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

41% Of San Diego County Registered Voters Have Cast Ballots

Cover image for podcast episode

PHOTO BY SHALINA CHATLANI

Above: A worker at the San Diego County Registrar of Voters checks a mail-in ballot for errors in this Oct. 16, 2020 photo.

More than one-third of the county’s 1.95 million voters have already cast their ballots, almost doubling the number of people who voted by this time in the 2016 election. Plus, with Rep. Susan Davis retiring, the 53rd Congressional District race has opened up to a new generation — Democrats Georgette Gómez and Sara Jacobs. Also, the election next week will determine, among other things, the political majority of the county board of supervisors and what growth and development will look like in the North County. In addition, a first-generation college student is preparing to vote in her first election. As a Mexican-American, she's thinking a lot about how migrants have been treated along the border over the past four years. And, the coastal 78th Assembly District includes some of San Diego's most popular sites from Del Mar Fairgrounds and La Jolla Shores to Balboa Park and Imperial Beach, but the race between two Democrats isn't earning widespread attention. Finally, in a rematch of the March primary, voters in the 77th District will decide whether to keep Democratic Assemblyman Brian Maienschein or replace him with Republican employment lawyer June Yang Cutter.

Speaker 1: 00:00 We could smash all records for voter turnout this year in San Diego County.

Speaker 2: 00:05 It's about 41% of the total number of registered voters have reported their mail ballots back to our office.

Speaker 1: 00:12 I'm Mark Sauer with Maureen cabinet. This is KPBS mid day Democrats, Georgette Gomez, and Sarah Jacobs push for federal relief money as they compete in the 53rd congressional district

Speaker 2: 00:31 Infusing a significant amount of money today to, to the small business administration is critical, expanded unemployment, uh, like making sure that we are sending out another stimulus check.

Speaker 1: 00:43 We look at the top races and issues facing voters in North San Diego County and a young first time voter shares her first encounter with a ballot that's ahead on midday edition.

Speaker 1: 01:01 We're a week out from what used to be called election day, but what some now refer to as the last day of voting that's because COVID-19 has transformed voting in this presidential election year. And since time is short, we've packed a lot of election info into today's show up first with his view on how things look entering the races. Final Furlong is Michael VU, the registrar of voters for San Diego County. Welcome back to midday edition. Thanks for having me again. Well, for months now, KPBS and all other news outlets have been getting the word out about mail-in ballots and early voting. It looks like we did a pretty good job. Tell us how many people have voted already, either by mail or dropped off their ballots compared with years past,

Speaker 2: 01:41 I would absolutely agree with you. I think the community is coalescing around knowing that there's a pandemic that is out there, uh, knowing that, uh, there's also, this is a high turnout election that we ever conducted a four year period and everyone is coming together and heating our call to vote that mail ballot and returning it as a safer option for the upcoming election. So far, we have over 800,000 mail ballots that have been returned back to our office and compared to 2016, when we finalized the in certified that respect of election, where in that election, we had over 857,000 mail ballots that were cast that represents currently 93% of total nail mail ballots that were cast during the 2016 election.

Speaker 1: 02:22 And what chunk of the overall, uh, voting electorate eligible here, uh, does that represent, uh, is it, uh, is, are we at 50% yet?

Speaker 2: 02:31 So, uh, as of right now, with the 1.95 million registered voters that we have that represents about 41% of the total number of registered voters have reported their mail ballots back to our office.

Speaker 1: 02:43 And do you expect we're going to have a huge turnout this year, as people are saying across the country?

Speaker 2: 02:47 Oh, very much so. I mean, with the total number of mail ballots that have been returned thus far, the anticipated number of individuals that will go to the polls, we anticipate that this could be one of the highest turnout elections in our County, not the highest turnout ever in our County.

Speaker 1: 03:02 And most people already voted by mail here, but many more apparently are doing so this year, remind us of how many in-person voting places we have compared with what's normal in a presidential election year.

Speaker 2: 03:14 Uh, normally in a presidential election year, we would have a neighborhood polling place, precinct environment model, uh, to the tune of what we anticipated going into this upcoming election, which would be around 1600, if not more than 1600 neighborhood precincts, but because of the pandemic, we've consolidated them to much larger locations. And as a comparison to neighborhood garages and pizza parlors and businesses that may not allow us to use their respective locations are frankly too small to allow for social distancing and the trade off here, as opposed to having one day across 1600 plus locations. Now these are 235 super polling locations across a four day period. We are four days away from opening. These super polling locations for voters. Every voter is assigned one of those 235 superposed locations when they open on October 31st and run for a four day period.

