By Rick Mercurio / Alianza North County
Two Democrats are gearing up to challenge incumbent Republican Marie Waldron next year for the 75th Assembly district, which has traditionally been a safe seat for conservatives. Waldron is currently serving as the Assembly’s minority floor leader and is in her third two-year term after serving 14 years on the Escondido city council.
Eric Carr and Alan Geraci hope to harness the political activism that has been sweeping the nation, including North County, and turn that energy into an electoral upset. The 75th encompasses Escondido, San Marcos, Valley Center, Fallbrook and southern Riverside County.
Carr, 34, is an IT software programmer with a BA in English from CSUSM. He is married and has lived in Escondido since 2002. Geraci, 60, is an attorney and real estate broker with a BA from SUNY and JD from Cal Western School of Law. He is married, having lived in San Marcos for eight years. He has six children and two grandchildren. Both men share progressive views on many issues.
Why are you running?
Carr: After the shock of 2016 I realized it’s not enough to just vote; I had to stand up and try to make a difference. We need new ways to face the challenges, and my background as an entrepreneur and systems engineer gives me a unique way to solve problems. I take a holistic approach, allowing me to understand consequences and liabilities.
Geraci: As a father, coach and consumer attorney, I have stood up to big banks and helped over 300 homeowners save their homes from foreclosure. Fighting big special interests daily on behalf of everyday citizens is in my DNA.
Explain your top 3 issues in the 75th.
1. A lot of problems trace to lack of affordable housing, including traffic, transportation and water rights. It has become too expensive for people to live where they work. People live in Temecula and commute to Escondido. I propose that new development must include 10% affordable homes.
2. Healthcare: I support a single payer system, but recognize that SB562 has serious issues in how it is paid for. As Californians, other states are looking to us for answers, so we have to get this right, which takes time. I propose instituting a re-insurance plan using individual Affordable Care Act subsidies to cover costs of people most in need. This lowers costs by lowering risk.
3. Water and water rights: The 75th has lots of agriculture yet is prone to drought, so we need to focus on building the infrastructure to be self-sufficient. This includes using treated wastewater for crops and building new, large reservoirs.
1. Economic Issues: Jobs, wages, and healthcare
2. Public Schools: Local Control Funding Formula
3. Housing/Development: Affordable housing, transportation, water, homelessness
Explain your positions on the most critical issues facing California.
1. A defining struggle of my generation is the fight over climate change. I’m proud California leads the nation in this fight, but we need to do more. I support Cap and Trade on its merits but do not want to pay for additional infrastructure projects. I propose a system wherein payments into the Cap and Trade system, oil leases, and carbon-based port fees, are not used for more government programs but instead are rebated to private taxpayers.
2. The Sword of Damocles hangs over the state in the form of CalPERS and CalSTRS pension systems. The state needs to honor its obligations to working people, but we need a system not tied to vagaries in the stock market. After the downturn, cities have been on the hook for massive, unpaid contributions. Cities like Escondido are outsourcing services like public libraries to cover their CalPERS obligations, and that’s not right. We need a single-payer system.
Geraci: I will continue to advocate for working families in North San Diego County-Inland and Temecula. We not only share a major corridor in I-15 and sovereign tribal land with Native Americans, our families share essential concerns over well-paying jobs, wages, and healthcare. Many were devastated by the banking crises including fighting through foreclosures and bankruptcies. Because of the affected tax base, local control funding formula recalculations has affected the programs and funding for our public schools. Moreover, although developments for high-income housing continue to surge, the basic need for modern, clean, affordable housing continues to lag. I would introduce bills to help working families, create jobs, bring healthcare and create more affordable housing.
How do you feel about intense housing development proposals in rural areas, such as Lilac Hills (defeated at the polls as Prop. B), Merriam Mountain (Newland Sierra), and Safari Highlands?
Carr: I am strongly against the development of the Newland Sierra and Safari Highlands projects for a variety of reasons. First, cities don’t have the infrastructure needed to support additional communities in the exurbs. Safari Highlands, in particular, is planned to only have $4 million dollars added for additional roads, which is way too low. There’s a reason these areas were not included in the San Diego General Plan. One of the worst consequences is schools. Safari Highlands will pay $3 million as a fee to the district, but then add thousands of students to already crowded classrooms, having a drastic and negative effect on learning outcomes. All told these new developments do nothing to enhance the lives of existing residents, so I cannot and will not support them.
