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In our special report Out of Reach this week, we’ve been detailing the wide gaps in San Diego County’s safety net for the poor. We’ve talked about how the county’s conservative political culture plays a role in that and how the county’s been challenged in court over its policies.

Now, the county’s track record in delivering social services could also be up for a political challenge this year.

As we were reporting this story, we heard state Democratic Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña criticize a number of the better-known aspects of the county’s social aid safety net as she laid the groundwork for her challenge against Republican Supervisor Ron Roberts.

“Here is a county that had to be sued to provide healthcare for its poorest residents, which is exactly what counties are supposed to do,” Saldaña told us.

She said county officials are leaving money on the table by not maximizing their participation in federal programs, an issue we detailed yesterday. “There’s really a pattern here of the county not taking advantage of the funding that is supposed to help the poorest people,” Saldaña said.

If there is a district in the county where her argument would hold, it would be in District 4, the most urban and Democratic of the five supervisor districts.

But Roberts points back at Saldaña. She’s been in Sacramento, he said, while the state has frozen its funding for the programs it forces counties to administer. That’s an angle we explored in the second part of our series.

“For somebody from the state to be criticizing the county because of the way it conducts its business and runs its programs, I think rings kind of hollow,” Roberts said. “Then why don’t you stop taking the money?”

— KELLY BENNETT and DAGNY SALAS

Dagny Salas

Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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