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Roundtable: Key races and propositions at the local and state level

 October 28, 2022 at 12:00 PM PDT

S1: This week on roundtable. Election Day is right around the corner and some people are already filling out their ballots. We're taking a closer look at some of the high profile races , including the race for Congress , new leadership in South Bay and the potential launch of sports betting in California. I'm Matt Hoffman and this is KPBS roundtable. This week is all about the general election , which is now underway with mail in voting. There's a lot of ground to cover. A good resource to get organized is the KPBS voter hub. It's available in both English and Spanish at pbs.org. This week on Roundtable , we're highlighting some of the higher profile items on the ballot starting in the South Bay voters in Chula Vista. They're electing a new mayor. And KPBS reporter Gustavo Solis has been covering the campaign for us. Welcome back to Roundtable , Gustavo.

S2: Hey , Matt.

S1: Glad you're here.

S2: He's been on the council for 16 years. And the challenger is a Captain Aja , who is known mostly as East County politician. He ran for Congress twice unsuccessfully down there , but he is trying to run for local office now in Chula Vista.

S1: And they both beat out a large field of candidates there. And we know that current mayor , Mary Garcia Salazar , she served her two terms in office already. Has she endorsed either candidate here ? No.

S2: Mirasol hasn't endorsed either candidate yet , but some of the other council members have. Jill Galvis and Andrea Cardenas both endorsed Omar Camp in Aja , which I think says a little bit something there , right ? I mean , if two of your colleagues endorse somebody else sends a pretty strong message about what they think about you.

S1: It's been a noteworthy year for Chula Vista. In recent months , we've seen the start of a long awaited bayfront development. San Diego State is also planning to expand its film school in the city.

S2: And that's more because of the city and not these two individuals. Right. Chula Vista is not a strong mayor town. It's more of a city manager town. I mean , the city manager there runs the day to day operations. The mayor is essentially just another council member with some special powers. Like they they traditionally sit on the regional boards like SANDAG. They have influence over what type of agenda items are on the weekly council meetings. In terms of the bayfront , I mean , a lot of that work is already done. The city port of San Diego developers have signed various financial agreements. They've broken ground on the project. So a new mayor , I mean , the pride take a lot of credit for it , but they're kind of coming in a later stages of it. I think the mayor could be a little bit more active when it comes to bringing a four year university to the South Bay. The mayor of Chula Vista , sort of the unofficial face and spokesperson and public representative of the city. So they can do a lot of lobbying , either private or public universities and even private philanthropists to support the project down here.

S1: There's also this smaller everyday stuff like maintaining parks , libraries and other city services. Gustavo , as you reported in your election explainer on the KPBS voter hub , the city has a budget deficit.

S2: Their budget is shrinking , the staff is shrinking. The hours have been cut in the past at the expense of other departments. And the problem is , like you said , it's a budget deficit. The city's expenses are growing faster than the city's revenue. In other words , the city spends more money than it makes , and that's not projected to change anytime soon. Even if you look at new development like the Bayfront development. The city is on long term revenue reports which are public , say that expenses from those new developments are going to be more than the revenues those new developments bring in. So this is going to be an ongoing issue for for years and years in Chula Vista. In terms of what the candidates say , if you ask John McCann , he doesn't seem too concerned. He'll tell you that the problem is more or less solved. To be fair to him , the city did take out a pension obligation bond to address outstanding pension debt , and that certainly helped. I mean , they got a really nice interest rate. I think it was 2.4% at the when the pandemic had , you know , a record low interest rates. But like I said , that didn't solve the structural problem of this deficit. And our campaign , Aja , is more open to talking about this. But in terms of specific solutions , he isn't really saying anything new. I mean , his plan is to attract more businesses , to cut bureaucratic red tape. And that's literally the same things every politician who has been running for office in Chula Vista has promised for the last ten years. And I mean , the reason they keep on making those promises is because they haven't happened. So in terms of an actual tangible solution , I haven't really heard one from either candidate.

