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Sarah Boot Announces Run For California Assembly’s 78th District

The former City Council candidate is endorsed by current officeholder Toni Atkins

Sarah Boot explains why she is running for California's 78th Assembly District.

Democrat Sarah Boot, a former prosecutor who unsuccessfully ran for San Diego City Council in 2014, announced Thursday she's running for the seat currently held by Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins.

Democrat Sarah Boot, a former federal prosecutor who unsuccessfully ran for San Diego City Council in 2014, announced Thursday she's running for the state Assembly's 78th District.

The announcement from Boot was accompanied by an endorsement from Democratic Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, the current 78th District representative who will be termed out in 2016.

78th Assembly District

The district spans the coast from Imperial Beach to Solana Beach and stretches east to include most of the city of San Diego.

Voter Registration in 2014:

Democrat: 39.4 percent

Republican: 25.3 percent

Decline to state: 29.5 percent

Source: California Secretary of State's Office

Atkins' endorsement, along with Democrat-heavy voter registration numbers in the district, suggest Boot could have more success in this campaign than when she lost to Republican City Councilwoman Lorie Zapf.

Boot told KPBS she's spent the months since her City Council loss working as a private sector lawyer on consumer protection cases and serving on the board of San Diego Coastkeeper. She said her background as a federal prosecutor made her want to run for another office because she was exposed to problems in that job but felt limited in what she could do to help.

"What I found time and time again was that the criminals that I prosecuted and sometimes the victims that I was fighting to protect didn't have a good education, certainly didn't have a good job and often times lacked the structural support to overcome really challenging family situations. A lot of them came from broken homes, from violent homes or from foster care," Boot said.

"So I'm still very passionate about public safety and protecting the community," she added. "And what I've learned is this is really tied up in how strong our public education system is and how vibrant our economy is and the amount of really strong middle-class jobs that we have here in San Diego. These are state issues."

In a statement, Atkins said she is supporting Boot because she has the qualifications to hold the seat but will also bring "a fresh perspective."

"As a federal prosecutor and in her private sector work representing high technology companies, Sarah has seen first-hand the importance of restoring excellence in our schools, expanding job training opportunities, protecting San Diego’s natural resources — and preventing crime," the statement said. "The election is a long way off, but I’m excited by Sarah Boot’s candidacy and I would be proud to see her succeed me in the Assembly.”

Since 2010, Atkins has held the seat, although it was labeled the 76th District before redistricting. Lori Saldaña, also a Democrat, held the office before Atkins.

Atkins' office did not respond to requests for comment on her future political plans. U-T San Diego reported Wednesday that Atkins has a new fundraising committee, "Atkins for Senate 2020," which suggests she may run to replace Democratic state Sen. Marty Block when his term expires in 2020.

Atkins can also use the money the committee raises to contribute $4,200 per election to other candidates. If Boot advances past the primary and a general election is held, her campaign could receive a total of $8,400.

San Diego lifeguard Ed Harris, a Democrat, who served temporarily on the City Council in 2014, has also announced his run for the 78th District.

Tony Krvaric, chairman of the Republican Party of San Diego County, said former Marine Capt. Jacquie Atkinson, a Republican, also may run for the seat. Atkinson serves on Mayor Kevin Faulconer's GLBT Advisory Board. She could not be reached for comment.

Boot said because the election is more than a year away, she expects other candidates to emerge.

"At this point my focus is just on meeting with as many voters and community leaders as possible to talk about the issues," she said.

Boot said if elected, one of her top priorities would be to continue Atkins' work on keeping the costs of college tuition down. She said she went to public school from elementary school through college and law school.

"I want to make sure that kids in California have that same kind of access that I had," she said.

She'd also focus on public safety and growing middle-class jobs.

Boot said she learned her unsuccessful City Council campaign in District 2. In June, Zapf won just under 53 percent of votes, compared to Boot's 38.4 percent, which was enough to avoid a runoff election in November.

Thirty-four percent of voters in that district are Democrats and 29 percent are Republican as of Jan. 14.

Boot said she expects to be successful in the Assembly race in part because of the grass-roots support she built during the council campaign.

"I had a lot of grass-roots support the last time I ran and I should have the lion's share of that again this time, and I'm really humbled by that," she said. "I think there are a lot of supporters in the community, community leaders that are going to come out."

Boot said her campaign would be rolling out those community leaders who support her in the months to come.

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