Speaker 1: 04:06 Now we get the first results just after polls closed at 8:00 PM on November 3rd, you've already been counting votes sent in early. Can we expect a big majority of results to come right then on election night? How will that work?

Speaker 2: 04:19 Uh, incorrect is with over 800,000 mail ballots that are already returned. We'll be able to get many of those into the count, uh, and report those out, uh, come shortly after the close of polls on election night. Again, we're only going to be as good as voters return those mobile it's sufficient time for us to process them so we can report those out. Um, at the first report out, as I mentioned before, one of the significant difference is, is that these polling locations will be open for a three-day prayer prior to election day. So those ballots are cast from October 31st through November 2nd will also be added into the count for that first report that's never been done before.

Speaker 1: 04:58 So it should be very interesting seeing those very first results. Now, president Trump has made many unsubstantiated warnings about election fraud, including Phantom claims about destroyed ballots and postal workers being arrested. What's the evidence of actual fraud involving ballots in this County

Speaker 2: 05:15 Slim tonight. I would say that by any means they're not systemic on any level and if we have any allegations of it, uh, certainly we refer those matters to the sec, uh, secretary of state fraud investigation unit. Uh, certainly our district attorneys and if necessary the FBI as well. Um, so in my lifetime of conducting elections for the past 24 years, I haven't really seen any level of systemic, uh, widespread voter fraud, but again, there are safety measures and safeguards in place. Uh, in, in this upcoming election, there's only been more transparency, uh, provided for voters to keep tabs on their respect of mail ballots. The fact that they can track their mail ballots. Uh, certainly we've been fielding calls from voters as well as to the status of their, their respective mail ballots. They can also look it up online. We've always had a portal online for them to determine whether or not their mail ballot has been returned back to our respective office.

Speaker 1: 06:06 And there's also been talk and stories and reports nationally about fears about possible voter intimidation at polling places. Also some stories about cyber attacks on the election. Uh, are you concerned about these things? Do they keep you up at night?

Speaker 2: 06:20 Everything keeps me up at night, including those that you have mentioned. And let me just say that we have a multi-tiered, uh, cybersecurity defense approach when it comes down to ensuring that we are safeguarded from a cyber perspective. Certainly there's a lot of confluences of events that are happening, but all of these things are things that we keep, uh, up at night, making sure that all of all the various agencies is keeping tabs on making sure that we have a good election, not just for November 3rd, but the three days leading up to that as well as post-election as well.

Speaker 1: 06:54 We hope it all goes smoothly. And we hope to see that a record number of voters turn out in this presidential year. I've been speaking with Michael VU, registrar of voters for San Diego County. Thanks very much and good luck next week. Thank you so much.

Speaker 3: 07:13 The 53rd congressional district stretches through much of central San Diego from I five and bell boa park on the West through mission Valley to East County and continuing South to Chula Vista. The district has been represented by Congresswoman Susan Davis for years, but her decision not to run for reelection has opened the race up to a new generation. Two Democrats emerged as the top vote getters in the March primary, and they join us now for a discussion about the issues. Georgette Gomez worked as a community organizer in the district before being elected to the San Diego city council in 2016, she is currently city council, president and Georgette Gomez. Welcome. Thank you. Sarah Jacobs is most recently a scholar in residence at the Joan big crock Institute for peace and justice at the university of San Diego. She has worked at the United nations and at UNICEF and as a contractor in the state department. Sarah. Welcome. Thanks. It's great to be here with you, Maureen. Now we've already discussed that. There's going to be a time limit on your questions. So we have lots of topics to get to, so let's get started. So this is to Joe Georgette Gomez, more than 225,000 Americans have died from COVID-19. If you are elected, what would you like to see Congress do to address this deadly illness?

Speaker 4: 08:35 Oh, thank you. And I think that's one of the, um, I've I foresee this issue be very, very critical, um, for the next year or so. And I think the new congressional, uh, folks are going to have to focus. Uh, we need to ensure that we're putting resources to create more protective gear and make it available to our frontline workers, but also expanded our business community is needing of support our education system. As we're putting, coming back to restore the education, they too are going to need those resources. Uh, we need to continue adding and expanding our unemployment. We still have a bunch of, uh, residents that are unemployed or they lost their jobs. And they're very much are, you know, needing support for them from government to ensure that they have resources, uh, to be able to, uh, be able to pay their bills. Uh, we also have a bunch of people because of the eviction moratorium. So I'm very glad that I was able to introduce one in the city of San Diego, all, but the folks who are also needing to pay the rent and don't, we need to support them.