S1: And Gustavo , just like in so many other communities , homelessness is front and center in Chula Vista. We saw that in recent months when an encampment at Harbourside Park was cleared out. There's no easy city. Lucian here. But what are the candidates saying ? I mean , are they proposing any ideas that sort of stand out to you ? And I know you mentioned that they're not as strong mayors , so they don't have the same sort of powers as the mayor of San Diego.

S2: That's the framing that both candidates have have kind of expressed. And with John McCain , it's really same old , same old. Right. He supports the city's current approach to homelessness as he wants to double down on things like the police department's homeless outreach team. And I mean , if you look at it , the city's existing policies are what contributed to this situation. So there's no reason to think that doing more of the same will really have a big impact. The city is building an emergency shelter right now. It will be the first homeless shelter in the south Bay , so that will definitely help. A market manager wants to be a little bit more proactive when it comes to tapping into state and federal resources. He loves to point out that the current mayor and city council haven't asked for federal earmarks in years. That's just like a document that they sent to the federal government to ask for tax dollars that could be allocated to Chula Vista. So they're just leaving money on the table. He wants to use some of that money in terms of new ideas. I mean , he wants to bring in more nonprofits to help with the city's response to homelessness. John McCain also supports this , but it is worth noting that Chula Vista has a bad reputation with nonprofits. KPBS has reported that several nonprofits no longer work with Chula Vista because the city either ignored them or lied to them about certain projects. So they are going to have to the new mayor is going to have to fix some of those relationships.

S1: We're talking about our election coverage with KPBS reporter Gustavo Solis and talking about the mayor's race in Chula Vista. Now , Gustavo , you've talked about this before on roundtable. This office is nonpartisan , but it sounds like Republicans are expecting a more favorable election here. Is John McCain leaning into that anyway ? And do we know why.

S2: He hasn't really leaned into the partisan nature of the race ? And you're right. I mean , on paper , this is a nonpartisan seat , a nonpartisan office. But everybody knows that John McCain is a Republican and a market. Punjab's a Democrat. I'm not sure if it's right to say or think that what's happening in the in the federal midterm elections will have a say in the local Chula Vista elections just because they're different. Right. I mean , registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in Chula Vista. So I think leaning into that partisan divide might backfire on John McCain. The most outwardly conservative policy decision that McCain has taken is opposition to a ballot measure in Chula Vista that would allow undocumented immigrants to serve in city commissions. He thinks only citizens should be allowed to participate in that level of government.

S1: And you mentioned a mark Camp and Aja has run for Congress before. He's a well-known Democrat , especially in the East County , but that was a different part of the county.

S2: I mean , he ran two very public campaigns in this county , went on the record multiple times , saying he was born and raised in Carmel and that he's an East County guy. He ran as a moderate who likes guns and dislikes Nancy Pelosi. During those races , he barely mentioned Chula Vista or the South Bay. So it did come off as a little bit of a shock and a little bit too faced when all of a sudden here he is , a South County guy. To be fair to him , he did go to Eastlake high School. He did go to Southwestern College. His family has owned a house in Chula Vista for decades. And he's been speaking very , very openly about his South Bay roots. But when he says things like I've had a residence in Chula Vista since 1993 comes across as a little bit misleading , right ? Because , yes , his family has owned property in Chula Vista since then , but that doesn't mean he's been living here the whole time. And a simple Google check will let you know that he hasn't. He's an East County guy , but he's also a South County guy. I think he kind of wants to be both. But his strategy is basically to hope people don't remember the last four years. And to be frank , I think it's sort of working. I think a fair amount of voters just frankly , don't care where he lives in the past. They're more concerned about who's going to make Chula Vista a better place to live in in the future.

S1: So , Gustavo , we're approaching the final week of this campaign.

