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Roundtable: Candidates Raise Issues, Money In County Supes Races

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The races for three seats (Districts 1, 2, and 3) on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors will determine which party dominates the five-member board and directs spending of the $6 billion-plus budget

Speaker 1: 00:00 There are lots of challengers, lots of money, man. Just one incumbent in three races for the San Diego County board of supervisors. We look at the election and what's at stake for the three and a half million of us who live in San Diego County. I'm Jade Hindman. The KPBS round table starts now.

Speaker 2: 00:27 [inaudible]

Speaker 3: 00:28 welcome to our discussion of the week's top stories. I'm Jade Hindman and from Mark Sauer and joining me at the KPBS round table today are Chris Genuwine from the times of San Diego. Steve Walsh, chef KPBS news and Charles Clark from the San Diego union Tribune. Welcome to all of you could be here, so just five people make up the San Diego County board of supervisors. They are responsible for a budget of almost six and a half billion dollars for public health, mental health, fire and police, transportation, parks, libraries, and a whole lot more. The board was essentially the same for decades, four or five Republicans, many there for years. Joined occasionally by one Democrat, but term limits passed overwhelmingly in 2010 are changing the board's political makeup. Three seats are on the ballot this year. Starting with district one. Chris, you don't tell us, where is district one? What are the demographics and what are the politics?

Speaker 3: 01:25 Well, it's a, it starts in the point Loma and downtown San Diego and stretches along the coast down to the border and then to the East Otay to Otay mountain. It is a largely Hispanic area, has the highest percentage of Hispanic residents. It completely encompasses the cities of corn, auto, Imperial beach, um, national city, and of course Chula Vista. It's really the passing of an era there because a great Cox has represented the district of supervisor for a quarter of a century. It seems an immense amount of time for any elected official to hold office. And during that period, his wife, Cheryl, was mayor of, uh, of Chula Vista. So the Cox name has had, uh, is a very well known one and the cocktails have had a big impact on that, on that area. It's also a race that's been in turmoil. Uh, early on. David Alvarez, the former city council member was perceived to be the front runner.

Speaker 3: 02:20 He announced his candidacy was raising money. He then dropped out, uh, Raphael Castellano, the, uh, port commissioner and former candidate for San Diego, um, uh, a city attorney, uh, has then I then became sort of the impromptu, uh, uh, or the, um, uh, the front runner for all intents and purposes. And then we had a late entrant, uh, with a lot of name recognition. Ben [inaudible], those state Senator. Um, he, uh, is not turned out, he could say a state Senator another two years to the end of 2022. But he's looking at this as an interesting challenge. Uh, and also a very known Nora Vargas who is the board chair for the Southwestern community college district. And you mentioned

Speaker 1: 03:05 Cox, who is termed out, he's held the seat for at 20 years. Um, [inaudible]

Speaker 3: 03:10 what was his tenure like and where were his accomplishments made there? Uh, he, uh, he really put a lot of effort into, um, economic development, also a recreation and park development. Uh, one of the reasons there's the large parks in that area is I think due to his efforts, he is a Republican, but perceived very much as a moderate Republican. Uh, and interestingly has voted with Nathan Fletcher over the last, uh, over the last to last year, uh, on a number of key issues, uh, that have affected the County as a whole. Um, the district is going to go democratic. There's because all the candidates are, are Democrats, although it's, it's nominally nonpartisan, but in some ways it'll be, he's already sort of made that move with his moderate approach. So what are the big issues in the district? A big issue right now, of course, is the sewage from Tijuana.

Speaker 3: 04:02 Uh, but one of the things that is part of the U S MCA agreement is some money to really attack that issue. You know, we've had beach closures, uh, almost all the way up to Coronado. Many times. The Navy has, um, had some concerns about the CEO's practicing in the surf out there. Uh, that's a big issue. Um, Nora of has raised healthcare, you know, are, are, are, is that part of, uh, San Diego County getting the right kinds of services and then there is, it's on the border. So there are issues about immigration and trade that come up from time to time

Speaker 1: 04:34 and we have a couple of clips of candidates talking about the, the issues that they are actually concerned about. Here's Rafael Castellano was talking about enrollment in County programs.

