In the last stretch running up to Election Day, county Supervisor Dave Roberts and Encinitas Mayor Kristin Gaspar are making greater efforts to distinguish themselves from each other as early voting has commenced.
Roberts, a former Solana Beach mayor and councilman, is portraying himself a polymath with a collaborative streak who has shown he can serve the district for another four years.
“I am supported by the people across the political aisle,” he said in an interview. “Just look, I am supported by Democrats, Republicans and independents.”
“Wouldn’t you think that the former Republican mayor of Encinitas, the former Republican supervisor would support my opponent?” Roberts said, referring to his predecessor, Pam Slater-Price.
Gaspar is running against what she sees as gaps and faults in the incumbent’s résumé. She has brought plenty of attention to accusations from former Roberts’ staffers of wrongdoing by the supervisor, which cost the county $310,000 in legal settlements last year. She said Roberts lacks a strategy to help county government reach long-term goals, adding that she has the business acumen to help guide the county and the judgment to avoid the scandals that dogged Roberts.
“I can always make you proud. I know you can always look at me as a role model, an example in your community. Issues come and go,” Gaspar said at a forum.
Gaspar is continuing to criticize Roberts for a scandal that rocked his office last year. And now, Roberts is starting to swing back.
Their contest is the only county supervisor race on the ballot. Roberts finished first in the primary with 38.7 percent of the vote, while Gaspar received 34.2 percent. Escondido Mayor Sam Abed, like Gaspar a Republican, received 26.9.
Roberts, the sole Democrat on the board, is running on his attendance record at hundreds of community meetings, his assignment to committees and government boards, and the times he’s teamed up with other supervisors to develop social service programs. He works well with people around the state, he said, and because of his collaborative nature he and his four colleagues on the board almost always unanimously approve legislation. His last four years in office show he’s good for four more, he said.
“Just look at what (Supervisor) Dianne Jacob and I have done on mental health in the last four years,” he said.
And it was a group effort to improve programs for young people in the justice system, and handle an influx of offenders in the community from state prisons to local jails.
“The Board of Supervisors works very well to make sure we give the tools and resources to our public safety folks,” he said.
He has criticized Gaspar for split votes on the Encinitas City Council, a political division he says shows his opponent doesn’t know how to collaborate and iron out disagreements.
“She said she couldn’t get anything accomplished because it’s a 3-2 council … Look at all that I’ve gotten accomplished in four years because I worked with my colleagues,” Roberts said.
Supervisor offices are technically non-partisan, but election politics often follow party lines.
Gaspar said she votes with her colleagues in Encinitas around 90 percent of the time, and while Democrats have a voter registration advantage, her constituents elected her, a Republican.
Gaspar is running on her experience as the chief financial officer of a physical therapy firm she runs with her husband, a job that she says has afforded her business sense to help the county set long-term goals and run efficiently.
Gaspar said she wants to introduce greater accountability measures into government programs to make sure that they meet goals. The chief administrative officer does an exemplary job managing county business, she said, but with metrics in place it will be easier to evaluate the value of various programs and services.
“Until we put accountability programs in place, we can’t say if we are deploying our resources appropriately,” Gaspar said.
“My operational style is not one of micromanaging, but at the same time, I want to see programs that are accountable,” she later added.
She’s also running on the fact that she’s not Dave Roberts. Last year, four women abruptly resigned from the supervisor’s office and accused their boss of having his staff do political work on county time and that Roberts had an improper but non-sexual relationship with an employee. Three women filed formal claims that the county later settled for $310,000.
“All of these things, as a business person, would have put me out of business,” she said. “My leadership style is one of collaboration. I treat people with respect and autonomy.”
For most of the election season, Roberts has had to defend himself against attacks based on the scandal. Gaspar brought it up twice at a recent forum hosted by the San Diego Farm Bureau.
“Unfortunately, due to Mr. Roberts’ behavior, he immediately disqualified himself from serving,” Gaspar said.
Gaspar’s campaign recently launched a “Hall of Shame” website that features Roberts alongside former disgraced San Diego Mayor Bob Filner and former Rep. Duke Cunningham, who was sent to prison in a bribery scandal.
Roberts has started to fight back. He’s criticized Gaspar for supporting Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, saying that shows she’s not a moderate but an extremist. Since the primary, Gaspar has said that Trump lost her support.
And Roberts said Gaspar will bend to special interests, and noted that the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Lincoln Club, and a consortium of developers spent heavily to help his opponent get elected.
“People don’t give over a half-million dollars and don’t expect something in return,” Roberts said.
Records show that two campaign committees backing Gaspar have contributed over $640,000. Gaspar said she’ll scrutinize any project and won’t green-light a development unless all the harmful impacts are neutralized.
Gaspar and Roberts have both declined to say how they will vote on Measure B, a ballot item that would amend the county’s general plan and zoning to allow for the 1,746-home Lilac Hills Ranch development. Currently the land is zoned for up to 110 homes. Both candidates said that complex land use decisions are best left in the hands of county supervisors, who have had the time to study the nuances and fine details of urban planning and development.
Roberts has not taken a position on Measure A, a ballot item that will raise the county sales taxes by a half cent in order to partially fund transportation and infrastructure projects for four decades. Gaspar is opposed to the measure.
The contest to represent District 3, an area that runs from northern San Diego up the coast to Encinitas, and encompasses Escondido, Rancho Bernardo, Scripps Ranch, Carmel Mountain, Tierrasanta and other areas, has been one of the more-watched local races this year.
Around 90 percent of the district is in an incorporated city that provides public safety and public works services and sets land use policies. But the supervisor is part of a five-member board that’s responsible for a $5.4 billion budget, countywide social services and public health initiatives, emergency responses, among other things.
They also set land use policy, shaping unincorporated areas of the county that are largely outside their district but could still have impact on traffic, the environment, water and other issues within their area.
— Joshua Stewart writes for The San Diego Union-Tribune