The election for county supervisor between Ron Roberts and Stephen Whitburn pits a longtime Republican incumbent against a Democratic face new to county politics.

From the outset, the campaigns have said this race would hinge on money and math.

The money: Roberts started with a $100,000 war chest and has continued to raise more than Whitburn. That means Roberts has been able to extend name recognition with more campaign ads and literature than Whitburn, who has at times struggled to attract local media attention.

The math: Democrats outnumber Republicans two-to-one in the district. If Democrats turn out in droves to support Whitburn, winning swing voters will be vital to Roberts’ success. Recent independent mailers have aimed to steer Democratic voters toward Roberts by mixing his name into a list of statewide Democratic candidates. Those mailers have especially upset Whitburn since his campaign has aimed to make the race a partisan fight and rally Democrats in his favor.

Roberts and Whitburn are vying to represent the county’s urban core, the neighborhoods stretching from University City to Paradise Hills. They’ve battled for support from the LGBT community and middle-class residents around Clairemont Mesa — crucial votes in a potentially tight race.

On the stump, Roberts has emphasized things like his endorsements from two police unions and the county’s sound financial rating on the bond market. As a former architect and city councilman, Roberts calls himself the more experienced, qualified candidate.

Whitburn has centered his campaign on criticism of Roberts’ tenure, raising concerns about lagging fire protection, burdensome barriers to welfare programs and insufficient oversight of a controversial grants program. Whitburn casts himself as a reform candidate who would bring new perspective to an all-Republican board.

No matter who voters elect, though, what each candidate plans to do in the next four years remains unclear. Their campaigns have mostly focused on debating past actions rather than making new promises.

But the election could have a tangible impact on county land use decisions. Roberts is considered a swing vote on planning decisions, weighing between developers and environmentalists. Whitburn says he would be a more reliable vote for environmentalists.

Please contact Keegan Kyle directly at or 619.550.5668 and follow him on Twitter:

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