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How Will Blue Wave Impact North County Elections?

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Elections in San Diego’s North County will determine, among other things, the direction of the county Board of Supervisors, the leadership of several cities and what growth and development will look like in Oceanside and Poway.

Speaker 1: 00:00 Elections in San Diego's North County will determine among other things, the direction of the County board of supervisors, the leadership of several cities and what growth and development will look like in Oceanside and Poway. We'll focus on the top North County issues and races with KPBS as North County specialist. Alison st. John Ellison. Welcome. Thanks Maureen. Now, one of the big questions going into this election season was whether Democrat Mike Levin was going to be able to hold on to the 49th district congressional seat. It was supposed to be a tight race, but that's not what the polling is telling us. Give us the background on this race out.

Speaker 2: 00:40 So, okay. So this is the district that stretches all the way from LA Jolla up to Dana point. That was formerly held by Daryl ISO, who, as we know, moved out of the district, he saw the writing on the wall and is now running in the East County congressional district, uh, that was held by Duncan Hunter. So in 2016, Democrat, Mike Levin won the seat. And this year, Republican Brian Marriott, who is a certified financial planner from San Juan Capistrano is gambling that he can win the district back for the Republicans. Um, he's contributed heavily to his own campaign, but recent polls suggest that Levon is leading by quite a lot by about 20 points. And registration is really the key here because though orange County is still red. San Diego is increasingly blue and there are about 20,000 more democratic registered voters in the San Diego side of the district. So this, this race was really the first sign of the blue wave that is creeping over North County.

Speaker 1: 01:40 And so this blue wave you say is continuing in North County.

Speaker 2: 01:43 Well, yes, I checked the latest figures on the registrar's website about how voter registration has changed since 2016. And it's really quite significant. Um, my own home city of Oceanside for example, has switched from red to blues since 2016 as have two other cities along the 78 corridor, San Marcus and Escondido, uh, Vista was, was pretty much neck and neck and is now predominantly democratic Carlsbad was very Republican and is now equally divided between Democrats and Republicans. And Sanitas was predominantly democratic in 2006 and is still the same. And the only city in North County that remains significantly more Republican by voter registration.

Speaker 1: 02:26 What would you say is the most significant race to watch in North County?

Speaker 2: 02:30 Well, I would say it's probably the supervisors, the County supervisors, third district race, which covers from Escondido back to the coast to Encinitas, which is currently held by Kristin Gaspar. And she is a Republican and she's being challenged by Terra Lawson Riemer who, if you may remember, was the mastermind of the campaign to flip the 49th congressional district seat that eventually unseated Daryl Isom. She had protests outside his office every week. So now she is running for the County supervisors. And, um, it's possible that if she were to win, she would be flipping the County supervisors from predominantly Republican to democratically controlled. She has registration on her side. There are many more democratic voters in that district. And Kristin Gaspar when she won, I think many people did not quite know what her political stripes were. Um, she has aligned herself closely with president Trump and has been to Washington DC and conferred with him on immigration, for example. So this will be a real chance for voters to decide which way they want to go.

Speaker 1: 03:34 Now, there are several mayors races, there's Oceanside, Encinitas, and Solana beach. Are these hotly contested races, Alison well, yes,

Speaker 2: 03:43 They, they are. I mean, I've seen races, uh, sometimes where there's been hardly any competition, but both Oceanside and Encinitas are hotly contested Oceanside. There's, uh, 12 candidates running since the mayor seat is open, including three city council members. Interestingly, the current mayor, Peter Weiss, um, who is more pro-business and pro-development, he also saw the blue wave coming and decided that he would run for a safer city council seat in a more conservative district instead of running for the mayor citywide. So who wins the mayor's race is perhaps less important than, than what the final balance on the council could be because two council seats are also in the balance and that could mean Oceanside might have a democratic majority for the first time, depending on who wins those races. And then in Encinitas, we have the incumbent Catherine Blake SBIR, who's running for second term and she's dealing with a great deal of community dissatisfaction over growth and development.

Speaker 2: 04:40 She's trying to find a way to comply with the new state measures that really require cities to build a certain amount of new housing. And of course the folks who want to keep, and Sanitas the way it is like a seaside village feel they're pretty upset. So Julie thunder has emerged to challenge her. Uh, perhaps also seeing the blue tide rising Julie thunder has switched from Republican to independent and she's running on slower growth and less development, which could appeal to many voters, but some are concerned that she could be like Kristin Gaspar, someone who has a deeper Republican allegiance than she's letting on and may favor Trump's policies on immigration. For example,

Speaker 1: 05:22 You mentioned growth and development. Would you say that is maybe even the key issue in most North County elections? Well,

Speaker 2: 05:29 Yes, it is like in many other parts of San Diego County. Um, we, we have two of them. Oceanside's North river farms and the farm development and power. Uh, they both have the word farm and they're titled to suggest something rural and rustic, but they would actually be building hundreds of homes in Oceanside. They would build, uh, nearly 600 homes in Morro Hills, which is an area that the city has been trying to develop into an agritourism area, sort of predominantly agricultural at the moment and empower the measure would build up to 160 homes on the old stone Ridge golf course, which is owned currently by the same man that you may remember bought the Escondido country club and spread chicken manure on the green, this to make life miserable for the neighbors who opposed his development plans. So both of those developments have been approved by their respective city councils, but the people are vehemently against them. So we'll see how they do on the ballot

Speaker 1: 06:26 Now for the slightly different subject. Uh, how are North County cities doing financially with the pandemic? And do you think that's going to play into the election at all?

Speaker 2: 06:35 Well, we did a survey of who had the biggest reserves and Carlsbad earlier this year has a huge reserve fund of over a hundred million dollars, which is a lot for a small city. So, so they're doing okay, Escondido, however, is approaching a budget crisis. Uh, their structural budget gap is estimated to be about $175 million over the next, um, less than 20 years. So the current city council voted not to put a sales tax measure on the November ballot, but the people running for office there this year might have a very different perspective because, um, city officials say that that's about the only way to bail them out of what could be a very big financial problem in the future.

Speaker 1: 07:17 I've been speaking with KPBS North County specialist, Alison st. John Alison, thank you so much.

Speaker 2: 07:23 Well, thank you, Maureen. And, and I want to mention that KPBS has recently hired a new North candy reporter, Tonya thorn. Who's picking up the bat on since I retired from that role. So we can expect to see more coverage coming out of North County in coming months.

Speaker 3: 07:41 [inaudible].

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.