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PACs Outspend Candidates In County Supervisor Dave Roberts’ Race

Photo caption:

Photo by Alison St John

Encinitas Mayor Kristin Gaspar, from left, County Supervisor Dave Roberts and Escondido Mayor Sam Abed at a candidates' forum for the San Diego County Supervisors District 3 seat, May 17, 2016.

Seats on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors are seldom contested. But this year, hundreds of thousands of dollars are being spent by independent political action committees to unseat incumbent Democrat Dave Roberts.

Seats on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors are seldom contested. But this year, hundreds of thousands of dollars are being spent by independent political action committees to unseat incumbent Dave Roberts.

Roberts, the lone Democrat on the five-member board, raised less in the last reporting period than Encinitas Mayor Kristin Gaspar, one of his two Republican challengers. In the reporting period since April 24, Roberts' campaign declared he’d raised about $18,693, while Gaspar raised $35,890. A second Republican challenger, Escondido Mayor Sam Abed, raised $13,920.

None of the candidates has spent more than $200,000 so far this year. Meanwhile, independent business PACs campaigning to oust Roberts have spent more than $200,000 on the race.

Photo caption:

Photo by Alison St John

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

The PAC Citizens for Fair and Honest Leadership Supporting Kristin Gaspar, sponsored mainly by the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, has spent more than $100,000 on mailers. Many of these support Gaspar on one side, and on the other attack Roberts for problems in his office last year.

Another PAC, the Public Integrity League of San Diego Opposed to the 2016 Re-Election of Dave Roberts for County Supervisor District 3, sponsored by the Lincoln Club, has spent at least $135,000 in the last month on television ads attacking Roberts on the same issues.

Four staff members resigned from Roberts' office in 2015, accusing him of creating a toxic work environment, misuse of public funds, and asking them to work on personal and campaign tasks while on county time. Roberts denied the accusations, but his colleagues on the county board paid the staffers $310,000 to settle, saying Roberts showed, at a minimum, "poor judgment."

Lincoln Club Executive Director Brian Pepin said the TV ads are meant to educate the public about ethical problems on the part of the incumbent.

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Carl Luna, a political science professor at Mesa College, said the TV ads are an investment to make sure Roberts does not win the seat outright with more than 50 percent of the vote in June. The changing dynamics of the presidential race are affecting voter turnout, which could benefit Roberts, Luna said.

“If Dave Roberts had a high Democratic turnout and Republicans are staying home because there’s not a whole lot of excitement on the presidential tickets," Luna said, "he might have a chance of actually winning the 50 percent outright, so perhaps this is money to trip him up and remind voters of a scandal."

Roberts has had some help from independent expenditures: The Deputy Sheriffs' Association of San Diego County contributed $11,000 to his campaign for signs and the League of Conservation Voters spent $9,000 on mailers in May. He has received $15,000 from the San Diego Democratic Party.

Abed has received the maximum contribution allowed from the San Diego Republican Party: $25,000.

But these numbers are dwarfed by the spending of the PACs lining up behind Gaspar.

There may be little time left to influence voters before June 7, since an increasing number of voters choose to vote by mail before election day. The latest campaign disclosure statements show Roberts has $110,000 cash in hand, Gaspar has $85,000 and Abed has $153,00.

Assuming no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote June 7, the top two vote getters will have an uphill battle to raise as much as the business community has on hand to influence the race in November with TV ads and mailers.

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