S2: And the Union-Tribune recently had debates with John McCain and Omar Camp in a jar. I'd encourage voters to watch those. That's the best way to hear directly from the candidates. Now , also , just from an entertainment standpoint , these two guys don't like each other , and that reflects very well in the debates , particularly the Union-Tribune one. The crowd got into it a little bit and you'll get a sense of just how heated this race is , which it is projected to be a pretty close race by some independent polls. So. We'll see how that turns out.

S1: I've been speaking with KPBS , Gustavo Solis covering the mayor's race in Chula Vista. Gustavo , always great having you on. Yeah.

S2: Yeah. Thank you. Mad at you for having me here.

S1: Now let's go to the congressional rematch in North County , Democratic Representative Mike Levin. He's seeking his third term. He was part of the blue wave that gave his party control of the House back in 2018. Now , this year , the 49th District is considered a tossup , Republican Brian Marriott. He hopes to break through and reclaim the seat for the GOP. KPBS Tanya Thorne is covering the race for us. Welcome back to Roundtable , Tanya.

S3: Happy to be back , Matt.

S1: Great to have you here. So before we talk about the candidates here , can you first remind us of the geography of the 49th ? What areas does it cover exactly ? Sure.

S3: So the 49th District has seen some changes thanks to the new electoral map. And it covers the cities of Oceanside , Vista , Carlsbad , Encinitas and Del Mar. And now it's picked up a little more of southern Orange County , San Clemente , Dana Point , San Juan Capistrano , and Ladera Ranch. The district has 50 miles of coastline , and one big stand out in the middle of the two counties is , of course , the Marine Corps base , Camp Pendleton.

S1: And this week , the Cook Political Report , it tracks polls across the country. They move this race from leans Democrat to tossup.

S3: Levin got 48% of votes while Maria stayed behind at 19. And although turnout isn't the best during the primaries , that's still a pretty wide margin. So I think the results gave Levin a boost in confidence. But now , as Election Day gets closer , I think Levin is saying that this is a tighter race than he thought. Marion is gaining popularity and support. And as a North County resident myself , I am seeing it , too , with all the different yard signs.

S1: Let's talk about some of the issues here. We hear a lot at the national level about inflation , access to abortion.

S3: But , you know , are these national issues the deciding factor for voters ? I just today saw a recent poll from The New York Times that showed that what is foremost in voters minds are economic matters , not national ones. And other national polls showed the same results with Marriotts background and finances. More voters may gravitate towards him for that reason.

S1: We're talking with KPBS North County reporter Tanya Thorn. You know , Tanya Mike Levin , he beat Brian Marriott 53 to 46 , and that was back in 2020. Some analysts believe that Brian Marriott may have more of a chance this time around.

S3: And you also have to consider that Brian Marriott isn't a new candidate. This will be his third attempt. And in every election , he's gained more votes. Another way he's appealing to voters is his background. He's a certified financial planner , and one of his biggest talking points is inflation. How most families and working households are struggling with the high cost of living , gas , groceries , everything. He feels his background in finances could help with lowering that rising inflation.

S1: So broadening this out a little bit , we know that Democrats have a razor thin majority as it stands in the House , and Levin could lose some of his influence if Republicans stand to take over.

S3: Levin's background in environmental law really gains them some votes , especially when protecting our environment , climate change. And I think health in general have become important priorities in people's lives. He's been working on cleaner energy , the disposal of the used nuclear plant at the San Onofre power plant , pollution and the coastal erosion. And , you know , he's also pitching relief for families when it comes to inflation and how he helped pass the legislation to lower gas prices , lower food costs and fix the supply chain.

S1: And , Tanya , we know that you covered Congressman Levin's appearance with the transportation secretary earlier this week. Pete Buttigieg was in town , and it wasn't a campaign event per say , but it was a high profile visit by a cabinet secretary and a former presidential candidate.

