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In joining with the Trump administration over its challenge to California laws, County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar spurred debates about the law itself, the extent to which local officials should weigh in on state-federal disputes and whether the Board of Supervisors’ priorities match those of the people they represent.
The state of California has become a fierce and litigious opponent of the Trump administration. One of the biggest battles was over the state’s so-called “sanctuary” law, which limits the ways in which local law enforcement and federal immigration officials can work together.
The Trump administration sued California over that law and two others. County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar, who chairs the board, decided she wanted San Diego County to take a stand – with Trump.
Shortly after the Orange County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to join the Trump administration’s lawsuit against California, Gaspar announced she would be asking the San Diego Board of Supervisors to do the same. In doing so, she spurred a debate not only about the merits of the laws themselves, but about the extent to which local governments should exert themselves in disputes between the state and the federal government. She also added fuel to critics’ assertions that the all-Republican County Board of Supervisors does not accurately represent the county’s diverse residents.
Opposition to the sanctuary law became the crux of Gaspar’s congressional campaign. She made frequent appearance on Fox News and in May, Gaspar was one of several local officials from across the state to travel to the White House for a televised meeting with Trump about the California Values Act.
When the San Diego Union-Tribune editorial board asked Gaspar what she liked and disliked about the president, she said, “Sometimes it is important to stand up for what you believe even if it is not the popular position to take and President Trump clearly doesn’t respond to political pressures. His willingness to push through his agenda in spite of the naysayers has allowed him to get some things done that a conventional politician wouldn’t.”
Gaspar’s swing to the right and her alignment with the Trump administration didn’t serve her well, though. She finished in fifth place in the primary for the 49th District congressional seat.
In November, voters approved an election reform that ensures countywide offices – like seats on the Board of Supervisors – must be decided in general elections, not primaries, a change that will likely boost Democratic candidates, potentially including whoever decides to challenge Gaspar.
This is part of our 2018 Voice of the Year list, profiling the people who kick-started San Diego’s biggest civic discussions over the past year.