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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

Experience Matters To Crowded Field In 79th Assembly District Special Election

Speaker 1: 00:00 The seat for the 79th assembly district, which runs from OTI ranch all the way to Lamesa is now vacant. After Dr. Shirley Weber was confirmed as the new secretary of state KPBS reporter max Rivlin Nadler looks at the race to replace her where early voting has already begun. Speaker 2: 00:17 The special election comes at a pivotal time for the heavily democratic 79th district. When federal COVID recovery money will now flow through the state to communities that desperately need it. Akilah Webber is a Dr. Lamesa city council member, and daughter of the woman she's now running to replace. She says, she'll be up to the task of making sure these funds hope a community that's hurting because she's already working in government. Speaker 3: 00:43 One of the things that, um, is beneficial about being elected official at this time is that I have already the relationships with the elected officials that actually govern these individual areas and these individual cities, Speaker 2: 00:56 National city resident Latisha Mongolia is a lifelong organizer in San Diego and has worked on behalf of a public employees union. For the past 16 years. She thinks relationships at the community level will prove valuable to distributing much needed resources. Immediately. Speaker 3: 01:12 When I look at the short-term impact of small businesses, my approach is going to be being able to leverage public, federal state resources, to make sure that we provide immediate injection of relief to our small businesses, where there's an opportunity to have them reopen their doors, that we're there to support them. Speaker 2: 01:32 Aramaic gloss. Blake is a criminal justice reform advocate whose previous run for public office was derailed by a cancer diagnosis. She wants to make sure that communities know how beneficial policies in both Washington and Sacramento are impacting them and that they feel those impacts Speaker 3: 01:48 These communities never actually feel the policy changes. They never actually see the results of what was created for them to change and make their lives better. Speaker 2: 02:01 Two other candidates, middle school teacher, Shane Parmley and Republican Marco Contreras are also running for the seat. Early. Voting began on March 8th with the primary election concluding on April 6th. If no candidate wins, the majority of votes or runoff will be held on June 8th, either way, the assembly member will have missed the bulk of an important legislative session, and we'll need to get up to speed quickly. That's where Mongolia believes she has an advantage as already a veteran of what goes into deal-making in Sacramento. Speaker 3: 02:31 I really feel that I'm prepared, I'm experienced and I've been a champion for workers. Speaker 2: 02:36 Weber says her media focus would be on helping improve public health through tackling longstanding social problems like school. Speaker 3: 02:43 Making sure that resources and funds are equitably, distributed and money is able to be given to those who need more so that schools, whatever school your child goes to, regardless of your zip code, that every child has an equal opportunity to create a healthy future. Speaker 2: 03:03 Well, both Weber and Mongolia have picked up coveted endorsements and financial support from local political leaders and labor organizations. Glass Blake feels like her political outsider status will allow her to more directly serve the community. Speaker 3: 03:16 I want to bypass all the politics within politics because many times we, again, don't get that sustainable change because our politicians are bought and paid for and their boss Speaker 2: 03:28 Assembly member, Dr. Shirley Weber passed a series of police reform bills, which won her accolades from across the country. Each candidate says they'll continue her work in their own way for Dr. Akilah Weber the protests from over the spring and the riot in her hometown of Lamesa reminded her that social justice issues in the district must be continually listened to and addressed at the state level. Speaker 3: 03:51 We saw it in may and June. It was not due to a single incident. It was due to years of people not being heard. It was due to years of people feeling marginalized and treated differently. Speaker 2: 04:06 Three of the four democratic candidates will participate in a forum on Wednesday evening, focusing on gun violence and the district organized by San Diegans for gun violence prevention. The forum begins at 6:00 PM. Speaker 1: 04:19 Joining me is KPBS reporter max Rovan Nadler, and max. Welcome. Good to be here now, just to follow up on that last point, you made the gun forum tonight, do the three democratic candidates taking part, have similar positions on gun laws. I believe Speaker 2: 04:36 Pretty close. Uh, in terms of they're they're all in favor of California's course, that has been on the past few years for stricter gun laws. They're in favor of federal gun laws. Um, and especially in the wake of what we've seen over the past two weeks, uh, after George had in Colorado. So, um, I don't think there's going to be a lot of daylight between them in terms of, of gun. Speaker 1: 04:58 Okay. So the lone Republican in this race, Marco Contrarez pushed for faster reopening of schools and businesses during the height of the pandemic. I'm wondering now that schools and businesses are reopening, what's his message. Speaker 2: 05:12 He is staying on the reopening message. He wants five days a week, a full reopening. He just posted on his Instagram, a slickly produced video