Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
KPBS Evening Edition

San Diego County's District 2 Supervisor Seat Is On The Cusp of Change

San Diego County Board of Supervisors candidates Steve Vaus, Joel Anderson, Kenya Taylor, and Brian Sesko are pictured in this undated photo.
KPBS Staff
San Diego County Board of Supervisors candidates Steve Vaus, Joel Anderson, Kenya Taylor, and Brian Sesko are pictured in this undated photo.
The race will bring a new supervisor as Dianne Jacob leaves office after 28 years on the county board.

District 2 is the largest district in San Diego County, sprawled across 2000 square miles, from the southern border to as far north as Julian, from the Imperial County border to as far west as San Diego State. Since 1992, it has been represented by incumbent supervisor Dianne Jacob, but term limits mean she is now on her way out.

But, after serving such a long tenure, Jacob won’t go without throwing her weight behind her pick for successor. Jacob has passionately endorsed Steve Vaus, who is currently serving his second term as mayor of the city of Poway, and is chairman of the San Diego Association of Governments.

“Dianne Jacob has about a half a million dollars left in her campaign account. She's made it very clear in the media that she will spend every dime of that to make sure that I'm elected,” Vaus said. “I'll be following in supervisor Jacob's footsteps. I think that's why she has endorsed me. She sees how I approach the job of being mayor and that I'm accessible, that I take my constituents needs and concerns very seriously.”

Vaus hasn’t had a long history in politics. He’s a Grammy-Award winning singer/songwriter, who’s usually seen in public wearing a cowboy hat. He may seem like an unlikely politician. But, he says his experience in local government uniquely qualifies him to be what he calls the “Mayor of East County.”

VIDEO: San Diego County’s District 2 On The Cusp of Change

“Being a supervisor and being a mayor; there's an awful lot in common and I've got a track record of getting things done," Vaus said. "You know I think a city that's generally considered to be the envy of every other jurisdiction in the county, and I think that's because we focus on the important stuff. We don't chase shiny objects. We get things done and we take care of our friends and neighbors.”

Vaus said his priority is to keep his constituents safe from crime and fire, but also to improve housing.

“Forty percent of the cost of housing is related to regulation and restriction, most of which comes from Sacramento,” he said. “We need to do more to help builders succeed building homes here rather than chasing them across state lines to build somewhere else.”

Vaus drew criticism in December when Poway’s water became contaminated by rain runoff, rendering it undrinkable for almost a week. Vaus said that helped his candidacy, rather than hurt it.

RELATED: State: Poway ‘Failed To Protect’ Water System From Contamination

“Because folks saw a mayor who stepped up, took care of business. We were the victim of Sacramento's overreach," he said. "But within 12 to 18 hours we had water available, handed out thousands and thousands of cases of water. We took care of one another like we always do. And folks saw their mayor out on the front line and willing to talk about it and tell them what the reality was. So I think it helped me in the race.”

Another Republican candidate in the race is former state senator Joel Anderson, who has been officially endorsed by the Republican Party of San Diego. He is also a former president on the board of the Padre Dam water district and a staunch adversary of Vaus.

During the Poway boil water advisory, Anderson accused Vaus of turning the “City in the Country” into a “third-world” country. KPBS reached out to Anderson for an interview about the supervisorial race but he was unavailable.

In the hopes of flipping the District 2 seat in 2020, The Democratic Party of San Diego has endorsed Rancho San Diego resident Kenya Taylor for the Board of Supervisors. Another unlikely politician, Taylor has a background as a licensed marriage and family therapist and is an executive committee member of the NAACP’s San Diego Branch.

“I'm the only candidate who has the expertise to manage the mental health crisis that we are seeing in our county, and unfortunately this is the worst I've seen it in my lifetime,” she said.

Taylor said she wants to enhance mental health programs so the county jail is not the largest mental health facility in the county. Among her other priorities, Taylor wants to focus on supporting small businesses, and environmental issues like clean air and food. She said the large geographic size of District 2 means governing requires a "one size does not fit all" approach.

“That 22-year-old student who's living in their car has a different need than the 84-year-old person who has a home that they retired in," she said. "We need to stop having the same approach for everybody and be more inclusive so we can all succeed and live well.”

She said she has donated more than 10,000 hours for volunteer work. She said she tries to imagine how much more she could do with a real budget to support those who want to improve their lives.

“We need to make sure that District 2 is no longer left out of the discussion. We need solutions for success, not to mention this would be the first time for us to make history,” said Taylor. “We've never had a woman of color, ever, in all of the districts. But that's not why I'm running. I'm running to make sure that we're safe in our areas.”

Although technically a non-partisan seat, District 2 is historically a densely Republican district. Taylor said she’s confident people don’t care about what party a candidate is in.

“People care about how much gas will be. Where will they get their next meal? Are they able to buy medicine, or do they buy medicine or food?" she said. "Will they have quality child care? Those issues are so much bigger than a political party. (I was) also raised in Rancho San Diego. It's not a heavy Democratic area but the people know me.”

She said transportation from East County to the airport is another issue on her list.

“I don't understand why this hasn't happened and I haven't been an elected. To me it's just common sense," Taylor said. "It's vision. It's innovation. I will fight for those things.”

Another contender for the seat is long-time Lakeside resident, cattle-rancher and general contractor Brian Sesko. On his website, Sesko lists the “nine to fivers” as his supporters — the “regular folk.” He is a registered independent and says he hasn’t had the time to meet and greet with politicians, and that, he says, is the point — calling himself Brian “One Term” Sesko. He is relying on word-of-mouth of friends, neighbors, and social media for promotion.

The last day to register to vote is Feb. 18. The primary election is on March 3.

San Diego County's District 2 Supervisor Seat Is On The Cusp of Change
Listen to this story by Maya Trabulsi.