Speaker 3: 09:37 Thank you. And this is the yes or no question. I'll start with Georgette Gomez. Do you support Medicare for all? I did. Yes. Sarah Jacobs, do you support Medicare for all? Yes. So I may ask you a very similar question to what I asked Georgette Gomez. How do you think Congress can play a role in addressing the Corona virus pandemic?

Speaker 4: 09:58 It's a great question. And I actually was Hillary Clinton's policy advisor for global public health on the 2016 presidential campaign where I was working directly with members of Congress on what kind of pandemic prevention plan we could put in place. So, you know, I think Congress needs to enact a national mask mandate and national testing and tracing program that also has isolation. Um, I think we need the defense production act and we need Congress to provide oversight of that. So that's something like what already happened, where the Trump administration used that authority, but to buy airplanes instead of to create PPE, it's going to be really important. And then, you know, based on my experience working at UNICEF, I know that the vaccine will be incredibly important and especially the distribution of it. So Congress needs to make sure that there's funding not only for the manufacturing, which will be important, but also to support community groups who can be that trusted messenger, who can make sure that the vaccine is to be distributed to those who need it the most.

Speaker 3: 10:56 Let me go to a second question to you, Sarah Jacobs, it seems likely that Congress will be arguing next year, about how to get the pandemic ravaged economy up on its feet. What programs would you support to give the economy a boost and bring down unemployment?

Speaker 4: 11:14 Absolutely. I think this is going to be the most important thing that Congress is going to be doing. And I think we learned from 2009 that we need to make sure that that stimulus package is as big as we need it to be. And that assistance is getting to those who need it most to our families and our small businesses. I've worked with small business owners across the district to come up with a plan on what more Congress can do to help them make it through this time. And especially to make sure that federal recovery dollars actually get to the smallest of small businesses who were more or less shut out from the paycheck protection program. And as we talk about the kind of support that family needs, like more, uh, expanded unemployment, uh, like making sure that we are sending out another stimulus check, I will really be pushing to make sure that childcare and funding for our childcare infrastructure is included in whatever final negotiated package we get to in a stimulus plan.

Speaker 3: 12:06 Let me go to Georgette Gomez. What measures do you think Congress should enact to stimulate jobs and the economy?

Speaker 4: 12:13 Yeah, I think we need to start by supporting the small business administration, which is an entity that supports small businesses. And we know that we have a lot of folks currently in the district and beyond the district that are hurting financially and all of these folks are small businesses, so they need significant amount of support from the federal government. So infusing a significant amount of money to the, to, to the small business administration is critical, but also making sure that those resources are allocated appropriately. Uh, we need to, uh, support our minority woman and better on, on businesses. So that's something that I'll be advocating significantly. Uh, we also need to create, um, a small business component and making sure that we are making that more accessible. Uh, the loans that were provided and assistance was very convoluted and there's a lot of small businesses that don't have access to hire, uh, support to be able to apply

Speaker 3: 13:15 Georgia Gomez. The issue of climate change always seems to take a back seat in our national political discussions. How important do you think it is for Congress to address climate change?

Speaker 4: 13:26 I think, uh, aside from the pandemic and recovering, uh, from this, uh, critical health and economic crisis, the climate crisis is above very critical and I'm going to be a strong advocate. I've been working on the climate justice for more than two decades. I'm going to get to DC and fight significantly to build the political will to actually acknowledge that we have a crisis and to start moving our country to a hundred percent renewable energy, start creating and updating our green technology that would walk, create jobs. Uh, we need to move forward with an infrastructure bill that would also update our crumbling infrastructure and it will also create jobs, which right now in the high unemployment, we need to be able to figure out how we're going to get people back to work. So this is a, win-win both to address unemployment, but also address our climate crisis.

Speaker 3: 14:17 Hey then, and I have a, yes, no question for both of you Georgette Gomez. Do you support the green new deal? Yes. And Sarah Jacobs, do you support the green new deal? Yes. Okay. Let me ask you a question very similar to the one I just asked Georgette Gomez. Do you believe there's an urgency about the need to move forward to fight climate change?

