This is the first article in a series profiling the candidates in the District 3 county supervisor race. The candidates for the District 3 seat include Steve Danon, Carl Hilliard, Dave Roberts, Bryan Ziegler and Stephen Pate. Next week we will profile Del Mar Mayor Carl Hilliard.
By Claire Harlin
Steve Danon began his campaign for District 3 county supervisor in 2009 — more than two years before his opponents — but he said the seed was planted even earlier than that.
It was the encouragement of community leaders and his political peers, he said, that made him start “testing the waters” — gauging whether he’d be able to get enough support to oust a 20-year incumbent — and the water was, well, comfortably warm. The Carmel Valley resident said he wouldn’t still be in the race today had he not steadily picked up the momentum and support he needed.
“I thought, ‘Would it be too eager to start early?’” said Danon, who is chief of staff for Republican Congressman Brian Bilbray. “But given the size of the district and the time and fundraising it would take to wage a competitive campaign, I had no choice.”
As residents of District 3, which encompasses Del Mar, Carmel Valley and Solana Beach, receive ballots in the mail this week, the race between Danon, Del Mar Mayor Carl Hilliard and Solana Beach Deputy Mayor Dave Roberts continues to heat up. And while Danon has been dubbed the top dog by many, he’s also been the recipient of most of the dirt in what’s become somewhat of a mud-slinging fest. Roberts has accused Danon of having ties to jailed and corrupt former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, and Hilliard has accused Danon of campaigning “on the federal clock” while working as chief of staff for Bilbray and going on “travel junkets” to China and Saudi Arabia. Stephen Pate and Solana Beach native Bryan Zeigler are also in the running — and they’ve stayed essentially mud-free.
The increasing heat may be helpful to Danon, however, because it’s bringing attention to the race and the supervisor position itself — which he hopes, if elected, to significantly change. After all, it may be difficult to run a campaign based on reform when voters are unsure what exactly is being reformed, Danon said.
“My biggest challenge in this race has been that people don’t know what the supervisor does,” said Danon, adding that much of his campaigning has involved education about the Board of Supervisors, which operates a nearly $5 billion budget and controls funding for services from law enforcement to social welfare to healthcare.
“I tell people that they handle everything from cradle to grave, from birth certificate to death certificate,” said Danon. “If you’ve been effected by having to go through a maze of bureaucracy for your local business, that’s the county. If you’re someone whose child has been taken away for abuse, that’s the county. If it’s the jails being told by the state they have to take more inmates, that could impact you. That’s a public safety issue.”