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North County Report: Issa Won't Seek Reelection

Republicans in the District 5 Supervisor’s race spar over marijuana and affordable housing, the mayor’s seats in Oceanside and Carlsbad are up for grabs, and more in this week’s roundup of North County news.

Rep. Darrell Issa holds a town hall in Oceanside, March 2017 / Photo by R. Adam Ward

With his decision Wednesday not to seek reelection, Congressman Darrell Issa joined a long list of Republicans retiring from Congress this cycle.

The California’s 49th Congressional District is the target of national Democratic attention, but VOSD’s Jesse Marx writes that Republicans are still hopeful they can keep it. Several politicos have already jumped in the race.

One is Assemblyman Rocky Chávez, from Oceanside, who briefly ran for the U.S. Senate race in 2016. Republican strategists believe Chávez stands a good chance against Democrats if he can get past his own party’s leaders, who’ve expressed frustration over his support for a cap-and-trade bill last summer and more.

Another likely contender is California State Board of Equalization member Diane Harkey, who, as Marx reports, has already gotten endorsements. State Sen. Pat Bates, from Laguna Niguel, is also being named as a possibility. According to the San Diego Rostra blog, 90 percent of Bates’ state district corresponds with Issa’s congressional district.

Jason Roe, a major Republican consultant, told VOSD that Issa’s departure may temper the expected surge of Democratic voters in November.

“Whoever the Republican candidate is moving forward won’t have the same kind of visibility and won’t be as motivating to Democratic activists as Darrell was,” Roe said.

A Republican Rift Over Reefer

A debate this week, between two Republican candidates for the District 5 supervisor seat, suggested that marijuana is going to be the issue that cleaves voters.

San Marcos Mayor Jim Desmond said he could be counted on to carry his opposition to marijuana to the Board of Supervisors and linked cannabis to the county’s homelessness crisis. Oceanside City Councilman Jerry Kern, however, said he would see through rules allowing marijuana operations.

“I think it is wrong for an elected official to say, ‘They didn’t really mean it, they didn’t know what they were voting for, we’re going to interpret that for them because they weren’t bright enough,’” Kern said. “It is my job as an elected public official to carry out the will of the people.”

Kern has been a part of the ad-hoc committee in Oceanside drafting recommendations for pot. Last month, the City Council narrowly voted to direct staff to work on rules for medical marijuana operations, based on those recommendations.

Kern said he’s also been working with the county Farm Bureau and its president to help farmers grow commercial amounts of cannabis legally.

Desmond said he’s “OK with medical marijuana,” but voted for a blanket ban on marijuana operations because Proposition 64 also gave local jurisdictions the ability to control marijuana through land-use restrictions.

“In the city of San Marcos, we heard our citizens loud and clear: No cultivation, no manufacturing, and no dispensaries,” he said.

Marijuana users, he predicted, were “going to be the greatest leech upon government services,” and pointed to a survey showing that 90 percent of homeless people in San Diego suffered from some type of substance abuse.

The debate also covered new taxes and bonds (both candidates are against), infrastructure in the backcountry (both support getting money for projects) and housing.

On that front, Desmond acknowledged that homes are becoming more expensive, but stressed that an increase in supply would need to be balanced against an increase in traffic.

Kern said there’s not much being built today for the middle class, and he attributed that to cost increases that come from delays in the planning process.

“We are 100,000 housing units short in the county right now,” Kern said. “Everyone says our housing is like an hourglass; there’s the top, it’s squeezed in the middle, and you have affordable housing at the bottom. That’s not true at all — it’s a martini glass. There’s all these upper-end houses, because of the costs and the time. You have nothing in the middle.”

…and in Local Races

While the race for the 49th Congressional District and 5th Supervisor District heat up, so too are fights for the mayors’ chairs in Oceanside and Carlsbad.

In Oceanside, where the mayor’s seat was vacated by Jim Wood, who resigned on Jan. 1 after suffering a stroke, Deputy Mayor Chuck Lowery is angling to get the council to appoint him to finish the mayor’s term despite receiving little support from fellow council members.

In his parting letter, Wood recommended City Clerk Zack Beck or former City Manager Peter Weiss for the job.

Wood told the Union-Tribune he thought it would be difficult for the council to make an appointment, meaning the seat could go to a special election in June — if the council acts quickly — or in November.

Meanwhile, in Carlsbad, Democratic City Councilwoman Cori Schumacher announced she will challenge Republican Matt Hall, who is serving his second term as the city’s mayor.

Schumacher was elected in 2016, but with the city’s switch to district elections, she’s already up for reelection. The Coast News reports that Councilman Mark Packard and challenger Mary Viney will be competing for Schumacher’s current seat.

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