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A candidate on Oceanside’s ballot died last week, and at least one city official is trying to make sure he still gets elected.
Police found Oceanside City Treasurer Gary Ernst deceased in his home last week, after city staffers reported that they hadn’t seen him for several days. Ernst had been the city’s treasurer since 2010. He was 61 years old.
Ernst suffered from diabetes and had been ill for some time, said Deanna Lorson, assistant city manager of Oceanside.
Ernst’s death was not only a loss for the city, but threw a wrench in the imminent city treasurer’s race.
Ernst was running for re-election against Nadine Scott, an attorney, special district treasurer and neighborhood activist. His death happened so close to the election that he’ll still appear on the ballot.
If he’s elected, the City Council can either call a special election or appoint someone to the position.
Oceanside City Councilman Jerry Kern said he’ll do everything he can to make sure Ernst still wins.
“Even though Gary passed away, he is still better qualified than she is,” he said.
Ernst has been endorsed by the Republican Party of San Diego County and other groups. Kern said he hopes that mailers, signs and ads that were already in the works will still be deployed to help get him elected.
Kern said he’s also looking into getting additional mailers and has been personally stumping for the deceased Ernst’s re-election, telling everyone he knows to vote for him.
“It’s not a hard sell once you understand what is at stake,” he said. “Gary was the best-qualified candidate and should have won handily.”
Scott said she was shocked and saddened by Ernst’s death, but is frustrated the election is still going forward.
“I find it 100 percent unethical for anyone to promote a deceased candidate over a highly qualified candidate simply so they can alter and frustrate the process,” she said.
Scott said she didn’t run a negative campaign against Ernst and will continue campaigning on her merits. She said the position manages millions of taxpayer dollars and needs more transparency, and that she is qualified for the position. Scott has the endorsement of Oceanside City Councilwoman Esther Sanchez.
She said she thinks voters deserve to know that her opponent is dead.
A lot of people she’s spoken to while campaigning assumed she would be automatically elected under the circumstances and don’t understand why they’re still running against each other, she said.
“I think the voters are surely entitled to know that, so when they vote, they should have their vote count,” she said. “I think we should have a fair and honest election without interference from political parties or Council members that intend to frustrate the results of the election.”