Terra Lawson-Remer, a candidate for San Diego County Supervisor District 3, attends a San Diego Labor Council rally. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

North County is a diverse place, which might help explain a mixed bag of election results: In two high-profile races, seats held by Republicans will now be held by Democrats; yet in Escondido, Republicans are on track to flip seats on the City Council. Voters also approved a new housing project in Poway while rejecting one in Oceanside. Voters in Encinitas appear to have opened the door to allowing marijuana businesses, while Solana Beach voters want the door to stay closed.

In electing Democrat Terra Lawson-Remer over incumbent Kristin Gaspar to the District 3 Board of Supervisors seat, they handed control of that body over to Democrats for the first time in at least a generation.

And Oceanside voters elected Democrat Esther Sanchez as the city’s next mayor; she’ll replace Mayor Peter Weiss in the seat that has long been held by Republicans. The ascent of Sanchez could mark a big shift for the city, and is further evidence of the county’s realigning politics, but Sanchez could have a harder time achieving her goals based on the newly elected Council members.

Sanchez told Voice of San Diego that she supported Council candidates Shari Mackin and Jane Marshall because they share similar views on environmental and economic justice policy. Mackin is currently trailing challenger Ryan Keim, and Marshall trails far behind Peter Weiss for the District 3 and District 4 Council seats, respectively.

Down the coast in one of the most contentious races in the election, Encinitas incumbents Mayor Catherine Blakespear and Council members Kellie Shay Hinze and Tony Kranz beat out challengers Julie Thunder, Alex Riley and Susan Turney and will maintain control over decisions on controversial city issues like homelessness and housing.

In Escondido, results so far show a possible partisan shift in the opposite direction: Republican Tina Inscoe is slightly ahead of Democrat Vanessa Valenzuela for the District 2 council seat vacated by John Masson after his death in March and Republican Joe Garcia has taken a commanding lead for the District 3 seat to succeed Councilwoman Olga Diaz. Councilman Mike Morasco, a Republican, is set to take the District 4 seat. If votes hold, the Council will go from a Democrat majority to a Republican majority.

Meanwhile, the decision on who will take the District 2 seat on the County Board of Supervisors, covers portions of North County and East County, is still up in the air. Poway Mayor Steve Vaus held a slight lead for several days, and former state Sen. Joel Anderson took the lead in the results posted Tuesday.

Voters decided on controversial housing developments and marijuana laws.

One of the most contentious ballot measures in North County was Measure L in Oceanside. Voters in the region’s most populous city voted overwhelmingly against North River Farms, a 585-home, agriculture-themed, mixed-use development proposed for the rural neighborhood of Morro Hills. The Oceanside City Council approved the development, but then decided to place the measure on the ballot after residents collected enough signatures for a referendum.

The North River Farms project is one of many housing projects in San Diego County rejected by voters at the ballot box in recent years, including the Newland Sierra plan near Escondido. On the other hand, Poway voters approved The Farm, also known as Measure P, which would put a maximum of 160 homes and a minimum of 70.4 acres of permanent open space on the StoneRidge Country Club property. StoneRidge used to offer a golf course and plush country club building, but the property now has overgrown plants, shattered windows and graffitied walls, KPBS reported. Now, developers on that project are ready to get to work, 10 News reported.

The Union-Tribune spotlighted why some housing projects like the one in Poway and another approved by the Carlsbad City Council pass and why some like North River Farms fail – and a lot of it comes down to whether they’re viewed as smart growth or sprawl.

North County voters had different positions on how to handle marijuana in their towns. Encinitas, Oceanside and Solana Beach each had marijuana-related measures on the ballot.

If votes hold, Oceanside voters will have approved Measure M, a tax of up to 6 percent of revenue for on marijuana retailers, distributors and manufacturers and up to 3.5 percent for marijuana cultivators. The city has estimated the additional tax could generate about $1.9 million annually for city services.

Citizen-led Measure H in Encinitas would amend current zoning to allow marijuana retail, cultivation, manufacturing and distribution in specified zones. Businesses would need to obtain business licenses, and their activities would be subject to restrictions and regulations. Currently, marijuana businesses are prohibited. It’s on track to pass.

Meanwhile if votes hold, Measure S allowing two marijuana dispensaries in Solana Beach, failed. It asked voters to amend the city code to allow commercial marijuana retailers in non-residential zones and marijuana deliveries and cultivation in the city. Currently, all commercial marijuana businesses are prohibited.

What We’re Working on

  • Esther Sanchez’s win in the Oceanside mayor’s race is more evidence of a changing county. I talked to her about how she’ll address homelessness, housing, policing and transit. On Election Day, I asked Oceanside voters which of the whopping 12 candidates they voted in the mayor’s race. Many said they voted for the candidate they most identified with. One woman said she voted for Sanchez in part because she was the only woman, and only woman of color, in the race.
  • Women candidates and officeholders from all corners of San Diego County told me they’ve been the target of harassment and threats, often fueled by vitriolic social media posts. Black, Latina and Asian women, as well as those who identify as LGBTQ and other marginalized women often face the worst of the harassment, Voice of San Diego found.
  • More San Diego County residents support reallocating police funding toward social services than those who oppose it, a Voice of San Diego poll found. Activists hope the Board of Supervisors, now with a majority of Democrats, could use its budget powers to change the Sheriff’s Department. But the sheriff is independently elected and can thwart pressures to adjust how he operates, VOSD’s Maya Srikrishnan reports.

In Other News

  • Last week for KPBS’s Roundtable, I talked about some of the election results in communities north of San Diego; including Oceanside’schoice for mayor, the controversial housing developments on the ballot and the District 2 and District 3 County Board of Supervisor races.
  • Two challengers will replace incumbents on the San Marcos Unified School Board after community dissatisfaction over its former superintendent and handling of student learning during the coronavirus pandemic. More live North County school board election results are publicly available on the county Registrar of Voter’s site. (Union-Tribune)
  • Voters in the 50th Congressional District chose to send Republican Darrell Issa, a former nine-term congressman and ardent supporter of President Donald Trump, back to Congress over Ammar Campa-Najjar, a college lecturer and businessman. A reporter from the Union-Tribune illuminated lessons from the race.
  • And finally, in COVID-19 related news: San Diego County has fallen back into the state’s most restrictive purple tier, meaning there’s more widespread transmission of the coronavirus and more local businesses will have to close indoor operations this weekend. School districts that have already opened or begun to open can continue. Del Mar Union School District, for example, assured parents immediately that nothing would change. But school districts that haven’t opened cannot do so without a waiver – and those are only for elementary schools.

Kayla Jiminez was a staff writer for Voice of San Diego. She covered about communities, politics and regional issues in North County as well as school...

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