Speaker 4: 04:44 I need to prioritize this in the budget. And that really comes down to making sure that we have the right number of people, that they're not burnt out, that they're properly staffed working on helping to enroll people into these programs.

Speaker 1: 04:57 And you know what it Charles, it sounds like he feels South County is not being treated fairly by the County. Is that true? I mean, that's absolutely the sense that you get from people out there. And I think most of the candidates, they kind of attest to it that they have this sense of being kind of the forgotten ones in a lot of the shuffle that goes on with the County. Uh, so yeah, that's definitely a high priority issue that you're coming up. Sure. You know, now here's a, we've got a clip here from Nora Vargas who is more concerned about air pollution than she is that a sewage flowing up from Tijuana take a listen.

Speaker 4: 05:28 Okay. Make more people out of their cars. But we can't do that unless we have better transportation. Right? We have to make sure that we create initiatives. Like I really do believe that everybody should be able to ride a bus for free.

Speaker 1: 05:40 Yeah. There's a thought free best rides. I know some places like Kansas city have [inaudible]

Speaker 3: 05:44 and it's fantastic. APS is, is considering it. Um, it's um, also on the, uh, another thing under consideration is the new is a new purple line from the border into Kearny Mesa. But, uh, lately been hearing that there's perhaps more interest in free bus than building another trolley line.

Speaker 1: 06:02 Interesting. Now, you know, we don't have a clip from the third candidate Ben way, so because he declined to speak to us, uh, Charles, do we know why he is making the jump to local government? I mean, he's not termed out of state yet,

Speaker 4: 06:15 you know, to be honest, it's not absolutely clear. I have to say, of all the candidates running, he's been the one who's been, I think we can all come through to say the least aggressive, certainly compared to Rafael and Nora. Uh, I would venture a guess that part of it I would think is that, you know, out in the state assembly you're one small fish in a very, very big pond where if one of five supervisors you can make a much bigger impact.

Speaker 3: 06:41 And it's also not, not clear. Um, what his next step would be if he stays at the state Senate. I mean, does he, does he go for one of the posts like secretary or a or something like that and insurance commissioner? Probably not. And maybe he sees a future. Um, uh, here he's, he's a very interesting guy. He's a history buff. Uh, he was, um, one of the, uh, he was a volunteer in building the replica of the San Salvador for the maritime museum. Um, Castellano is a very interesting background as well. A son of immigrants. First in his family to go to college. Uh, and, um, he went to the Arizona state, uh, but then got a scholarship to the university, university of Chicago to study law. Uh, it's, we're here under his degree. He studied under of all people, Barack Obama.

Speaker 1: 07:26 And you know, I'm hearing a lot about pollution. Um, is there a candidate that is, is talking about collaboration across the border to address some of the environmental concerns in this race?

Speaker 3: 07:37 Well, Vargas has certainly said that diplomacy may be the best way to proceed. Proceed on this. Um, the, um, uh, on the other hand Castellano's because because of his involvement as a port commissioner has been, has been active in things like that as well. Because the, you know, the port being a, uh, a government agency that has a responsibility across many cities and with the Navy, um, you know, he certainly is, is partly looks at that approach as well.

Speaker 1: 08:04 Mmm. And you know, uh, Chris issues like air pollution, as we mentioned, um, uh, water pollution, health care, uh, are all concerns for, um, voters in the district Senator way. So spent a lot of energy, uh, to put together a, uh, a bill that many say would make it more difficult for people to access records about these things. Um, do you think that that is something that struck the right tone, something that voters have [inaudible] a need? It's because it impacted his [inaudible] Plex.

