By Doug Porter
There’s bad news and good news about the partisan makeup of San Diego’s representation in Sacramento in 2017.
The bad news is that there is no real competition among the eight local contests for the State Legislature. A few seats are changing hands, but the resulting differences among the newbies will be of style rather than substance.
The good news is that the Democrats likely to be representing the area are all of above average or better quality. What happens in contests elsewhere in California will have a significant influence on just how effective San Diego’s delegation can be.
Democrats, who need two more seats in the State Assembly to recapture supermajority status, started out by targeting contests in Manhattan Beach, Fullerton, Rancho Cucamonga, Dublin and Corona. Christopher Cadelago at the Sacramento Bee reports they’ve recently added support for races in San Luis Obispo and Santa Clarita.
Here’s the rundown on the races for local legislative positions.
State Senate 39th District
After some uncomfortable moments, incumbent State Senator Marty Block agreed to step aside for termed out Toni Atkins earlier this year. It came down to money. She had substantial support lined up and he didn’t.
The 39th district encompasses most of the city of San Diego, along with several inner suburbs to the north and south. It is centered on Downtown San Diego and mainly stretches along the city’s coastline extending to Solana Beach and Coronado’s Silver Strand. It goes inland to San Carlos and Rancho Bernardo.
It’s a Democratic district, capable of producing double-digit victories for marquee candidates.
Starting out as an aide to San Diego City Councilmember Christine Kehoe, Toni Atkins has built a successful career in politics, succeeding her boss on the council and serving as interim mayor along the way to her seat in the Assembly.
She became Majority Leader in the Assembly in 2012 and moved up to become the first San Diego lawmaker, third woman, and the first acknowledged lesbian to be Speaker.
Atkins won the June primary with more than 66% of the vote and will be facing Coronado resident and entrepreneur John Renison on November 8th.
State Assembly 71st District
The 71st Assembly District stretches North-South from Palm Desert to Mexican border and East-West from Santee to Imperial County. It’s mostly rural makeup means it’s a sure bet for Republicans. But there’s a potential curveball lurking here…
Incumbent Brian Jones was termed out. Santee Mayor Randy Voepel ran against science-fiction author/Union Bank executive Tony Teora and jeweler Leo Hamel in the primary.
Hamel, whose television commercials assured him of name recognition, dropped out of the race, citing family reasons. It’s likely murmurs (Gone from SD Rostra when they updated their site) about his former affiliation with the Church of Scientology had something to do with his decision.
Hamel was interviewed by Ken Stone at the Times of San Diego:
“I’m a good guy. I do nothing but help people in this community. I donate to tons of charities,” he said Wednesday in a phone interview. “I haven’t been to a [Scientology] service … in at least 10 years, maybe 15.”
But he still took offense.
“The fact that we’re discussing somebody’s religion seems kind of against everything that we’re supposed to be standing for these days,” Hamel said. “No matter where my position is on Scientology, it’s still a religion. And it would be inappropriate to discuss someone’s religion — completely inappropriate.”
Despite dropping out, Hamel came in second, qualifying him for the November ballot.
Tony Teora, who seemed to think that Hamel’s religious affiliations were an issue, came in third.
“I am surprised and disappointed,” Teora told ECM. Noting that talk show host Carl DeMaio endorsed Hamel after Hamel announced his withdrawal on his show, he added, “To me, it shows the whole sham of the system.
Although his name on the ballot, Hamel is not actively campaigning, leaving Randy Voepel as the likely winner…
BUT… Voepel is disliked by some Republicans for publicly quitting the party over policy disagreements, namely that the GOP wasn’t extreme enough (He rejoined in 2015).
Wouldn’t it be poetic justice if Hamel won without running?
State Assembly 75th District
Escondido’s Marie Waldron is the Republican incumbent in the the 75th, which encompasses the inland portion of San Diego’s North County and the Southern reaches of the Inland Empire. One of Waldron’s patrons is the Philip Morris company, so I assume she’ll be out there campaigning against Proposition 56.
Give the GOP’s nearly two-to-one advantage over Democrats in the district, it’s likely that Andrew Masiel, Sr. will be defeated. As a former member of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians Tribal Council, Masiel seems to have some enemies among Native Americans in the North county.