Speaker 4: 14:38 Absolutely. I talk a lot about the need for a new generation of leaders in Congress. And I think climate change is one of the best examples of that. We need to address climate change with the urgency that it requires. And I think young people are the ones who are really pushing that conversation and making sure we're doing that. So in addition to the green new deal and transitioning to an entirely clean energy economy by 2030, I've actually put together a plan on how we can make sure that any stimulus package one doesn't make our climate goals worse by inadvertently locking in high emissions industries that otherwise wouldn't have made it through this time. And two, how we can use the stimulus to address our climate goals, to make, put people back to work, make people's lives better, and also make sure that we're creating a climate that's more livable including by making sure that any federally funded projects are entirely carbon neutral.

Speaker 3: 15:30 I have another question for you, Sarah Jacobs, we're seeing a political divide so deep in this country, that many question, if lawmakers can move forward together on any issue, how important is it to you to work across the aisle with Republicans?

Speaker 4: 15:44 Again, I think a part of being a new generation of leaders is not only talking about different policy, but actually doing things differently and finding ways to listen to everyone and respect everyone and work across the aisle to actually get things done for San Diego families. Now, I think there are some issues we can never compromise on my youngest sibling is trans uh, obviously reproductive healthcare is very important to me, but there is a whole range of other issues like assistance to small businesses like infrastructure spending like childcare that I actually think we have quite a lot of bipartisan support for. And I'm rarely looking forward to working with my colleagues across the aisle to actually get those things passed and get support to our families and our small businesses who really need it right now.

Speaker 3: 16:27 Georgette Gomez. Is it important to be able to get bipartisan support on issues like climate change and the economy?

Speaker 4: 16:34 Oh, most definitely. I think, uh, there's, there's a lot of different representation from across the us. So we need to acknowledge that in order for us to be able to move forward and move this country forward and lift people from poverty, we need to reach across the aisle and really get to get to work. People want to see a restoration of our economy. People want to see a real act on the dressing of the climate crisis. Uh, people want to see us moving forward with universal healthcare. So this is the only way I selected is to really find that the, the points of, uh, uh, intersections that we all agree and be able to address it and move forward. I've been able to do that at the city council, as the council president, and thus the type of leadership that I'm going to bring forward to Congress, uh, working with all my colleagues and making sure that we're moving our country forward and more importantly, lifting people out of poverty.

Speaker 3: 17:30 I have two last questions for you, uh, for you individually. This is for you, uh, Georgette Gomez. You've taken criticism lately about some discrepancies on your tax returns. It's been alleged that you under-reported income and took some credits and deductions you weren't allowed. How can voters trust you to be honest with them, if you're accused of cutting corners like that?

Speaker 4: 17:54 Yeah, no, I mean that, that article, when they came out, um, there was one, one, one real truth, uh, the, the real truth and I took responsibility for it right away. We addressed it. Um, my 2017 taxes or ms. File. Um, my accountant did an include, uh, one of my forms. I didn't know that that occurred as soon as it was, uh, brought to my attention. I took care of it literally the next day, but I also take responsibility for that. And, uh, I will always work from a place of transparency and being honorable. I take that to heart. So I, I, I took my responsibility. I addressed it immediately. Uh, but at the end of the day, it's about making sure that we're transparent and I made my Texas available to all residents to see right away w I wasn't holding anything back. So I will continue working in a transparent way and continue leading as an elected.

Speaker 3: 18:50 Right? And this is for you, Sarah Jacobs, you ran for Congress in the 49th district and lost. Now you're running in the 53rd. You've used millions of your own money and the Jacobs family fortune to bankroll your campaign. You've been accused of trying to buy your way into Congress. My question is why it's so important for you to become a member of Congress.

Speaker 4: 19:11 Well, first of all, I think the whole idea of buying an election is pretty insulting to voters. I'm very grateful for everything that San Diego has given my family, and that, that means I'm able to communicate directly with voters, but, you know, I think we saw in the democratic presidential primary that no amount of communication matters. If you don't have a message and a candidate that resonates with voters and Earl Mike Bloomberg would be our democratic nominee right now. And, you know, I honestly think that because of everything San Diego has given me and my family, it's my personal responsibility to do everything I can to make San Diego and the world fairer and more equitable. And I did that working at the state department and at UNICEF and now running for Congress and as the chair of San Diego for every child. And I love San Diego and I would be very honored to represent it in Congress.

