Skip to main content

LATEST UPDATES: Election 2020: Live Results | Tracking COVID-19 | Racial Justice

Democrats Chris Ward, Sarah Davis Fight To Rep San Diego’s Coastal 78th Assembly District

78th State Assembly District candidates Chris Ward and Sarah Davis are pictur...

Credit: Chris Ward and Sarah Davis campaigns

Above: 78th State Assembly District candidates Chris Ward and Sarah Davis are pictured in this undated photo.

KPBS Midday Edition Segments podcast branding

The 78th Assembly District along San Diego’s coast includes some of the region’s most popular sites, but the state race between two Democrats is overshadowed by tight contests for president and San Diego’s mayor.

Aired: October 27, 2020 | Transcript

Listen to this story by Tarryn Mento.

The winner of the election to represent the 78th Assembly District, which stretches from Solana Beach and Del Mar to Balboa Park and Imperial Beach, will fight to bring state funds to their communities and help craft laws that affect all Californians.

But the battle between two Democrats has been overshadowed by the high-profile contests for president and San Diego's mayor. The two 78th district candidates from the same party align on many of their priorities but are separated by experience and approach.

Candidate Chris Ward, a San Diego City Councilman for District 3, said his eight years as a former chief of staff to a state lawmaker means he has the legislative know-how to get the job done.

“I know that building those relationships and making sure that you understand the legislative process are paramount to success — getting through sometimes six or eight different committees before a bill even makes it to the governor's desk is something I've had direct experience with," Ward said.

Photo caption:

Photo credit: Chris Ward campaign

An undated photo of Chris Ward (left), candidate for the 78th State Assembly District, and his family.

Ward, chair of the San Diego Regional Task Force on the Homeless, named addressing homelessness as his top budget priority and said he'll fight to bring funds for services to the district, especially during the dire economic crisis left by the COVID-19. The city councilman pointed to his role directing a mix of state and federal funds toward the purchase of two city of San Diego hotels that will serve as permanent housing.

Getting to know Chris Ward

Favorite pandemic activity: Playing tennis with daughter Betty

Favorite vacation spot: Yosemite National Park

Show most recently binge watched: International House Hunters

“When you have a reduced pie and we think about the competition for many other desires across the state, we ought to make sure that these revenue streams are protected so we don't lose ground,” said Ward, who detailed his approach on his website.

The other candidate, political newcomer and licensed midwife Sarah Davis, said she'll bring a fresh perspective if elected to represent the district in Sacramento.

"People who are passionate about climate right now, people who are passionate about housing and health care, are on the ground working with organizations, doing every kind of tactic, trying to make that change happen, and so having politicians who are on the same page with them is one piece of that bigger picture," Davis said.

Photo caption:

Photo credit: Sarah Davis campaign

An undated photo of Sarah Davis (right), candidate for the 78th State Assembly District, and her family.

She said in her role as a midwife she has connected with San Diegans during their most intimate moments. She also co-founded the Birth Roots Women's Health and Maternity Center in Chula Vista and started a cloth diaper service, both of which she has since sold.

Davis identified the environment as her top budget priority and said she will push to decarbonize the state’s economy.

“If we're subsidizing some piece of agriculture or transportation or education facility — anything — every destination that our money goes needs to have a carbon understanding attached to it," she said.

Getting to know Sarah Davis

Favorite pandemic activity: Avoiding stepping on Legos that her children play with

Favorite vacation spot: Yosemite National Park

Show most recently binge watched: The Big Flower Fight

Both Davis and Ward shared tactics to address climate challenges on their websites and they overlap on multiple points, but the documents are light on funding details.

Ward, who has two children, said in addition to climate action, access to child care rounds out his top three goals. He said as a councilman, he advocated to steer federal relief funds to assist essential workers with these needs during the pandemic.

"That's a good start, a down payment to make sure that child care is available for all, but the opportunity gap starts early, and so that's going to be a big driver for some of the things that I would like to work on," Ward said.

Davis, who has three children, said health care access and housing affordability are her other two budget priorities. She said she supports single-payer health care and wants to help keep San Diegans in their homes with rent control — she favors the state proposition that would allow cities to enact such policies on units more than 15 years old (Ward does too) — and said she would advocate for public housing.

Photo caption:

Photo by Susana Tsutsumi

A map of the 78th Assembly District includes Del Mar, La Jolla, part of the city of San Diego and Imperial Beach.

"I want the state to get in it, and that can mean building housing that can house some of our very low-income and most vulnerable people. It can also be housing for people who are teachers or firefighters or, again, moving to a green economy," Davis said.

The former board member of the California Association of Licensed Midwives said she also has experience lobbying state legislators to pass measures that expanded access to midwives and she wants to build on that with her emphasis on birth justice.

Ward is leading the money race and has far more endorsements than his opponent, including from the San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board, but Davis said her experience in health care would bring diversity to the legislature.

The 78th seat is currently held by Assemblyman Todd Gloria, a former District 3 San Diego City Councilman who is running for San Diego mayor. Election Day is Nov. 3.

Election 2020 news coverage

  • Need help keeping up with the news that matters most? Get the day's top news — ranging from local to international — straight to your inbox each weekday morning.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Photo of Tarryn Mento

Tarryn Mento
Health Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksThe health beat is about more than just illness, medicine and hospitals. I examine what impacts the wellness of humans and their communities.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.