY: It's east county

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Well, you've covered a lot of ground Miriam thanks so much.

MIRIAM RAFTERY: You're welcome and thanks for having me.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Miriam RAFTERY is editor of East County Magazine, if you'd like to comment, it's slash these days. Coming up, efforts to protect San Diego's gay students from bullying of that's as These Days continues here on KPBS.