Speaker 3: 19:59 All right. Now, finally, I'd like to finish our discussion with each of your closing statements to voters. There'll be about a minute each, and we'll start with Sarah Jacobs.

Speaker 4: 20:09 Well, thank you. Um, I am a third generation San Diego born and raised, uh, when my great-grandparents first moved to San Diego, they lived in college area because it was one of the few places that Jewish families were allowed to live. Uh, and, uh, you know, I'm very proud that I was able to serve my country at the state department, work at UNICEF and the UN and now chair San Diego for every child. And I believe that that experience making an implementing public policy at the federal level, it's going to be incredibly important as the next Congress makes generation changing decisions about how we recover from COVID, whether or not we expand the Supreme court, whether or not we address racial injustice. Um, and I'm ready to hit the ground running on day one. I love San Diego. I love my home, and I'd be very honored to represent it in Congress.

Speaker 3: 20:59 You Sarah Jacobs, and a closing statement now from Georgette Gomez. Okay.

Speaker 4: 21:03 Thank you, Maureen. And, uh, I, and thank you for, uh, for this discussion. You know, America is going through some significant challenges in 2020, we are facing a global pandemic, uh, a climate change crisis, a shattering recession, a reckoning on race and injustice. Uh, we've learned that elections have consequences that it can really mean a life and death, uh, for her constituent. Uh, so having a proven record of being an elected of actually moving forward policies is very critical. I'm very proud that as the council precedent I've been doing that, I been working on addressing our housing crisis. I've been working on addressing and protecting our low-income renters. I've been working to implement the climate action plan for a region, and they deliver millions of dollars for community projects,

Speaker 3: 22:03 Gomez. Thank you so much for participating. Thank you and Sarah Jacobs. Thank you.

Speaker 4: 22:08 Of course. Thanks for having me a reminder to

Speaker 3: 22:10 Our listeners mail in voting is underway. In-person voting begins this Saturday and San Diego and ends on Tuesday, November 3rd.

Speaker 3: 22:24 This is KPBS mid day edition. I'm Maureen Kavanaugh with Mark Sauer elections and 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, Alison. Okay.

Speaker 5: 23:09 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 Levin 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 3: 24:08 And so this blue wave you say is continuing in North County. Well,

Speaker 5: 24:12 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 blue since 2016 as have two other cities along the 78 car door, 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 remained significantly more Republican by voter registration is power.

Speaker 3: 24:55 What would you say is the most significant race to watch in North County?

Speaker 5: 24:59 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 gas bar. 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 3: 26:02 Now, there are several mayors races, there's Oceanside, Encinitas, and Solana beach. Are these hotly contested races, Alison

Speaker 5: 26:11 Well, yes, 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 WACE, 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 and a more conservative district instead of running for the mayor citywide. So who wins the mayor's race it's 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 an instant is 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 5: 27:08 She's trying to find a way to comply with the new state measures that 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 3: 27:50 You mentioned growth and development. Would you say that is maybe even the key issue in most North County elections? Well, yes,

Speaker 5: 27:59 There's 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 in Poway. 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 ocean side. 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 a 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 3: 28:54 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? Well, we did a survey of

Speaker 5: 29:05 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. 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's about the only way to bail them out of what could be a very big financial problem in the future. I've been speaking with KPBS North County specialist, Alison st. John Alison, thank you so much. Well, thank you, Maureen. And I want to mention that KVS 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 1: 30:12 In the North County, Mexican American Marlene Herrara, a first generation college student is excited to be voting in her first election. Ever. This report is part of a series of election stories, focusing on a young Latino electorate in the U S KPBS reporter. Max Rivlin Nadler tells us how this first-time voter fills out her ballot and tries to empower her generation

Speaker 6: 30:35 Four months, 18 year old. Marlene Hooda has been anticipating this moment. We're chatting over zoom and she's opening up the envelope sent to her from the state revealing her double-sided ballot.

Speaker 7: 30:46 So we're grabbing. So I'm like, okay, this is actually happening. Now I actually have to fill in bubbles.

Speaker 6: 30:51 It's filled with candidates for local races, local measures, and also quite a few statewide propositions. She flips over her ballot to see everything she's about to vote on.

Speaker 7: 31:00 Okay. So there's after that others judicial and board of directors,

Speaker 6: 31:06 The first vote is the easiest for her, for president after watching the first presidential debate, she says, she's seen enough of president Donald Trump.