Andrew Masiel, Sr
State Assembly 76th District
San Diego’s North Coast is Rocky Chavez-land, at least for now. The incumbent Assemblyman was going to run for US Senate as a ‘reasonable’ Republican but dropped out after it became clear there wasn’t a path to the general election for his type.
His withdrawal from the race didn’t come via press release or press conference. He stood up at the beginning of a live GOP debate on KOGO-AM.
From NBC 7:
“I think the best role I can fill for the Republican Party and moving the agenda forward, which I’ve been involved in since 2001, is to run for my Assembly seat in the 76th,” Chavez said. “I’m not going to be running for the United States Senate, and I’ll be leaving the field right now.”
With that, he walked directly off the stage and out of the room.
Chavez’ 76th District incumbency and return to the race basically screwed Phil Graham, the stepson of former Gov. Pete Wilson, and Oceanside Councilman Jerry Kern, both of whom had been courting donors statewide.
Republican Thomas Krouse was Chavez’ sole competition in the primary and they are repeating in the general election.
State Assembly 77th District
The middle inland of San Diego, from Clairemont to Rancho Bernardo is represented by Republican Brian Maienschein. And it’s highly unlikely he’s going anywhere.
Republican Assemblyman Brian Maienschein has reported $9.6 million in behested payments so far this year – a figure that blows all other state politicians out of the water. To put that number into perspective, state constitutional officers, state senators, Assembly members and members of the PUC reported $8.8 million in combined behested payments for all of last year.
Maienschein’s behested payments were primarily support for green energy grants and special tax breaks from state agencies. The largest beneficiary, Poway-based Transportation Power Inc., received $6 million in alternative energy and renewable fuel grants to conduct heavy-duty truck and tractor demonstration projects, according to grant application documents filed with the California Energy Commission.
Earlier this year, Maienschein briefly considered running for Dave Roberts seat on the County Board of Supervisors.
Rancho Peñasquitos attorney Melinda Vasquez is the Democratic candidate for this seat.
State Assembly 78th District
Democratic City Councilman Todd Gloria is the anointed successor to Toni Atkins for this seat. The only question in my mind is which aspect of his political personality will dominate his term. Will he be the go-along-to-get-along type that made him enemies (on the left) in his earlier years on the council? Or will he be an activist leader fighting for better working conditions and environmental causes we’ve seen in recent times?
Republican candidate Kevin Melton ran in the primary against Toni Atkins in 2014, coming in third behind Barbara Decker with 11% of the vote.
Kevin D. Melton
State Assembly 79th District
The 79th is a minority-majority district, with a large Democratic advantage in voter registration. They are fortunate–in my opinion– to have Assemblywoman Shirley Weber as their representative in Sacramento.
She’s smart, sassy, and always surprises those who underestimate her sweet demeanor.
Running against her is retired businessman John Moore.
State Assembly 80th District
Districts don’t get much Bluer (Only 19% Republican) than the 80th. It’s nearly 68% Latino, encompassing the South Bay and much of the county along the Mexican border.
Incumbent Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez has taken full advantage of the political security her district offers. Most recently, a valiant come-back-from-the-dead effort saved legislation (now on the Governor’s desk) phasing in overtime or farmworkers.
You know your Assemblyperson is doing a good job when four of the six must-kill bills mentioned by Breitbart.com were either authored or co-authored by her.
Note: For those of you unfamiliar with Ballotpedia, I highly recommend it as a non-partisan source for further information on candidates and ballot issues.
Our endorsements will be included in our General Election Progressive Voter Guide, published shortly after mail-in ballots are delivered in October.
Other San Diego Free Press coverage of the 2016 general election.
Tomorrow: Odds and Ends, plus the Weekly Progressive Calendar of Events. We’ll be writing about various state and local contests Monday-Friday for the next six weeks.
On This Day: 1935 – Senator Huey P. Long, “The Kingfish” of Louisiana politics, was shot and mortally wounded. He died two days later. 1965 – United Farm Workers union began the historic national grape boycott and strike, Delano, Calif. 1966 – NBC-TV aired the first episode of “Star Trek” entitled “The Man Trap”.
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