Bill Horn and Ron Roberts have spent an astounding four decades on the County Board of Supervisors between them, and each is vying for yet another term come June.

But only one of the two supervisors has a real race to worry about.

Oceanside Mayor Jim Wood is pining to unseat Horn. Roberts has no competition.

Supes races often play second fiddle to city, state and national politics. But the Board of Supervisors oversee a nearly $5 billion budget. They help provide a wide array of services and make lasting decisions about how land throughout the county is used and preserved.

Here’s a guide to the two board races. (Spoiler alert: Without an opponent, the Roberts race is kind of a snooze.)

Who Is Running?

District 4 (which includes much of the city of San Diego): Current supervisor is Ron Roberts, a Republican. Challengers: none.

ŸDistrict 5 (North County): Current supervisor is Bill Horn, a Republican. Challenger: Oceanside Mayor Jim Wood, also a Republican.

Of the roughly 300,000 registered voters in the 5th District, 125,335 are Republican, 84,689 are Democrat and 74,784 are registered as No Party Preference.

Important Dates

May 5: The first day mail ballots are available, also the first day of early voting at the Registrar of Voters.

May 19: The last day to register to vote in the June 3 election. Check your registration status here. Register to vote here.

May 27: The last day to apply for a mail ballot. Requests for mail ballots are due to the Registrar of Voters by 5 p.m.

May 31: Weekend voting at the Registrar of Voters.

June 3: Election Day. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Find your polling location here.

The Candidates

Bill Horn was first elected to the Board of Supervisors in 1994. He’s seeking his sixth term in office.

Horn made his money in avocados and business ventures, and retired at the ripe age of 39. He touts his experience as a Marine, the leadership skills gained fighting in Vietnam and he sometimes speaks in military metaphor.

“Never underestimate your enemies,” Horn, now 71, said of the June election and his opponent. “If I’m making a landing on a beach, I’m going to take the entire thing and I’m going to get everything in my way.”

Horn admits his blunt personality (some opponents might call it arrogant or disconnected) may have turned away some over the years, and those are the voters Wood hopes to capitalize on.

Horn’s statements are so direct and bold that at times they lose their nuance. He earned a dubious honor when he made Voice of San Diego’s 2011 “Whopper of the Year” for saying he worked for civil rights leader Ralph Abernathy and went to jail “over the rights of the minority” (he didn’t).

Horn has raised far more money than Wood – $231,423 to $44,867 – and his long list of contributors is dotted with real estate brokers, business executives and others.

Among the issues at the top of his to-do list in a sixth term, he said, would be to usher along the extension of the Palomar Airport runway.

Wood’s campaign, meanwhile, was $2,579 in debt as of his last filing (this includes loans and expenditures; Wood’s campaign manager says they have since received more than $10,000 in donations).

Wood, 66, retired from the Oceanside Police Department in 2002 after more than three decades on the force. That same year, he was voted onto the Oceanside City Council. He was elected mayor in 2004.

Wood is promoting his law enforcement background and says that if elected he will work to improve emergency response times and other emergency services in the district.

Wood has tried to portray Horn as a career politician in the pocket of special interests, as the name of a political action committee sponsored by a local union not-so-subtly suggests.

Citizens Against Career Insider Politician Bill Horn for Supervisor 2014, sponsored by the Service Employees International Union Local 221, has already spent roughly $2,500 on canvassing, another $2,500 on door hangers decrying Horn’s record and $13,700 on polls.

A political strategist who works for the group declined to say how much more money it may put into the race. But the SEIU’s investment, along with those from other political action committees, could play a large role in determining whose message gets out to the district’s 301,517 voters.

The Bottom Line

Horn never wins his elections by a landslide, so that alone makes him vulnerable.

But toppling an incumbent is never easy, and it’s unclear whether Wood and SEIU Local 221 will be able to build a coalition wide and strong enough to unseat Horn – especially if they can’t compete financially.

Like much of San Diego County, demographics in the 5th District – which includes Oceanside, Carlsbad, San Marcos and Vista – are changing dramatically.

In 2008 there were 373,810 white residents in the 5th District and 198,949 who identified as Hispanic, according to county statistics. In 35 years, Hispanics will outnumber whites in the district, as their population is forecasted to grow by more than 100 percent.

Meanwhile, all five county supervisors are white, and county officials openly admit their makeup doesn’t reflect the county’s populace. Four of the five supervisors are Republican and this summer’s election doesn’t appear likely to do much (or anything) to change the board’s racial and political hegemony.

Recently imposed term limits – which limit each supervisor to two four-year terms – and dramatically changing demographics may cause some shakeups when it comes to who’s leading the county. But not quite yet.

Ari Bloomekatz

Ari Bloomekatz is an investigative reporter for Voice of San Diego, focusing on county government. You can reach him directly at

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