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Unlike the Democrats in the race for the 49th Congressional District, the two Republicans leading recent polls are both seasoned elected officials.
Board of Equalization Chairwoman Diane Harkey was previously elected to the state Assembly in the 73rd District, which once included portions of North County. Prior to that, she served as mayor of Dana Point.
Assemblyman Rocky Chavez was first elected to the Oceanside City Council in 2002, a seat he left to serve as undersecretary in the California Department of Veterans Affairs. In 2012, he was elected to the 76th Assembly District, where he faced little opposition in his two re-election campaigns.
Given Harkey’s and Chavez’s extensive political resumes, there’s a lot for voters to parse going into the June primary.
Chavez’s campaign didn’t respond to questions, but one striking difference between the two is Chavez’s support for the cap-and-trade extension that was passed last summer. Local Republicans still castigate Chavez over that vote, and characterize it as a second gas-tax increase in a single year.
Harkey’s campaign seized upon taxes — in particular the gas tax — as a central issue in this election.
“This election is about one thing: who is going to serve the taxpayers and constituents of the 49th District,” said campaign spokesman Andre Levesque.
“Just last month on the Board of Equalization, she stopped the state of California from piling on an additional $617 million gas tax,” Levesque said “Families in this state just can’t afford to keep forking out more money at the pump, especially after the disastrous cap-and-trade and SB1 gas taxes.”
Chavez is generally seen as more moderate than most Republicans, because he supports same-sex marriage and has criticized federal immigration policies that separate families. He’s also publicly disagreed with recent changes to the federal tax code, and President Donald Trump’s policies on offshore oil drilling.
Chavez’s support for the cap-and-trade extension and subsequent support for a coalition of Republicans seeking a new brand for the state party, has alienated him from the rest of the local party.
Harkey is more of a traditional Republican – certainly a traditional suburbanite – who has the support of outgoing Rep. Darrell Issa and the Orange County Republican Party. In a recent radio interview, she suggested a curfew and buddy system for House members beginning at 8 p.m.
On a page discussing his top issues on his website, however, Chavez plays up his more traditional views: a focus on national defense, reducing regulatory burden to “unleash innovation,” being tough on crime and supporting veterans.
The San Diego County Republican Party has not yet made an endorsement in the 49th District.
San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Kristin Gaspar, meanwhile, trails Harkey and Chavez by a sizable margin, according to a recent poll conducted by Flip the 49th super PAC. She’s also catching heat from local conservative groups for her relatively soft stance on guns and apparent donations to Democrats.
Talk radio host and former San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio has called for her to step out of the race. He’s endorsing Harkey.
Gaspar, however, could win back some support on the right based on her decision to schedule a vote of the County Board of Supervisors to join the Trump administration’s lawsuit challenging SB 54, the so-called sanctuary state law. Plus she opposed Measure A, a tax increase on the 2016 ballot to pay for highway and transit improvements in the county, and was the only supervisor last year to vote against the controversial move to give themselves raises.
Despite Gaspar’s low showing in recent polls, she’s seen as a rising star in the local party. Like Harkey and Chavez, she’s also won elections among CA-49 voters; before her election to the Board of Supervisors, Gaspar was a councilwoman and mayor of Encinitas.
On the other side of the aisle, Sara Jacobs, one of the Democratic contenders for the 49th, is facing criticism over the accuracy of her resume.
The Union-Tribune reported that, though Jacobs has said she worked in “key policy positions” in the State Department under President Barack Obama, she really held a slightly above entry-level position at a private contractor that worked with the State Department.
A Jacobs’ campaign spokesperson told the Union-Tribune that Jacobs’ description of her role was “the most accurate and transparent description about what she did everyday.”
The U-T, noting Jacobs’ other experience, also reported that Jacobs’ two-year term in office would be the longest job she’s held.
After Bob Echter asked Encinitas to let him grow marijuana at his farm, the City Council opted to pursue a possible 2018 ballot. That in turn prompted Echter to shelve his plans, and instead pursue housing on his land.
The Coast News now reports that the City Council is abandoning its pursuit of a ballot measure to allow marijuana cultivation and delivery, since there’s no clear request of the city to make it happen.
Dallin Young, executive director of the Association of Cannabis Professionals, told the The Coast News he isn’t sure yet if his group will start anew on collecting signatures for its own ballot initiative, which would likely be more permissive than the city’s own measure.
If the trade group does that, said Mayor Catherine Blakespear, the city might consider putting forth its own competing measure.
Three-term Councilman Mike Nichols resigned March 12, just nine months before the end of his term, The Coast News reports. Nichols said in a letter to the city manager that his decision came “to handle pressing family matters.”
California law now gives the City Council the opportunity to appoint someone to Nichols’ seat within 60 days or leave the seat vacant until the next election in November. The City Council will consider it at its March 28 meeting.
• inewssource reports on more problems at HiCaliber Horse Rescue, stemming from issues uncovered during the Lilac Fire.
• A mysterious group conducted polling showing that Encinitas residents oppose development on agricultural land, but its methods are being criticized for trying to shape voters’ opinions. (The Coast News)
• A plan to narrow Coast Highway in Leucadia got the go-ahead from the Encinitas City Council, and the plans now go to the Coastal Commission for final approval. (Union-Tribune)
• San Marcos Unified approved changes to its school district boundaries, which parents said would result in their children being separated from their friends by being sent to a new school. (The Coast News)
• What will Rep. Darrell Issa do with nearly $1 million of leftover campaign funds? (inewsource)