calling for that. Cause right now there's some schools that are going to do a blended learning. People are going to be able to stay at home. He just wants a full reopening. He's been an advocate for keeping churches open as well. He's a member of awaken church, which has run a foul of the authorities, uh, during this, uh, COVID lockdown. Um, but you know, he's, he's an interesting guy. He's been running a really, uh, social media savvy campaign. And I, I think as the Republican party in San Diego looks to build, um, essentially from scratch over the next couple of years, uh, he might be somebody that sticks around for a while. And can you tell us a little more Speaker 1: 05:58 About the fourth democratic candidate in this race? Shane Parmley Speaker 2: 06:02 Shane permanently is she's a time teacher and local activist a few years ago. She was actually part of the group that continued to feed homeless individuals in the park and alcohol and in defiance of kind of city ordinance. And she was ticketed because of that. Ultimately that policy was overturned. She's been a staunch supporter of teachers during the pandemic, making sure they get all the PPE that they need and the resources that they have as well as focusing on the development of young people who are feeling a ton of mental health impact of the pandemic. Speaker 1: 06:32 And from your report, it seems the top two contenders, the candidates with the most money and endorsements are Akila Weber and Latisha Munguia. Is that right? Speaker 2: 06:42 That's right. Uh, Akilah Weber has the endorsement of mayor, the union Tribune and the backing of some unions. So it's definitely, um, a lot of local politicians choice, but monkeys is really w the labor leaders choices. And especially when it comes to teachers and police unions, she has their support. And she also has the backing of learning and a Gonzales, you know, a neighboring assembly woman for this district. And right now we're really pivotal voice in the assembly, given how much power she has over the budget process, Speaker 1: 07:11 Akila webinar's mom, Dr. Shirley Weber, sometimes anger unions with things like our support for charter schools, for instance. So therefore our unions showing any support for Akilah Weber, Speaker 2: 07:23 Some arts, it's definitely not a monolith. The labor movement in San Diego, the carpenter's union, the California nurses association is backing Akila Weber. But again, Mongolia has the majority of the labor groups behind her for this race. Speaker 1: 07:37 And how important is that support in the 79th district? Speaker 2: 07:42 Yeah, that really remains to be seen. This should be an interesting test because labor's picks and especially in this assembly district for a lot of other overlapping racist have, have not done well recently, Monica Montgomery, uh, step one in this district going against, um, labor support, Georgette Gomez, who was their pick for, um, uh, the congressional race lost to Sarah Jacobs and Kelvin Barrios, again, same district area, um, blue, a lead, and the primary to Sean at yellow Rivera, um, after some standards came up. So really they've kind of had a tough time recently. There's been some, you know, notable successes. Um, and you know, that could signal a difference though, in terms of what union leadership thinks is a good choice and what the rank and file believe are the rate choice for that district. Speaker 1: 08:30 What's the level of campaigning like in the 79th district are for instance, voters seeing a lot of mailers getting a lot of robocalls Speaker 2: 08:39 Mailers are definitely going out. Um, and, and one thing that's really important to note is everyone is getting their ballot mailed to them. Cause they're still operating under the pandemic rules that were created last year for the general election they'll expire for 2022, but for 2021, everyone should have their mailed to them. So that could counter a little bit, um, the, the impact of, uh, this being special election in April. Um, and, and so people are sending out mailers to try to take advantage of that have looked for your ballot in the mail. Um, there's even been some television support during the Grammy awards, a coalition of doctors, dentists and domestic workers paid for an ad in support of Akila Webber. Um, so you know, the fact that that's, uh, from a national broadcast obviously was only brought, um, broadcast in San Diego, but still that's a lot of money being spent. Speaker 1: 09:26 And as you said, early voting is already underway. Can you tell us again about how the winner will be decided Speaker 2: 09:34 Early voting began on March 8th? The primary election now concludes on April 6th. So really soon, um, if no candidate were to win a majority of votes, so over 50%, which is definitely a possibility, then there would be a runoff held on June 8th. So this would extend even further. There'll be seated in the assembly immediately following the certification of a winner. Uh, so it's very possible if there is a runoff that this assembly member doesn't actually play much of a role in legislating this year, because by then the budget process and, and a lot of the legislation will have already gone through the deliberative body in Sacramento. Speaker 1: 10:10 Okay. I've been speaking with KPBS reporter, max Rivlin Nadler, max. Thank you. Speaker 4: 10:15 Thank you.

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The seat for the 79th Assembly district, which runs from Otay Ranch all the way to La Mesa, is now vacant after Dr. Shirley Weber was confirmed as California's new Secretary of State. Five candidates are now vying to replace her in the ongoing special election.
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