Speaker 7: 31:15 And I just, let me, let me talk, let me say stuff. Let me say stuff. And it was kind of like, you should have been respectful should have given him a Lisa's two minutes, at least.

Speaker 6: 31:24 And then she was shocked when the president campaign shortly after his COVID-19 diagnosis

Speaker 7: 31:29 Know he's putting other people at risk. At this point, it wasn't handled correctly to begin with. And I was like, good. Now he's returning to the white house without a mask on.

Speaker 6: 31:37 He has family members voting for Trump. And she's tried to understand why they're doing that. She recalls one conversation she had with a Trump supporting family member, but it was unconvinced by his argument,

Speaker 7: 31:48 Go about it this way. He's going to want to help his people first before he helps anyone else that I think in his head party made sense. But for me, it bothered me a lot. If you're an American, you're an American, there shouldn't be. I'm a look after my white people. That shouldn't be the case. That's that's racism.

Speaker 6: 32:04 It's that racism that's made it hard for Marlene. These past four years, she felt like she had to hide who she was. While in high school,

Speaker 7: 32:11 I went to a very white school. I was a minority compared to them. And I think when he became president, he got even worse where it was kind of like, now I need a F, let me watch what I'm saying. Let me watch my views and stuff. Cause I kind of just went into a corner where I didn't want anyone to be against me or see me a certain light. And I regret doing that. I regret, I wish I would have spoken against them.

Speaker 6: 32:35 She also wanted to speak out more about the treatment of migrant children in border patrol custody.

Speaker 7: 32:40 You never want to see kids in a situation ever. Um, they're kids. They should have at least a toothbrush and toothpaste, clean water, somewhere to like shower and stuff. It's just, uh,

Speaker 6: 32:55 Marlene now sees her vote as half against Trump and half in support of Biden's policies. Biden was never really her candidate. Bernie Sanders was,

Speaker 7: 33:04 As I said, I'm very much hoping Biden holds some truth to his words. I don't want another four years filled with an unfulfilled promises.

Speaker 6: 33:13 Marlene wasn't able to vote for Bernie Sanders back in the primary. She was 17. When California's presidential primary took place and ineligible to vote. Now she'll be able to help other first time voters in that situation, a proposal on her ballot make 17 year olds eligible to vote in primaries. If they'll turn 18 by the general election.

Speaker 7: 33:34 See this isn't me as someone who was 17 for most of 2020, um, not being able to give at least some type of voice before the first, before the general election very much, but it was frustrating because as a 17 year old, you know, having to cause, you know, I was keeping up with the, with the presidential thing. And so why, why wouldn't we be given that book

Speaker 6: 33:57 In February? When I first met Marlene, she told me she was determined to make sure her vote had an impact. She now feels like it does. She wants young people to change the direction of the country over the next few days, she'll be able to track her ballot online all the way to the County registrar's office to make sure it gets counted. Wow. This has been the right maximum, an Adler KPBS news.

Speaker 1: 34:31 I'm Mark Sauer with Maureen Kavanaugh. You're listening to KPBS midday edition. There's not a lot of difference between the two Democrats vying for the 78th California assembly district this year, but the candidates backgrounds vary considerably KPBS reporter Taryn mento has been covering the race. Taron, welcome back to the program. Thanks Mark. We'll start by telling us where the 78th assembly district is.

Speaker 8: 34:55 Right? So it's along the coast of San Diego. It starts up in Solana beach. It's got Del Mar fairgrounds, LA Jolla shores, uh, Balboa park and down to Imperial beach. Um, and so when you think about San Diego, this district really includes a lot of, some of the more popular sites that the region has to offer.

Speaker 1: 35:15 And who are these two Democrats squaring off for this seed? As I noted, they arrive in this campaign having taken very different routes,

Speaker 8: 35:22 Right? So you have Chris ward, city councilmen, and you have Sarah Davis. She's a licensed midwife. And when I asked them both how they're going to achieve their goals in the legislature, um, cause they're just, you know, one member of a 80 member body, they both pointed to their backgrounds. So Chris ward likely a familiar name to San Diego. Like I said, he's on the city council, San Diego city council. Um, but he points to his experience in Sacramento as a chief of staff to a state lawmaker for eight years. And this is how he said that will help him if elected to the assembly.

Speaker 9: 35:55 I know that building those relationships and making sure that you understand the legislative process are paramount to the 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.

