After months of speculation about her political future, Supervisor Kristin Gaspar has decided to stay local.
Gaspar put to rest rumors she may mount a second bid for Congress when she announced late Thursday, May 2, that she will seek a second term on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.
“It’s never an easy decision, but San Diego is a place I’ve grown up and I’ve always said from the outset I appreciated the opportunity to serve here,” she said, "...and having the opportunity to really dig into the work over the past year made the decision to run for re-election a lot easier.”
Gaspar’s announcement positions Republicans to unify behind a single candidate ahead of what is expected to be a competition that will shape the Board Supervisors’ future with the board’s majority at stake.
New Supervisors Nathan Fletcher and Jim Desmond, a Democrat and Republican respectively, will have two years left on their first terms after 2020, but San Diego’s two longest serving Supervisors, Dianne Jacob and Greg Cox, both Republicans, will leave office at the end of 2020 due to term limits.
Cox’s seat representing the South Bay is a safe bet to flip for Democrats, given that party’s more than 2-to-1 advantage in voter registration in the district. Jacob’s East County seat is likely to remain in Republican hands because there is a Republican advantage in her district by about 17,000 voters, although Democratic registrations are trending upward there while Republican registrations are trending down.
That leaves the District 3 seat, which Gaspar currently holds, as the swing seat in 2020 and a battleground for a serious fight.
Gaspar, who lives in Encinitas with her husband and three children, has a few things working to her advantage as she mounts her re-election bid.
She’s an incumbent, and prior to last year it was rare for incumbents to lose any office in San Diego barring a serious scandal. She also can point to her experience on the board and time as chair, advancing such programs as The Other Side Academy, which is planned as a rehabilitation center for ex-convicts.
Gaspar said the program is an example of a proactive community solution.
“I’m excited about where that work is heading and this new approach to homelessness and incarceration,” she said in an interview Friday, May 3.
However, the former mayor of Encinitas also faces several obstacles that didn’t exist when she unseated scandal-plagued incumbent Dave Roberts in 2016.
When Gaspar won there were about 2,500 more registered Democrats than Republicans in the district. Today that Democratic edge has grown to more than 17,000.
Gaspar will also face off against more formidable Democratic opponents this time, including Terra Lawson-Remer, an economist and attorney who was a former senior adviser in the Treasury Department under the Obama Administration; Olga Diaz, an Escondido City Council member and interim Dean of Counseling at Palomar Community College; and Jeff Griffith, a fire captain and member of the Palomar Health Board of Directors.
“I always have the philosophy that I always run like I’m running from behind and as always I’ll give this race everything I’ve got,” Gaspar said.
Gaspar’s biggest challenge may lie in her connection to President Donald Trump, who is unpopular with many in the district and lost it to Hillary Clinton by 20 points in 2016.
Some of her opponents already are fundraising and enlisting volunteers based on her Trump connection. The county Democratic party immediately pushed a news release labeling her a “Trump Republican” in the wake of her announcement.
Gaspar was a big supporter of the county joining the lawsuit the Trump Administration filed against California over so called “Sanctuary policies.” She also has met with the president at the White House and was the lone supervisor to oppose the county’s decision in February to sue the Trump Administration over its handling of asylum seekers.
--Charles T. Clark is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune