County Board of Supervisors

‘One of the Biggest Races': Swing District Could Shift Control of County Board of Supervisors

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors has been run by Republicans for decades but that could change this year

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San Diego County Republicans and Democrats are laser-focused this election cycle on a pivotal race in the Board of Supervisors' District 3 because its outcome could determine the ideological direction of the county for years to come.

“It is rare that you see one district election that will control the entire trajectory of the county,” said Democratic County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher (Dist. 4). “I think this is one of the biggest races in the past 20 years in San Diego County.”

There are three supervisorial elections this November.

Districts 1 and 2 will send a Democrat and a Republican to the board respectively, as both contests are inter-party battles.

But in District 3, Republican incumbent Supervisor Kristin Gaspar is fending off a challenge from Democrat Terra Lawson-Remer. Whoever wins will give their party a 3-2 majority on the board.

“[It’s] huge. It’s as big as it gets,” said Republican political analyst John Dadian.

Dadian argues the days of a non-partisan board are largely behind us and whoever wins will have an impact on the board’s direction.

“Without a doubt…in District 3 the Democrat running is considered extremely liberal, and so when she joins with two other colleagues of the Democratic party, they’re going to be placing the agenda and they’re going to be setting the tone,” the analyst told NBC 7.

So in order to understand the competing big-picture agendas that depend on the races’ outcome, NBC 7 spoke with the two current board members not on the ballot this year, Supervisor Fletcher, and Republican Supervisor Jim Desmond (Dist. 5).

“What’s on the ballot right here is, are we going to have a county that believes climate change is real and wants to take substantive action to address it?” began Supervisor Fletcher when asked what priorities a Democratic-led board would bring.

“Are we going to have a county here that believes it’s critically and vitally important we address issues of environmental justice and clean air and clean water? Are we going to have a county that takes seriously our obligation to invest in mental health care, drug treatment centers, homeless services, and build affordable housing?” Fletcher laid out.

“Well, we only have so much money to spend,” said Supervisor Desmond, weary of county government spending during a pandemic-induced recession and skeptical a huge partisan shift would become a reality either way.

“I don’t know where they’re going to find it unless they raise taxes,” he added.

If Supervisor Gaspar keeps her seat — and with it the board’s Republican majority — Desmond said he hopes the board takes a more conservative approach to governing, prioritizing law enforcement, fire preparedness, and saving money.

“We got to get back to the basics of fiscal responsibility, building our reserves back up and making sure we spend the money we have wisely. We’re going to have less money coming in last year,” Supervisor Desmond argued, noting sales tax revenue is down due to the coronavirus.

With the balance of the board on the ballot, San Diego County is at a political crossroads, with a decision that will resonate for years to come.

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