Speaker 8: 36:10 Now, Sarah Davis, also a Democrat, um, like I said, is a licensed midwife and she's new to politics as a candidate, but she says she spent time lobbying state legislators to support expanded access to midwives. And she also says that she's been on the ground advocating for issues that are important to many San Diego ones. She says being a midwife has allowed her to connect, uh, with seen Higgins during some of the most intimate moments of their lives, giving birth. Um, and she says these connections will, will drive her approach. If she wins a seat, people who are passionate about climate right now, um, people who are passionate about housing and healthcare, um, are on the ground, working with organizations, um, doing, you know, every kind of tactic trying to make that change happen. And so having politicians who are on the same page with them is, is one piece of that bigger picture

Speaker 1: 37:04 And Taran, a critical issue for Chris ward is homelessness. Explain his approach.

Speaker 8: 37:09 Yeah. Chris ward has been very focused on addressing homelessness. He chairs the San Diego regional task force on the homeless. He also chaired the city council's temporary committee on homelessness and he says, he wants to ensure that there are funding streams to that continue to flow to local communities for services. You know, he said he helped secure some state and federal funds toward recently, uh, the purchase of two hotel properties that will be turned into permanent housing for people experiencing homelessness. But you know, some of those funds were federal COVID relief dollars. So he says he wants to focus on securing permanent funding streams and not just one-off emergency dollars. And he outlines his approach to addressing homelessness on his website. And our story includes a link to that.

Speaker 1: 37:54 And Sarah Davis differs in her position on the homeless crisis. Where does she part ways with ward?

Speaker 8: 37:59 I asked each of them their top three budget priorities and she specifically said one of them was housing. She did make the connection that, that overlaps with addressing homelessness. Her focus was ensuring people staying in the homes that they have. So she said, she'd like to see public housing. She wants the state to construct it and maintain it. She argues that, you know, efforts to incentivize the construction of affordable housing, um, you know, aren't working. So she wants to see the state do more by building actual units. And she said that could be for low-income residents, but she also specifically named, you know, teachers and firefighters and even workers that could come with investments in green energy sources

Speaker 1: 38:39 And Sarah Davis, like a majority of Democrats, places, the quest to transition from fossil fuels at the top of her priority list. What does she say about the existential threat of climate change?

Speaker 8: 38:49 Well, this was her top priority. Um, I asked each of them to name their top priorities and then provide to other budget priorities. So this was her top one, you know, she wants to decarbonize the economy. So eliminate, you know, any state investments that have a negative impact on the environment. She talks about investing in the building of green energy sources, which she connected to also bring, bring in good paying jobs. And she has an outline on her website, which again, we included in our story that that details her approach on onto dressing, you know, climate action. Um, ward has one too. So I will say that. And I know in my story that you know, that a lot of the goals are pretty similar, um, but they're more, um, they're, they weren't very firm on funding strategies, how to accomplish both of their goals

Speaker 1: 39:31 And what, uh, was a Ward's top priority as you were interviewing them for this race,

Speaker 8: 39:36 Right. He too named this one of us, um, as one of us had budget priorities, he put homeless addressing homelessness first, but he also, um, listed climate action as, um, really important to him. You know, he wants to see something like a climate action plan, similar to what we have in San Diego, which recently I'm in an interview on this program, you know, earned some really high marks from, um, local experts. Um, and again, he too has a plan. There's a link to it on our website. They overlap quite a bit, again, you know, limited details on funding, but he also supports divesting from industries, which extract fossil fuel

Speaker 1: 40:07 And Chris ward and Sarah Davis, uh, both are strong on healthcare as well. That's in their top issues. Right?

Speaker 8: 40:14 Right. Well, Sarah Davis, uh, she listed healthcare is one of her, um, budget priorities. Um, Chris ward didn't list it as one of his top three. It is, um, on his website as important to him. He does want to make it more affordable, but his third budget priority was expanding childcare access to all. Um, and he said that he's done that by funneling again, federal relief dollars toward essential workers to get them some help during the pandemic with childcare. But Sarah Davis, you know, wants to go to a single payer health care system. And she also has this other component, which she called birth justice, um, improving equity and reproductive health services. And again, she has, um, a list of that outlined on her website. And we included a link to that in our story as well.

Speaker 1: 40:56 Well, if I were a betting, man, I'd go with the Democrat in the 78th district. I been speaking with KPBS reporter Taryn, mental, thanks, Taryn. Thank you.

