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Roberts Defeats Danon In Race For San Diego County Supervisor

San Diego County Supervisor candidate Dave Roberts (D) speaks with reporters at Golden Hall on November 6, 2012.
Spark Photography
San Diego County Supervisor candidate Dave Roberts (D) speaks with reporters at Golden Hall on November 6, 2012.
Dave Roberts, Election to Board of Supervisors
Roberts Defeats Danon In Race For San Diego County Supervisor
GUESTDave Roberts, Supervisor-elect, District 3

ROBERTS: I'm looking forward to bringing a new breath of fresh air to the county Board of Supervisors. First new supervisor in this district in 20 years, 18 years overall. And there are a number of thing, should I be eventually certified the win, they would like to do. I talked about wanting to establish an office of small business to really help grow small businesses here in San Diego County. And there are a number of things I want to work on like that. CAVANAUGH: It's my understanding that of all the rather tight races that have not been certified yet, yours is the widest margin between Steve Danon and Dave Roberts. Yours is the widest margin of victory, if we can put it that way. ROBERTS: Well, currently when the original absentee ballots came in last night, we were found by 1,400 votes. Today we're up by almost 2,000 votes. And so we are feeling the momentum going on our side throughout last night into the morning. I've been up all night so I haven't gotten any sleep. But we feel that the momentum is on our side. CAVANAUGH: Do you think the endorsement from current supervisor Pam Slater price helped you? ROBERTS: Well, I was endorsed by over 130 community leaders. Elected officials over 20 Republican elected officials. I had the endorsement of one of George bush's cabinet secretaries, Donna Frye's endorsement as well. And I think all these endorsements helped. When supervisor Pam accelerate price made the decision to cross party lines because she believed I was the best choice of the five candidates in the primary, it meant a lot to our campaign. And it really gave our campaign the momentum building that we needed to show people I had the experience and really the vision. And people could relate to me. Being the father of five adopted foster children, people recognized that. And they recognize my corporate experience. I have a small business. And I'm deputy mayor of solanbeach through December 14th. They recognize that I brought all this experience. And I think when supervisor accelerate price said he was going to endorse me, it caught a lot of people's attention. The Board of Supervisors is a nonpartisan position, and here is somebody reaching across party lines to say this is the best person. He happens to be a registered Democrat. She happened to be a registered Republican. But it doesn't matter because the issues we need to work on at the county go across the political spectrum. CAVANAUGH: Now, you are as you say, a registered Democrat, and a brand-new face on the board, which has had the same people on it for the last 20 years. But it's still made up of five white supervisors representing an increasingly diverse county. How do you intend to include more voices in policy divisions? ROBERTS: First of all I believe that I am actually part of the new vision of San Diego County. I happen to be a gay married man with five adopted foster children. I think people really related to my story. I have to balance work life situations. Just this morning, I didn't have time to go to bed because by the time we got home from golden hall, the kids were getting up. It's 5:30. We have five kids at four different schools, we had to get them breakfast. So life didn't stop just because the campaign ended. All these things had to go on. And I think people recognize that about me, and I have this ability really to work across party lines. CAVANAUGH: Well, again, thank you so much for coming in. I'm amazed that you haven't gotten any sleep! Thank you so much, supervisor elect Dave Roberts. ROBERTS: Thank you very much. I appreciate it. CAVANAUGH: Not only candidates but issues were big on the San Diego ballot yesterday. Carl, let's talk about the results of the state propositions. Prop 32 got a huge amount of attention, and a lot of money poured into it. Did union political fundraising dodge another bullet? LUNA: Almost certainly. Despite the rhetoric. I'm a member of AF1931, I'm a union member, a college professor. That being said, it didn't hurt that unions dumped a ton of money on this, and corporations dumped money into it too. But the unions outspent and had an incredible ground campaign. I had to say so many times into the phone how I was going to vote on prop 32, I was amazed. They were really able to bury this. Of CAVANAUGH: Prop 32 did not win. It would have been passed though if it was left up to San Diego County. LUNA: Statewide. CAVANAUGH: Props 34 and 36, the two crime and punishment initiatives have very different outcomes. LUNA: And that was kind of interesting within that. And part of that may well have been an oopsy. The guy who authored it, the three strikes law revision to allow more discretion because we put so many people away for nonviolent offenses himself said that he thinks some of the vote they got was for people who thought it was actually toughening three strikes. The death penalty is one of those feel-good propositions. You vote for it to maintain it even though we don't execute much in California and it costs us a lot more money. I'm somewhat conflictod that one because I think there are certain things heinous enough the death penalty should be applied. But routinely, it seems to be overapplied. That number is down 52-47. I can see over the next 10, 20 years you see the death penalty disappearing from the United States and California in particular. CAVANAUGH: Does this mean there's no real correlation to the amount of people who sign an initiative to get something on the ballot and how popular that initiative will be? LUNA: If you give me enough money, I could get anything qualified for the ballot. It's a matter of getting enough people out on street corner, a lot of people saying, yes, everything deserves a vote. CAVANAUGH: I would like to go to the biggest Proposition of them all. Prop 30, the governor's tax initiative. And I'd like to bring in KPBS education reporter, Kyla Calvert. ROBERTS: Hi, Maureen. CAVANAUGH: How did San