Speaker 3: 08:35 So, um, if you're, uh, if you're a political walk, if you're somebody like me who's really fascinated with this stuff, yeah, it's a, it's, it's, it's a negative. Um, I'm not sure that that translates, uh, across the district when it comes to actual, uh, uh, voting. Um, I mean, right now the, the two names you're gonna hear the most are, I think most of us would agree, would be cast Alanna's and waySo to a lesser extent Vargas.

Speaker 1: 08:56 And when we're talking about support, let's talk a campaign money. It's been rolling in, in this race, right?

Speaker 4: 09:01 Oh yeah. It's a, it's been coming in, you know, awfully heavy, especially over the past year here, even a little bit before that, uh, Rafael has overwhelmingly led the pack, uh, generating about, you know, $350,000. Just in the course of the past year, uh, he's actually followed by Vargas, who's outraised twice. So to this point, which I think is more of a Testament to also waste. So not really aggressively campaigning, but she's raised about $220,000. Uh, he's closely behind at about 210,000.

Speaker 1: 09:30 Yeah. And, and first of all, this, this figure, it shows funds raised in just the last six months, it doesn't indicate, um, how much money each candidate has raised or even has to spend, right? Correct. Correct. Okay. All right. But yeah, as we can see, district one Kessel Llanos at taking the lead there. Um, so, so a lot of money running, rolling in. What else stands out in this race to you, Chris?

Speaker 3: 09:52 Um, th th th the passing of an era, um, from sort of moderate Republican to, um, more progressive, uh, Democrat. And I, I think the, I think the entire, um, board of supervisors in this election and this began with, uh, with Fletcher and uh, to a certain extent, even with, uh, uh, with uh, the predecessor of, um, Kristen gas bar in the, in the third district. But this is really gonna be a significant property. They Roberts, this is going to be a significant change. Uh, we are at very least going to an end up with two, two Democrats and PO possibly three.

Speaker 4: 10:29 Hmm. Any polling yet? Not that I'm aware of. Uh, although the sense I've gotten from talking to people is definitely that as Chris mentioned, Rafael is considered kind of the guy everyone's expected to be the top vote getter. Uh, I do think it's probably a bit closer with Nora and Ben way. So then a lot of us probably anticipate just given she's been really aggressively out in the community and I've kinda gotten the sense that he's kind of writing his name ID. Um, we'll see if that's effective, especially as she starts to use some of this money here. Cause you know, well she going to do with, if she doesn't pour it in now. There we go.

Speaker 1: 11:00 Something we'll keep an eye on. All right, we'll move on to a district three. You know, unlike district one, the third supervisoral district as on occasion been represented by a Democrat four years ago. It was Dave Roberts as we mentioned, who was replaced by Kristin get Republican Kristin gas bar, a gas bar, ran for Congress and lost and now is fighting to keep her County seat. Uh, Steve, start by telling us about district three, if you will. Um, tell me, you know, where is it and, and uh, what are the politics like? Sure are.

Speaker 5: 11:28 So the historic three runs from Salana beat up the coast, death to Encinitas and then up to 15 from the eight all the way up to once reliably. Eskind re reliably Republican Escondido Gaspar won a narrow victory last time around, uh, over incumbent. They brought their, uh, the Democrat who was involved in a personal scandal. The third district is seen as the real swing vote here. Um, there are districts up for election. The second is still really heavily Republican. The first district is now leans very heavily, uh, democratic. Uh, so then the third becomes kind of the swing district here. Also, gas bars is the only incumbent here. Uh, but even the third district is starting to lean, uh, uh, democratic overall. If you look at voter registration, they're what? 130,000 registered Democrats do. 105 registered Republicans, even an Escondido, which is the most Republican leaning community in the, in the entire district. Uh, Democrats still hold a 1000 vote advantage over Republicans. Uh, and it's, it also has a large, uh, growing Latino population, which is indicative of the district.

Speaker 1: 12:36 Sure. Definitely a shift there. Tell me a little bit more about those who are challenging Christopher seed.

