Third District County Supervisor Race Could Create Historic Change
One race may force a historic shift in the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. Incumbent Republican Kristin Gaspar faces two Democratic challengers in a rapidly shifting third district.
The third district runs up the coast from Solana Beach to Encinitas and up Interstate 15 from Interstate 8 all the way to the once reliably Republican community of Escondido.
As of December, Escondido had 1,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans, making it still the most competitive community in the third district. Overall, the district has 130,740 registered Democrats to 105,958 who registered as Republicans.
The board of supervisors is officially non-partisan, but Republicans currently hold four of the five seats. The third district is seen as the best chance for Republicans to continue their generation-long control of the County Board of Supervisors. Among the three districts up for election this year, the second district, which runs into the eastern part of San Diego County, still favors Republicans. The first district now leans heavily Democratic.
Kristen Gaspar is the Republican incumbent. She declined to participate in KPBS’s piece on the third district race.
“She does not want to do it. Sorry,” read a statement from her campaign.
Gaspar runs Gaspar Doctors of Physical Therapy with her husband, which has seven outlets in San Diego County. Four years ago, she defeated the Democratic incumbent Dave Roberts. She then ran for the Congressional seat held by Darrell Issa and lost in a crowded primary. During the last four years, Gaspar has taken stances that may seem out of step with her district. She appeared at a White House event last year with President Trump, supporting expanding the border wall and voting to support the president’s lawsuit against California’s law limiting cooperation with federal immigration authorities.
Two Democrats are challenging Gaspar: Olga Diaz and Terra Lawson-Remer
Diaz was the first Latina elected to the Escondido City Council. She laid out her top three priorities.
“The three things I want to work on are solving homeless, I want to work on that,” Diaz said. “Chronic homelessness. Climate change, the county has a climate action plan that has been found legally deficient twice and been thrown out. We really need to overhaul our climate action plan to meet greenhouse gas emission standards,” she said.
“And housing in general,” Diaz said. “We talk about affordable housing. We never talk about high-end housing, that end of the market takes care of itself. But creating opportunity for entry-level workforce housing for people who have an income. It’s just not enough to buy the $800,000 starter home.”
Diaz said she believes solving homelessness isn’t necessarily about finding more money.
“Maybe more money. We have a large surplus, but also a re-evaluation of how we’re spending the money now to focus on core values and solutions,” she said. “I really think we need more social workers with a reasonable caseload. Imagine if you had to help 200, 300 or 400 people.”
Diaz also wants to modernize the county services, in part to encourage developers to build in denser urban areas.
Lawson-Remer, a professor at UC San Diego, is an economist and former member of the Obama administration. She founded the Flip the 49th campaign that ended with Democrat Mike Levin being elected to congress. This is her first time running for office herself.
“I believe we should be at the forefront with a bold climate action plan, that is the best in the country, maybe the best in the world,” she said. “That we should be leading the charge on that, not chasing our tails. And certainly paying out taxpayer money to do nothing which is what we’ve been doing so far. I think we need to take bold action to protect our beaches and our coastlines, which is part of what makes San Diego a special place to live and raise a family”
“We have to take bold action on affordable housing,” Lawson-Remer said. “We need to tackle our traffic and congestion crisis and the urban sprawl that has led to so many people, spending so much of their time idling in traffic.”
The county’s climate action plan has been repeatedly challenged in court. Lawson-Remer’s more aggressive approach includes requiring developers to have any carbon off-set to be inside San Diego County, rather than buying credits from anywhere in the world. And on homelessness, Lawson-Remer wants to target services where people live.
“I definitely think we need a housing-first approach with wrap around services,” she said. “That does mean more beds and it does mean more shelter beds. What it also means is that when we have shelters, including those that exist. We’re providing services are homeless people need to get back on their feet. Instead of having to run all over town.”
The top two vote-getters in the March primary will move on to the general election.