Speaker 3: 41:10 In San Diego, 77th assembly district, this is the first time for term assemblymen. Brian main shine will be running in a general election as a Democrat. He's facing a political newcomer, Republican attorney, June yang cutter, and unlike some other races around the County, these candidates disagree on many issues from police reform to the handling. The pandemic joining me is KPBS reporter Amica Sharma Amica. Welcome.

Speaker 10: 41:39 It's good to be with you. I'll be at remotely

Speaker 3: 41:41 Remotely. Indeed. Now Brian main Schein has been a well-known Republican politician in San Diego for years from the time he was on the San Diego city council on through to his most recent reelection to the assembly back in 2018 last year, he switched to the democratic party. What does he say about that switch? And is it a big issue in this election?

Speaker 10: 42:05 Well, let me start with the second part of your question, Maureen. It main shines opponent Republican June cutter believes that his switched to the democratic party was a political one. And she says, he's just out of step with his constituents. But if the March primary is a test or was a test of what she's saying, then she might be wrong. Next month's election is basically a rematch of the March primary. And in that primary main shine got 57% of the vote and cutter got 43%. Now main chances. He had been headed in the direction of the democratic party. For some time. He says president Trump's style of governance. However, just spat up his exit from the Republican party, which he says no longer was in tune with his own beliefs. This is more of what he had to say.

Speaker 11: 43:00 I was very uncomfortable with Donald Trump and everything about them when I saw how he was being enabled as well. It was something that I just felt that I needed to stand up for. And I'm really glad I did

Speaker 3: 43:15 Getting back to the politics of the matter though, back in 2018 main shine won a very tight race against his democratic opponent winning only by about 600 votes. So do we know how much of that race and the changing demographics of the 77th district have played into his party switch?

Speaker 10: 43:34 Well, I, you know, I think that could have been part of his political calculus, but the way he describes it, um, it was more of an inner transformation and he said, he felt like the Republican party just no longer reflected his values. And he seems to be in alignment with people who live in the 77th assembly district. Um, just to remind our listeners, that area includes Rancho Santa Fe, Fairbanks ranch, Poway, and some parts of San Diego. Anyway, Democrats outnumber Republicans Democrats make up about 37% of voter registration in this district. Republicans are at about 30% and the remaining voters are no party preference.

Speaker 3: 44:18 What are the biggest issues in main shines campaign?

Speaker 10: 44:21 Well, right now, uh, it's the pandemic and the fallout from it. Uh, the fact that so many kids aren't back in the classroom yet because of COVID and like everywhere else, people in the district have lost their jobs. Um, main shine and cutter are on opposite sides on how they view the handling of the pandemic. Main shine is critical of president Trump and believes governor Newsome has done a good job and in a sign of his increasing liberalism, you know, I wanted to know during my interview where he stood on a series of police reform bills, there were about six or seven of them. And main shine said, you know, let me make life a little bit easier for you. I back them all.

Speaker 3: 45:08 Okay then. Well, that apparently was one of the reasons Republican junior young cutter decided to get into the race because of main shines support of police reform bills on the use of force and otherwise, what are the major issues in her campaign outside of that,

Speaker 10: 45:27 That bill, that cutter reference that Maine shined supported basically tightened restrictions on when police could use force. Now Keter says the focus on, uh, in her campaign is on social inequities in public education, and she wants to address California's spiraling cost of living. This is how she described it.

Speaker 12: 45:51 Let's talk about why that is. It's not just expensive because we live in a gorgeous sunny state like California. There's a lot of regulations that are placed on various industries, which make the cost of housing and the cost of goods. So expensive.

Speaker 3: 46:08 Just cut her as a Republican support. Donald Trump's reelection,

Speaker 10: 46:12 Maureen, she refused to say, I asked her why. And she said, because it's a divisive point.

Speaker 3: 46:19 Now, as you mentioned, there were only two candidates in the March primary main shine and cutter and main shine won handily. So are pundits expecting a repeat result next week?

Speaker 10: 46:31 They are now Jim cutter the things that the gap between her and main shine was wide during the March primary because of strong democratic voter turnout. She thinks Republicans will get out in droves. Next Tuesday,

Speaker 3: 46:45 I've been speaking with KPBS reporter Amantha Sharma and a meta. Thank you. Thank you, Maureen.

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KPBS Midday Edition is a daily talk show hosted by Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, keeping San Diegans in the know on everything from politics to the arts.