Speaker 5: 12:42 All right, so we have Olga Diaz. She's the first Latino elected to the Escondido city council. She's been on the council for 12 years. Um, she's also, uh, the interim Dean of counseling at the Palomar community college. And then we have a Terra Lawson reamer. She's a professor at UC San Diego. She's an economist and former member of the Obama administration. And she founded the flipped the 49th campaign, which is what led to, uh, Mike Levin taking over in, in that district in the last time around. Uh, but this is the first time she would actually be running herself

Speaker 1: 13:14 for office. And you know, there's this shift that you alluded to earlier happening in district three, uh, used to be reliably Republican. That's not the case in places like Escondido. Um, why is that not the case anymore? What's happening?

Speaker 5: 13:27 Again? So graphic, uh, demographically we're seeing a large Latino population who at one point Escondido was a farm community. And then over the years as people, uh, searched for more, uh, less expensive housing and they moved towards in that third district. Uh, so now it's this thriving essentially bedroom community, uh, highly developed and increasingly democratic.

Speaker 1: 13:53 I'm also interesting to know the San Diego County democratic party has said the district three race is the most important race in the 2020, uh, because they want democratic control on the board of supervisors, the party. However, I did not make an endorsement in this race for the primary. How are the two Democrats, at least differentiating themselves?

Speaker 5: 14:11 So neither candidate received enough votes to receive the actual endorsement of the party is that, some of this is just a matter of degree now. Each support's doing more to STEM the county's homeless population. We have some 8,000 of homeless people in San Diego County. The County has been accused of not doing enough to dip into its reserves to, to help that problem. And, um, both would be more aggressive on climate change. The San Diego's counties, their climate action plan has been, uh, challenged in court more than once at this time.

Speaker 1: 14:43 And, and you know, guess for him may have developed some negatives over the last several years. Um, key among them two appearances in Washington with president Trump

Speaker 3: 14:52 to promote his immigration stance. And, you know, the video, I'm still images of her sitting at a table with Trump and rural sheriffs. I don't think that goes over very well with, with the coastal community. It might work a little bit better in Escondido. Uh, but, but I think that's going to be a negative for her.

Speaker 1: 15:09 Hmm. And so then that puts the two Democrats at the forefront. Um, here is a clip from Olga Diaz talking about her priorities. Take a listen. Three things that have resonated in this campaign have been, uh, solving homelessness, chronic homelessness. I wanted to work on that climate change. The County has a climate action plan that has been legally deficient twice in court that's been thrown out. We really need to overhaul our climate action plan to meet greenhouse gas emission, uh, standards and uh, housing in general. And then, uh, let's hear from Tara Lawson reamer. She's talking about her number one priority, which is climate change. Let's take a listen. I believe that we should be at the forefront with a bold climate action plan that is the best in the country, maybe the best in the world that we should be leading the charge on that and not chasing our tails and certainly not paying out a taxpayer money to do nothing, which is what we've been doing so far. So, you know, you hear it, homelessness, housing, climate change, they seem to be the focus, um, for the candidates, you know, are there approaches to addressing these chronic issues different from each other or do they parallel,

Speaker 5: 16:15 well, you know, it's like some of it is a question of degree. Uh, OGA DS wants to facilitate development urban areas by, by streamlining the, uh, the approval process for, for housing and, uh, maybe even identify, uh, public parcels that can be used for affordable housing. Um, she wants to encourage large scale employers to build housing, uh, for its own, their own employees. Uh, she's, she said she wants to make Escondido's climate change plan, uh, the most ambitious in the region and on homelessness. She wants to, uh, she favors, uh, adding emergency beds and expanding social services. Now, tear loss and reamer, again, as you saw in the clip. Um, she wants the County to have basically the gold standard of climate change plans. Uh, some of the ideas include, uh, uh, building more affordable housing near public transit and then any carbon offsets that are required of developers. He wants those projects done inside of San Diego County and on, on homelessness. She wants to decriminalize homelessness by, uh, trying to divert more people away from the County jail into, into social services.