Diego vote on this? ROBERTS: San Diego was not in favor of Prop 30. San Diego County wasn't. But the state was. So it passed. CAVANAUGH: What will this mean to us in the coming months? ROBERTS: It'll mean for several school district, there was a contingency plan if it failed to cut between 1-3 weeks from the school year this year. That won't be happening. We'll have the full school year in the case of districts like San Diego unified. That's already five days shorter than what has traditionally been the state's minimum of 180-day school year calendar because of the years of budget crunch and crisis that we have had in the state for education funding. I got an e-mail from the Grossmont Cuyamaca community college district, and they'll be restoring 300 classes because of prop 30's passage, and they'll be able to serve about 1,100 more students. I don't know what the exact numbers are for San Diego's community college district just yet, but I imagine it's similar. The California community colleges as a whole will be able to serve about 20,000 more students this year because of prop 30 passing. And finally cal state university students or whoever pays their tuition this year, they'll be getting refund checks. The cal State system increased its tuition this year and said if Prop 30 passed, they would roll it back to last year's level, so those people paying tuition will be getting a credit of $249 per semester for this school year. CAVANAUGH: And what will the rest of us being paying in increased taxes? LUNA: You'll pay a quarter% more on sales taxes, which for a lot of households, the aggregate sales tax is a bigger burden than their state income tax. So that part of it is a bit regressive. It's kind of a balance. The sales tax is an easier one to pass than to bring down the income tax into the upper middle class and middle class who will rebel against it want CAVANAUGH: And people who make higher incomes will see their income bill go up. LUNA: Yes. And one of the downsides of all this, when we thisted from prop 30 from property tax, we made up a lot of that with income tax. Now we're dependent on the rich doing well. When Facebook's public offering floundered, we lost a couple billion dollars in tax for the state. CAVANAUGH: What happened to proposition 38? ROBERTS: That sort of failed spectacularly. CAVANAUGH: That was the shadow version of prop 30 in the sense that it was supported by -- help me out here. ROBERTS: My molly monger, who is a civil rights attorney. And they were promoting that as sort of the better alternative to proposition 30. That would have raised next taxes on all of, you know, but California's lowest earning residents and it would have raised about $10 billion a year as opposed to Proposition 30 which is estimated to raise $6 billion or so. Then all of that money would have gone into a separate fund from the state's general fund that would have been funneled to schools. CAVANAUGH: It really lost badly. ROBERTS: Yeah, I think there was more than 70% of the voters voted against it. CAVANAUGH: What about prop Z? ROBERTS: Proposition Z passed. It had about 58% of voters voting yes, and the school bonds need 55% to pass. San Diego unified's proposition Z was the largest in the county and the state, $2.8 billion, and it passed. 6 of the 11 are either rut of the running or look like they may not pass, but a couple are within 1 percentage point. So who knows? CAVANAUGH: A lot of people were saying $2.8 billion, that's way too much. But did it help do you think, the ballot that I got because I live in the school district outlined every single thing that proposition Z would do. It took up like half the ballot. ROBERTS: I was sort of thumbing through it thinking what is all this? No, it's all proposition Z! CAVANAUGH: Right. ROBERTS: But they're required to print that out. CAVANAUGH: Step by step. So one would say that the San Diego unified school district officials are rather pleased. ROBERTS: Oh, yes! I was talking about John Lee Evans, the current president running for reelection last night, and he was saying that this doesn't solve all of their financial problems, there still are tough choices to be made, but it stops the hemorrhaging. They have had four years in a row where they were making massive cuts, are many of those years was over 100 medicine from their budget. And this is the first year in a while that they're not facing just another huge chunk. CAVANAUGH: And he won his race too? ROBERTS: Yes, he was ahead. CAVANAUGH: Okay. Let me go to one of the last races. It's the superior court judgeship. Robert Amador won over Jim Miller, an attorneyed rated not qualified by the by the San Diego bar association. Do you think this got more attention than usually because of the Birther candidate Gary creep in the primaries? LUNA: Certainly the media did. The media didn't pay a lot of attention to the Creep race and felt like they had to vet these momore. When it comes to judges, most of the time voters are very ill-informed about how to vote for. So a combination of not knowing who they were, order on the ballot, and the fact that he had a higher rating, that's what put it over the top. There was no creepy business with this election. CAVANAUGH: Oh, you! [ LAUGHTER ] CAVANAUGH: The national race was very tight. Did that prompt do you think more Democrats to go to the polls and did that change the outcome of our elections? LUNA: To an extent. The engagement, the voter turnout lower this time than in 2008. You did see some high participation though by Democrats in states like Florida where you had the long lines and waits, and I think you had a ripple effect here. But the underlying demographics is what's magnifying that in San Diego. There are is simply a bigger base for the Democrats to draw on, are and the Republicans have to get an increasingly higher turnout for their share to win. Yesterday was a good election for Democrats. It was a really bad election for Republicans. CAVANAUGH: That's my next question. What does it mean for the Republican party in San Diego and California? LUNA: If you look at the entire Republican party, San Diego to national, they keep trying these combinations of a moderate who becomes a moderate who becomes a conservative to run, or the opposite. Carl DeMaio was like Mitt Romney. He started out really conservative and then started to come toward the center. Neither nationally nor locally was that a winning combination.