S3: So he saw for himself how close the end of the bluffs are to the rail lines. And , you know , that visit may have brought a nice push for him to try and get some funding to come through for the relocation project. And if that does happen , that may also be a big win for Levin because the relocation has been something that's been talked about for so long , but no progress has really been made until recently.

S1: And the 49th District. It's kind of interesting. It covers two counties and two different media markets. Are the candidates focusing on any particular area or maybe set of communities to mobilize support ? I mean , we not we know. Levin , more of a San Diego County guy and marry up more of an Orange County guy.

S3: And not only does that region tend to vote in favor of his party , they know him. So I think Marriott is definitely mobilizing more in the areas He is well known. His real work is gaining the support of the areas where Levin gets more support , which are the cities south of Oceanside. And that's where I feel we see a little bit more of Levin. But this is definitely a race to watch because it'll show if the blue wave Levin rode on to the 49th is still a strong or if the recent rise in inflation , the new redistricting or his work has made voters turn their trust to their opponent , Brian Marriott.

S1: So we're at the final push here.

S3: And I found it really interesting , entertaining and just a really good way of seeing where the candidates stand on issues that may be important to you. And , of course , for information on this race and many others , voters can reference the voter hub on our website , KPBS dot org.

S1: I was going to say , you just came out with the story of covering all about the 49th that listeners should definitely check out. Tanya Thorne from KPBS covering North County. Thanks so much for being back here with us again , Tanya.

S3: Thank you.

S1: We just talked about a couple of the high profile local races on the ballot. Now , let's talk about perhaps the biggest at the state level. There's two propositions dealing with the potential rollout of sports betting in California. This was all set into motion with the Supreme Court ruling back in 2018. It effectively ended the federal ban. Now it's up to voters. Caitlin Hernandez is reporting on props 26 and 27 for L.A. Public Media station KPCC. They're here with us now on roundtable. Welcome , Caitlin.

S4: Thank you for having me.

S1: Great to have you here. So let's start with Prop 26. This one deals with in-person gambling at Native American casinos and private horseracing tracks. We have a lot of those here in San Diego County , including a racetrack in Del Mar. So if this passes , how might the casino experience , you know , change at places like Saquon , Pechanga or even other resorts ? Sure.

S4: So right now in California , you can't play all the kinds of games you see at casinos in Vegas , for example. Proposition 26 isn't just about sports betting. In this case , it's also a games prop , essentially. So if it passes , people could bet on sports betting at tribal casinos , as well as play new dice games like craps and roulette. But this is all contingent on each tribe updating their compacts with the state. So you could see this happen quickly at all tribal casinos or see ones take longer. Those contracts are debated with the state over terms like fees and regulations. So they can take time.

S1: People can already bet on horseracing in California and here in San Diego. We see it every summer in Del Mar.

S4: Essentially , people 21 and over could wager over outcomes in a professional sports match. It might seem to some like a small edition because horse racing tracks already allow some betting. But sports betting in itself is $1,000,000,000 industry in the U.S. already. So for horse racing tracks to get in on this in California could be hugely beneficial to their owners.

S1: So about a 10th of these gambling profits from racetracks , they're going to be put into a new state fund. Do we know how that money could be spent ? Right.

S4: So as you said , about 10% from racetracks. Tribal casino payments are more complicated because they have to be negotiated in those state contracts. But in any case , the funds would go into a new place called the California Sports Wagering Fund. That money will help cover the state's minimum spending on K through 12 schools and community colleges. The Legislative Analyst's Office can't say exactly how much it expects to go towards education spending , but it's estimated that about 40% of the overall funds would go towards education. Any remaining funds would be used in three ways. 70% would go to the state's general fund , which can go through a wide variety of uses. 15% would go to gambling addiction and mental health programs and another 15% to gambling enforcement costs.

S1: So people , they really can't miss a lot of these ads. And these are being called one of the most expensive propositions in state history. Can you give us a sense here of , you know , just how much has been poured into these campaigns , both for and against the measures ? Sure.