Speaker 1: 17:19 Hmm. Now, Chris, any idea whether gas bars, losing race for Congress against Mike Levin two years ago hurt her? I mean, she'd only been, uh, on the board of supervisors for two years at that, right.

Speaker 3: 17:30 I think, I think people were surprised that she made, uh, she, she entered that race. Um, and in the end she was one of four pretty well known Republicans. Of course there was Diane Harkey who came closest to, uh, among the Republicans. There was Rocky Chavez, very well known in the area. And then Brian, uh, my own, I'm mispronouncing the name, who's the mayor of San Juan Capistrano and is running again against Mike Levin. I don't think that hurt her. I think, I think if anything it just caused puzzlement. I, I do think it's, I do think the, um, her, um, support for Trump's immigration policies are gonna certainly gonna hurt her with the coastal community.

Speaker 4: 18:07 Well, you have to imagine that the fact that she didn't actually do very well in that race, it didn't help her case at all. She didn't come out of that looking like a rock star. [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 18:16 well that on ma that in mind, we are going to move on to district two, uh, you know, and now to district to its fans 2000 square miles from the Southern border North to Julian from the Imperial County West to San Diego state. Uh, Diane Jacob, who like Greg Cox is terming out, has held the seat since 1992. Um, Charles, uh, you know, tell me this is the race you've been closely following. Um, it's a heavily Republican district, so it's no surprise the two top candidates are Poway mayor, uh, Steve Voss, uh, and, and then the former state Senator Joel Anderson. But this race has echoes of the 2015 race for this seat where the local GOP supported Anderson over the incumbent Jacob. Um, what was going on there?

Speaker 4: 18:59 Yeah. You know, I mean, so full disclosure, I wasn't here for share that go of it, but from what I understand, you know, the local GOP kinda got the sense that maybe Diane was on her way out the door and that they could scare off by putting a huge influx of cash into a Joel Anderson's kind of supervise Oriel account just before we actually pass new laws that put limits on how much you could contribute. The thing was, and I think anyone who knows Diane can attest to this, she very rarely backs down from if I had, if ever, uh, and if anything, she just went on a huge fundraising kick where she raised like 500 grand in just a couple of months to really kind of stamp out any challenged immediately. Interesting. Chris, what do you remember about that? Well, you know, she, um, she has her

Speaker 3: 19:44 an independent streak. I think people say that of her and um, it's, it most recently was visible just in the last week, uh, with a, an endorsement of Barbara brief for mayor in San Diego. I'm not an not an endorsement of Scott Sherman who's the one Republican who's in, who's a pop, the top level in the, in the race. And, um, I think to a certain extent that party perceives her as simply being too independent. Joel Anderson though, um, has had kind of a difficult time also, um, you know, after he finished in the state Senate, um, he was looking for a safe position on the board of equalization and by all, everybody thought that was, he was a shoe in for that. But in fact it was a Mike Schaffer, uh, a city Councilman from the 1960s, who is now the oldest constitutional officer in California, part of the democratic wave.

Speaker 1: 20:35 Yeah. Now, you know, Voss was endorsed by Jacob Anderson, by the County GOP show. What platform is Vos campaigning on right now?

Speaker 4: 20:43 Well, you know, he obviously is huge and instrumental in transit. What transit is going to look like over the next decade here he's been the head of SANDAG. He's still very much involved with that. He had his fingerprints all over that whole brouhaha we had over the past few months over it. Yeah. So that's definitely instrumental. He's also obviously running on his very strong fiscal record and Poway uh, as well as just frankly, you know, he's got a reputation as someone who's very, very approachable. And I think that goes a long way, especially in that district where Diane Jacobs say what people will about or she is one of the most approachable, I think elected officials you find she's always doing coffees with constituents. I think that goes a long way. Um, when you look at Joel Anderson, you know, a lot of what he kind of talked about where again, roads obviously huge in East County, uh, but also housing and homelessness.