KPBS reporters tweeting on Election Day.
District 3 Supervisor Candidates Face Off

Dave Roberts appears to have defeated Steve Danon in a tight race to fill the San Diego County Board of Supervisors seat vacated by Pam Slater-Price.

With all precincts reporting, Roberts -- the Democratic deputy mayor of Solana Beach -- had 50.7 percent of the vote, compared to 49.3 for Republican Danon.


Only about 1,900 votes separated the two, and 475,000 absentee ballots remained to be tallied.

If his lead holds, Roberts will become the first new supervisor in San Diego County since 1995 and the body's lone Democrat. The five current supervisors are all white, Republican and SDSU alumni.

But Roberts told KPBS he isn't nervous about joining the entrenched board because it's nonpartisan.

"I've got a history of working across the party lines and I think that we're all going to be looking at each other," he said. "I really am a new leader coming onto the board because of term limits, all the supervisors will be turning over."

"I really bring that new day to the board, that new leadership that people were looking for," he added.


Although Slater-Price is a Republican, she crossed party lines and endorsed Roberts as her successor. The North County district still favors Republicans in voter registration, according to the latest report by the San Diego County Registrar's Office.

The district encompasses Del Mar, Encinitas, Escondido, Solana Beach and the several northern neighborhoods of San Diego, combining a diverse mix of voters.

"I know the district really well, I know the people really well," Roberts said.

He said during his campaign, he reached out to and included a range of voices. Roberts plans to bring diversity to the county governing board in the appointments he makes, and through his own personal background. He is a gay married man with five foster children.

"I really believe I can represent the working families out there," he said. "I understand how you have to balance work and family life."

Danon and Roberts traded barbs when they faced off during a KPBS debate in October.

Roberts said he has worked in the private industry for the majority of his career, and said Danon had only been in the private sector for 33 months.

“Who would you trust with a $5 billion budget and managing 15,000 employees?” he asked. “I’ve got that financial background.”

Danon countered that he founded his own business and said Roberts’ private sector experience was as a lobbyist on health care in Washington D.C.

Another moment of hostility came when the candidates were asked, “if the state budget is cut, how will you fund local social programs?”

Roberts responded: “The county has a AAA bond rating, and they have that for a reason, through strong financial management. I’m going to continue that strong financial management, but I’ll look at every program and ensure that we do focus on core services.”

Then it was Danon’s turn: “There’s a reason why people are so disgusted with politics, and that’s because people do not answer the question. I’m going to answer it. Yes, we need to look at it.”

He said one in six San Diego County families are living below the poverty line.

Danon finished 3 percentage points ahead of Roberts in the June primary.

Corrected: October 3, 2023 at 5:16 PM PDT
Claire Trageser and City News Service contributed to the information in this report.
Democracy Day is an effort that started in 2022 to draw attention to the crisis facing American democracy, provide the public with the context and information they need, and bring all types of media together to sound the alarm collectively. KPBS is a media partner in this collaborative.