Lone Democratic Supervisor Roberts Faces Two Republican Challengers
Thursday, April 28, 2016
Lone Democratic Supervisor Roberts Faces Two Republican Challengers
Alison St John, North County Bureau Chief
With two Republican challengers vying to unseat him, Democratic San Diego County Supervisor Dave Roberts won’t keep his position without a fight.
At $5 billion, the budget overseen by the five-member San Diego County Board of Supervisors is bigger than the city of San Diego's. But elections for county supervisors often fly under the radar.
The only seat being seriously contested this year is the District 3 seat held by Dave Roberts, the lone Democrat on the board.
“I had some personnel issues in my office last year,” Roberts said during an interview before a recent forum. “I immediately took responsibility. The DA has now made a decision, we’ve moved on. This is about leadership and this is about providing real solutions to real problems.”
Several members of Roberts' office staff left last year, amid accusations of misuse of public funds and allegations of creating a toxic work environment. The county settled the civil suits for $310,000.
Family: Wife Mona, daughters Linda and Julie
Education: Not provided
Career: Founder and president of Abed Corp. and Pacific West Consulting; systems engineer at IBM
Other Interests: Tennis and traveling
The district attorney recently announced she would not pursue criminal charges against Roberts. But one of his two challengers, Escondido Mayor Sam Abed, is not about to let the supervisor off the hook.
“Dave Roberts should either resign from office or we will vote him out,” Abed, a Republican, said. “It’s that simple — he has violated the public trust.”
San Diego County's Democratic Party chairwoman, Francine Busby, said this is about partisan politics. Roberts is suffering from a history of Republican control on the powerful county board, she said.
“He’s the only Democrat in 20 years that’s been on that board, and frankly if the Republicans feel they can take that seat back, they will do everything they can,” Busby said. “There’s definitely a political component to this.”
San Diego County's Republican Party chairman, Tony Krvaric, wants the seat back.
“We should not have lost this seat to begin with,” Krvaric said, referring to the 2012 race when Roberts narrowly beat Republican Steve Danon.
“There was an Obama wave in 2012, and that will not be there this time," he said, referring to President Barack Obama's re-election. "We’ll do everything we can to take it back this time.“
Why does the District 3 seat matter?
Both parties are thinking ahead, said longtime San Diego political consultant Tom Shepard.
Shepard said two supervisors who will be termed out — Ron Roberts and Greg Cox — have districts that are predominantly Democratic, so Dave Roberts' seat could become pivotal. Ron Roberts will be termed out in 2018, and Cox will be termed out in 2020.
“So the 3rd District then becomes the swing seat,” Shepard said. “And I think there’s a desire on the part of both parties to get their guy, or gal, elected.”
But getting a supervisor elected is expensive — some of the districts are as large as a congressional district, with about 300,000 registered voters. Shepard estimated it would cost about $35,000 to send a mailer to the 70,000 likely voters in District 3.
There are more registered Republicans than Democrats in the district. But Shepard said inland and coastal Republicans have different values.
Inland Republicans, coastal Republicans
Family: Husband Paul and children Carson, 10, Payton, 8, and Addison, 6
Education: Bachelor’s degree from Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State
Career: CFO of Gaspar Doctors of Physical Therapy
Other Interests: Coaches Pop Warner cheerleading squad, third grade civics instructor
“They created a district that does span two different cultures almost — from Escondido to the small coastal communities,” Shepard said of the supervisors’ redistricting in 2001. “And it’s what makes it difficult to represent that district. It’s why I think Sam Abed has a potentially solid base of support in Escondido, but questionable ability to expand that beyond that city.”
Roberts' second challenger, a coastal Republican, is Encinitas Mayor Kristin Gaspar. She is well aware of the need to appeal across party lines.
“We have what I call ‘Coastal Republicans’ that can vote either way,” she said. “In both my elections, I was able to have 20 percent above the GOP registration voting for me in those elections. That’s an important quality that will come in handy come June, come November in the supervisor race. You have to be able to appeal along the coast to be successful in this race. “
Gaspar has won political support on environmental quality of life issues and believes she has broader appeal than Abed in a runoff with Roberts in November.
But Abed, whose brand is far more conservative, has a possible trump card: the endorsement of the Republican Party.
Family: Spouse Wally, six adopted children (Robert, Alex, Julian, Joe, Natalee and Manny)
Education: Master's degree in public financial management from American University; bachelor’s degree in political science and economics from American University
Career: Founded, owns and operates real estate management company; senior manager for Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society; corporate officer for SAIC
Other Interests: Hiking and spending time outdoors and at the beach with his family
“We’re going to be over half a million dollars,” he said. ”We are already over $300,000. I think I am leading in the fundraiser effort, and now the Republican Party is going to support us in the primary and in the general election, so there is a lot of resources for our campaign to win.”
Abed claims polling shows he is a few points away from winning the seat outright with more than 50 percent in June.
“We’re going to try to win this in June, no doubt about it,” Krvaric said. “That saves us a lot of money if we can win it in June. Then we don’t have to fight it in November.“
Democrat Busby is skeptical.
“I would say Sam Abed is one of the most conservative politicians in San Diego,” she said. “I think Sam’s base is going to be pretty small.”
Gaspar has endorsements from the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Lincoln Club and San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, a Republican. Gaspar’s not fazed that the Republican Party chose to support her rival in the race.
“While it would be nice to have their endorsement, it may turn out to be a blessing in disguise as we watch the voters that turn out this June and this November,” she said. “You may see a new pool of voters that are interested in something different, something new.”
When asked what he thought about the Republican Party’s endorsement of Sam Abed, Shepard has some doubts.
“I thought it was a godsend for Dave Roberts. We can presume that Roberts will get through the primary, so his fate to some extent will depend on the second place finisher. So that’s going to be pretty interesting.“
At a recent forum, the three candidates revealed stark differences in positions on most issues, from land use to marijuana.
The three candidates will participate in a forum sponsored by the North San Diego Business Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, May 17, in Rancho Bernardo.
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