Geraci: The three cited development projects will each greatly impact the areas from south to north Escondido and San Marcos. Our County’s General Plan, as modified over the years, is a thoughtful document. Each time a project like these comes along and begs forgiveness from the General Plan, I want complete analysis about the environmental impact on water, increased police and fire safety, and traffic infrastructure, among other things. None of these projects adequately mitigate environmental impact nor address the shortage of affordable housing.
How do you feel about charter schools and for-profit education?
Carr: Budgets for local schools are already stretched too thin, so taking money out of those districts to profit charter schools seems like the worst thing we could do. Charters have almost none of the oversight that local districts must follow, and we have schools chartered by school boards in another part of the state. When charters are considered “good” it’s hard to tell, since they get to draft the best students out of the public system, which naturally enhances graduation and college entrance rates.
Geraci: Taxpayer dollars are for public schools. Although there is a place for private “for profit” education or religious education, these should never be funded with taxpayer money. I support debt-free public education from kindergarten through college or vocational training as an economic investment in our state’s future.
Explain your position on labor/union/worker rights and values.
Carr: I think that unions serve a vital part of our communities and our economy because the union’s job is to protect the worker, not the corporation or the profits.
If we want to strengthen the middle class, it’s going to start with empowering unions to negotiate on workers’ behalf.
Geraci: I support unions and the right to unionize. American unions in California remain a political factor, both through mobilization of their own memberships and through coalitions with like-minded activist organizations around issues such as immigrant rights, trade policy, health care, and living wage campaigns.
Explain your position on budget/taxes/financial issues.
Carr: I am not a regular Democrat when it comes to spending and taxes. The state doesn’t have a funding problem, it has an efficiency problem with bureaucracy.
Geraci: I support a balanced budget. We heavily on income tax, but reducing reliance on volatile tax sources (such as capital gains) or setting aside funds in high-revenue years, would offer much-needed budgetary stability.
Explain your position on environmental issues.
Carr: Besides climate change, we need to examine genetically modified crops. Selective cultivation is fine, but not plants modified for resilience to custom herbicides, which damage other crops, the biosphere, and the topsoil. We must also ban pesticides that affect bees.
Geraci: Our health and climate are inextricably linked. From polluted air quality to shrinking food and waters supplies, communities everywhere are already experiencing climate change’s harmful health impacts. The looming effects are becoming increasingly urgent and severe. I support the California Clean Energy Act of 2017 (SB-100) and the targets toward a zero-carbon energy supply by 2045.
Comment about any social issues such as immigration, women’s reproductive rights, LGBQT, homelessness, etc.?
Carr: I am a strong proponent of women’s reproductive rights. Pro-Choice isn’t the same thing as “Pro-Abortion.” Women should “Choose” what’s best for them and their families. I think that’s an important right and one that I will always defend.
Geraci: To make us safer and more secure, I oppose local law enforcement from using resources to aid federal immigration agents. I support women’s unfettered right to choose decisions affecting her body including a women’s right to choose to terminate a pregnancy. I support LGBQT rights including marriage and to be free from workplace discrimination in employment, housing, health insurance, the justice system, and others. Simply put, LGBTQ Americans are still treated under the law as second-class citizens and California must lead to protect necessary rights. Homelessness increased 14% in north San Diego and southern Riverside counties. We need partnerships with community organizations to tackle it, and address mental illness, veteran affairs, economic homelessness, and, most importantly, affordable housing combined with vocational training and mental health services.
The 75th is heavily conservative.
What’s your strategy for defeating an incumbent Republican?
Carr: Progressives are activated in a way that we haven’t seen since the ‘60s, even in the polls. It’s important to remind folks that Democrats haven’t forgotten them and to share how we can make their lives better. People in our district are receptive to progressive ideas and are looking for something different. They don’t want another career politician or just another lawyer. Given a chance to hear from somebody who lives with them and wants to solve issues, they will vote for me.
Geraci: It’s an electoral challenge, but Waldron’s record is dismal and she has not been seriously challenged until now. Further, the electoral energy in the District is rising to levels never seen before. As the approval rate for the president and Congress decline, the energy for local and state elections rises. People intuitively know that they need an independent leader in Sacramento that can challenge either party.
Rick Mercurio is Alianza North County’s Lead Reporter.