S4: So just so it's clear , Propositions 26 and 27 are very much related because they're both about sports betting. There's one committee that is working to defeat one prop and pass the other. So when we're talking about numbers , these are the most expensive propositions together for Proposition 26. Their supporters have contributed more than 120 million so far. Opposition contributions have been lower at around 40 million. Most of the big spending , though , is coming from tribes that own casinos like Pechanga and Agua Caliente there.

S1: We're talking with Kaitlin Hernandez , their reporter for L.A. Public Media Station KPCC , covering all these sports betting propositions. And we know that there's a separate item here , too. Caitlin , Prop 27 , it deals with online sports betting.

S4: The first key thing is that it would legalize online sports betting with Native American gaming tribes and licensed gambling companies. Essentially , sportsbooks companies could partner with the tribe to offer services in California. They'd be required to put specific payments with the states into a new fund called the California Online Betting Trust Fund. After regulatory costs , about 85% of the remaining funds would go towards homelessness and gambling addiction programs. It would also establish a the apartment within the California Department of Justice to oversee regulation for sports betting , including implementing penalties for illegal online sports betting that can accrue daily if left unpaid.

S1: And it sounds like this licensing process under Prop eight. 27 that it can be expensive.

S4: Gambling companies would have to pay 100 million to obtain their initial five year license upfront. And 10 million every year after that to renew it.

S1: And you know , Caitlyn , a lot of times we hear with these two measures , you know , Prop 26 is the tribes and Prop 27 is big online gaming.

S4: You know , there are I think people in both sides of these two propositions that have stakes and in wanting there to be an expanded online presence in gambling , I don't think that's clearly delineated between , you know , if they're part of a casino or if they're not. But , you know , I just simply don't think it's as simple as that. It's just more of , you know , you have tribes and casinos who want to make sure they're getting their fair share of this market.

S1: And it seems like that there's a big push to pass 27 , but not so much with 26.

S4: So , for example , Proposition 26 is getting a lot of funds. And there are concerns , though , about what legalizing online betting would do. So I think that's where we're seeing , too , some kind of push pass. One of the other because one is focused on in-person betting versus having , you know , essentially , as some have called it , like a casino in your pocket.

S1: So assuming one or both of these measures end up passing.

S4: I believe one of the propositions I think , is Proposition 27 has a and a aimed start date for September of next year. But all of this , as we talked about , is really contingent on those tribal state compacts. And since , you know , if , say , for example , Proposition 27 passes , they'd have to , you know , merge with a if with a tribe. This is not something that could happen quickly to begin with because those have to be negotiated and terms have to be set. And they also have to be ratified with the state in order for for that to take effect. So it could be some time.

S1: And we know that some local polling has showed that both of those measures are polling under 50% right now. It's a fascinating topic. You can follow Caitlin Hernandez's work at L.A. Eskom slash vote. And Caitlin , thanks so much for your time.

S4: Thank you so much.

S1: And that's going to do it for this week's edition of KPBS roundtable. And I want to thank our guests , Gustavo Solis and Tanya Thorn from KPBS News , and Caitlin Hernandez from KPCC. You can find our show as a podcast at pbs.org or wherever you get your podcasts. I'm Matt Hoffman. KPBS roundtable is produced by Ben Lacey , and our technical director is Rebecca Chacon. Thanks so much for listening. Have a great weekend.

49th Congressional District candidates Mike Levin and Brian Maryott are pictured in this undated photo.
Mike Levin and Brian Maryott campaigns
49th Congressional District candidates Mike Levin and Brian Maryott are pictured in this undated photo.
An update on the Chula Vista mayoral race, a tightening congressional race in north county and ballot measures dealing with sports gambling in California.

Matt Hoffman hosts a discussion on the race for Chula Vista mayor and the 49th congressional district along with ballot measures dealing with sports betting in California. Guests include KPBS reporters Gustavo Solis and Tania Thorne, and KPCC reporter Caitlin Hernández.