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A Large Field Of Candidates Vying For The 53rd Congressional District Seat

Candidates for the 53rd Congressional District include Sara Jacobs (D), Georg...

Credit: KPBS

Above: Candidates for the 53rd Congressional District include Sara Jacobs (D), Georgette Gomez (D), Famela Ramos (R) and Janessa Goldbeck (D).

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Democratic Rep. Susan Davis surprised many when she announced last year she was retiring from her 53rd Congressional District seat. But it did not take long for more than a dozen candidates to jump into the March primary race to take her place.

Aired: January 30, 2020 | Transcript

Democratic Rep. Susan Davis surprised many when she announced last year she was retiring from her 53rd Congressional District seat, which she's held since 2003. It didn't take long for more than a dozen candidates to jump into the March primary race to take her place.

The 53rd covers a large part of the county including sections of San Diego, El Cajon and Chula Vista. The district's most recent voter registration breakdown Democrats have about a 2-to-1 advantage over Republicans. There are 185,000 registered Democrats, 94,000 registered Republicans and 14,000 independent voters.

The top two vote-getters on March 3 will face off in the November general election.

Video by Roland Lizarondo

Among the top Democratic candidates is Georgette Gomez. She currently serves as the San Diego City Council President and has grabbed endorsements from the state Democratic Party and labor and healthcare unions.

Gomez emphasizes the district is made up of primarily working-class residents and that her top priorities include affordable housing, education and job safety.

"The resources that we get from the federal [Department of Housing and Urban Development] is not enough," Gomez said. "We have a Section 8 waiting list that is over 10 years — if not more — and that’s because the federal housing department is not making that issue a priority."

Gomez also points out that her main job will be bringing resources to the district. "I’m going to go to DC to make sure there’s money that comes to your region," she said.

Another Democrat is Janessa Goldbeck. She left the U.S. Marine Corps in August and before that was a human rights advocate. Goldbeck said voters are most worried about the high cost of housing.

"That experience of trying to find a place to live and be able to afford a neighborhood with good schools, access to easy transportation — that’s tough for a lot of people," said Goldbeck, who also sees climate change as a critical issue in the district.

"In California, and San Diego especially, we are at the forefront of feeling the effects of climate change," she said. "Whether its wildfires in our canyons — right up the road — or the effects of rising sea levels on our coastal community and installations."

Sara Jacobs, another Democrat in the race, also sees gun violence and climate change as top issues.

She said climate raises alarms, "especially from young people who are concerned about the world they’re going to be living in," Jacobs said. "Another is gun violence — I can’t tell you how many young people and parents I’ve talked to who are so afraid to send their kids to school every day."

In 2016, Jacobs ran unsuccessfully for the 49th Congressional District. Before that, she was part of former President Barack Obama's State Department and has been an advocate to end childhood poverty. She said childcare will be one of her top priorities if elected.

"I think we need to set a national goal that no family pays no more than 10% of their income on childcare," Jacobs said. "Right now a lot of families are paying 30% to 40%. For some, it’s more than rent."

One of the few Republican candidates in the race is Famela Ramos, who recently lost a bid for a school board seat in Chula Vista. She has worked as a nurse and in the hospitality industry. She touts traditional Republican priorities.

"Bread and butter issues," Ramos said. "Jobs, taxes, and things like that. Family — family values — I feel in this district I am under-represented especially in family values."

Immigration is also one of her top issues. "Strengthening border security and reforming immigration (laws)," she said.

All told, there are 15 candidates running for the seat in the March primary.

The other Democratic candidates in the race include: father and business owner Jose Caballero; retired special agent John Brooks; special education teacher Joseph Fountain; Eric Roger Kutner; educator Annette Meza; rideshare driver Suzette Santori; and progressive policy adviser Joaquín Vázquez.

The other Republican candidates in the race are software developer/businessman Michael Patrick Oristian and pilot/officer/realtor Chris Stoddard.

Fernando Garcia is running without a party preference and lists his occupation as a CEO and business owner.

Professor and policy director Tom Wong has dropped out of the race, but his name will still be on the ballot.

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Matt Hoffman
General Assignment Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI am a general assignment reporter for KPBS. In addition to covering the latest news and issues that are relevant to the San Diego community, I like to dig deeper to find the voices and perspectives that other media often miss.

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