Speaker 4: 21:31 There were two of the big things he really, uh, focused on at least, you know, since he kicked off his campaign as well as job creation. And of course Vos hit a snag with the whole fiasco with water and Poway. How has that impacted his support? So to be Frank, I, I don't think it's had too much of an impact. I think given the context of how that came up and how it kinda got amplified as an issue, it definitely had some political trappings to it, given that there were some Andersen supporters who helped amplify it. And also to be Frank, I think that, you know, if he didn't have Diane's support, that might be a bigger issue. I think when you have someone like that who can vouch for your character in that district, one slip up isn't going to be the end of it.

Speaker 4: 22:18 Also less, we forget. He obviously was really showed leadership qualities with the shooting and power. Yeah. That really stood out. I mean, he was almost a national figure for a while because of that. And um, you know, he was an extremely reassuring presence and the people were, we remember that. And I think in a good way, no, I meant I ended up covering that and not only reassuring, but a constant presence. You could find him outside talking to people and then making himself available to reporters around the world. Right. And too young, too young, younger voters who remember his music. Um, that, uh, you know, he's a, he's a, he's a Grammy winning, uh, country music, um, artists, but focused on children's music. Right. You know, and even though this is a heavily Republican district, there is a Democrat running. Can you tailor and what can you tell me about her?

Speaker 4: 23:07 So Kenya is, you know, a mental health cow or marriage and family therapy counselor. Uh, she's had a lot of work in the mental health services. That's a big instrumental part of kinda her campaign is focusing on what the County can be doing to deliver more services. She's actually worked with the County and I believe Diane Jacob before on a few different, uh, mental health issues. She's also involved with the NAACP. Uh, I think the challenge for her just frankly, is that it didn't seem like the democratic party put much effort, if any, into that race. So she's really struggled to raise funds. And I think when you have two really well known names out there like Steve OSS, Joel Anderson, especially when there's not going to be the party identification on the ballot, they really needed to help her out. And I'm not sure she quite has the means to amplify her message.

Speaker 4: 23:56 Does her candidacy though indicate any shift in that district? I think to a degree. I mean it's funny cause I think everyone just assumes that it's the most conservative district, which I guess demographically it is slightly. Um, but it's a lot more competitive than people realize. I mean there's about 121,000 registered Democrats and 134,000 registered Republicans. You know, if you ran a candidate out there who had more means and maybe a bit more name ID. I know one of the hypothetical's people like to throw around before he announced he was going for the 50th again was a Mark camp and a jar. Right. Someone who had already campaigned in that area. I think as we get to a be a really, really interesting race, I just don't know if they have the bench out there to do that. Hmm.

Speaker 3: 24:37 You know, I'm curious from all of you, um, you know, there, there are chronic problems in each district that, that no district seems to be immune from, whether it's climate change, uh, housing, homelessness. Are you guys hearing anything from any of the candidates, um, that would stand out? Any solutions that would materialize or would we be having these same discussions? Uh, next election cycle? I think these are very difficult problems. Housing is something that you hear, um, a lot from all of the candidates and you know, whether it's more infill housing, whether it's, um, you know, whether it's, uh, uh, allowing more, uh, more building in rural areas in, in opposition to measure eight, um, that's become such an such an issue. Uh, so the resting in district one Castillano is of course as a real estate attorney and as, um, and so I think housing will end up being something he looks at as well.

Speaker 1: 25:26 All right. We have to close it out on that. Hey, I sure appreciate it you guys. That wraps up another week of stories at the KPBS round table. I'd like to thank our guests, Chris genuine from the times of San Diego, KPBS reporter Steve Walsh, and Charles Clark from the San Diego union Tribune. A reminder, all of the stories we discussed today are available on our website, kpbs.org I'm Jade Hindman and for Mark Sarah, thanks for joining us today on the round table. [inaudible].

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Mark Sauer hosts KPBS Roundtable, a lively discussion of the week's top stories. Local journalists join Sauer to provide insight into how these stories affect residents of the San Diego region.