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Candidates for the 79th Assembly District
Clockwise from top left: Akilah Weber, Leticia Munguia, Shane Parmely, Marco Contreras and Aeiramique Glass-Blake / Photos courtesy of the candidates

During the Grammy Awards broadcast last week on CBS, an ad for Akilah Weber aired. Weber is running to represent the 79th Assembly District and to succeed her mother, Secretary of State Shirley Weber, in the seat.

The video featured health care workers responding to the pandemic and a message about why they support Weber, who is a doctor and leader of the Pediatric & Adolescent Gynecology Division at Rady Children’s Hospital.

The group that funded it is Frontline Healthcare and Essential Workers Supporting Dr. Akilah Weber for Assembly and it has spent $483,000 supporting her, including the Grammys ad. A coalition of doctors, dentists and the United Domestic Workers union paid for it.

But one group in particular is not interested in letting Weber run away with the victory: the Laborers International Local 89, or LIUNA.

LIUNA has been active and has helped collect $225,000 to support Leticia Munguia for the seat. Munguia works for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which has also contributed to the fund.

The Politics Report asked Valentine Macedo, the business manager and secretary treasurer of LIUNA, why the group went with Munguia.

“Not only is Leticia the daughter of one of our former members, but she has also dedicated her career to advocating and fighting for legislation at every level of government that supports the rights of our workers. She understands what it means to be one of us and has demonstrated that she will always lead with her values at the helm and a strong sense conviction,” he wrote to us in an email.

The primary is coming up: The team put together a guide to the candidates’ takes. Others running are restorative justice consultant Aeiramique Glass-Blake, teacher Shane Parmely and businessman Marco Contreras, the lone Republican.

Macedo Jr. Gets a Water Authority Spot

The San Diego City Council Tuesday appointed Val Macedo Jr. to the San Diego County Water Authority, giving the business representative for the local chapter of LIUNA a leadership role on the regional water board.

That appointment comes just over two years after his father, Valentine Macedo, who we quoted above, had a dispute with other construction union officials over San Diego’s Pure Water project, one of the largest infrastructure projects the city has pursued in its recent history, which is expected to eventually supply 53 million gallons of drinking water to city residents a day.

In late 2018, when the City Council was wrapping up a construction contract on the project, Macedo wrote to the Council taking issue with a provision he opposed, and that other major construction unions support.

“This requirement gets the City Council involved in an ongoing conflict between certain trades,” Macedo wrote.

Kelvin Barrios, then a Council staffer and now a Laborers employee, passed the letter to his boss, and other union leaders. Barrios went on to run for City Council against now-Councilman Sean Elo-Rivera, before dropping out of the race amid a handful of ethical violations, including failing to disclose that he was paid by the Laborers while still working for the city.

Probably unrelated: Elo-Rivera was the only Council member who did not support Macedo Jr.’s appointment this week.

Of note: Officials at the Water Authority nearly didn’t consider the massive Pure Water project in its accounting of the region’s long-term water needs earlier this year.

Blakespear, Bhat-Patel Battle for SD, OC Seat

Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Democrats in the last four years have remade the political representation of San Diego’s northern coastal region, flipping Republican strongholds there in Congress and the state Assembly while expanding their influence in multiple city halls as well.

Republicans have maintained control, though, of the 36th state Senate district, which straddles San Diego and Orange counties, from Mission Viejo to Encinitas. State Sen. Pat Bates is vacating the seat in 2022 due to term limits in 2022, giving Democrats another viable flip opportunity. Bates is planning a run for secretary of state.

Two of the up-and-coming Democrats who’ve helped reshape coastal North County politics are now squaring off for the seat.

Carlsbad Councilwoman Priya Bhat-Patel announced her run last February, and has collected endorsements from local officials throughout the district. In 2018, she became the youngest person elected to Carlsbad’s City Council, at 31, and her masters degree and Ph.D. in public health only gained significance based on world events since then. She’s lined up progressive supporters from around the county, too, including County Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer, National City Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis, Elo-Rivera and former San Diego Council President Georgette Gómez.

She’ll be facing Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear, who announced her run this week along with a series of high-profile endorsements from the likes of Rep. Scott Peters and Assemblywomen Tasha Boener-Horvath and Lorena Gonzalez. Blakespear, who chairs the San Diego Association of Governments, also announced this week support of 15 local officials from cities in both counties within SD-36.

One of the Blakespear endorsers is Bhat-Patel’s colleague in Carlsbad, Councilwoman Cori Schumacher. Earlier this year, Schumacher lost her seat on SANDAG to the city’s Republican mayor, with Bhat-Patel’s support, a decision that frustrated the local Democratic Party chair, before he set it aside as a miscommunication.

Bhat-Patel, too, has support from one of Blakespear’s colleagues, Encinitas Councilwoman Kellie Hinze. Hinze, though, said she’s endorsed both Blakespear and Bhat-Patel, and that she “plans to help out as both a fundraiser and a big supporter” for Blakespear.

Deputy City Attorney Mark Ankcorn, also a Democrat, has also filed his intent to run for the seat.

Republicans maintain a voter registration edge in the district, despite the inroads Democrats have made in recent years. As of the latest update, Republicans now hold a slim lead with 220,000 registered voters, compared to 212,000 registered Democrats, and another 187,578 voters have no party preference. Democrats outnumber Republicans in the San Diego portion of the district.

In the more conservative Orange County part of the district, two elected Republicans have filed their intent to run as well.

Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett has an open committee, and told the Orange County Register last year she was likely to run. Former Assemblyman Bill Brough has also filed his intent to run, a year after he lost re-election and was stripped of his committee assignments after a former aide accused him of rape. In 2019, four women accused Brough of making unwanted and aggressive advances – and one of those women was Bartlett.

Carlsbad Councilwoman Priya Bhat-Patel speaks at the San Diego Women’s March on Jan. 19, 2019. / Photo by Vito Di Stefano
Carlsbad Councilwoman Priya Bhat-Patel speaks at the San Diego Women’s March on Jan. 19, 2019. / Photo by Vito Di Stefano

Quick Notes

How vaccines work: Scott has been curious about this and did a special podcast interview with Shane Crotty, an immunologist who leads the Crotty Lab at the La Jolla Institute and UC San Diego. The professor explained how the immune system works and the difference between the vaccines and their efficacy.

Politics of recall: Now that the governor has admitted that a recall of him will be on a ballot in coming months, we can start focusing on the politics of the situation. Democrats have learned a lot – and grown their number a lot – since 2003 when Arnold Schwarzenegger took over for Gray Davis. Here’s a good story explaining the situation by the Washington Post’s Dave Weigel. California reporters have been all over it but Weigel is the best at coming in from the outside.

Put simply: The best route for the governor to save his political career is to make sure no Democrats run on the recall ballot, especially if they’re popular enough to actually persuade Democratic voters to vote yes on the recall because they prefer that candidate. If Newsom keeps them united, he can keep describing it as a partisan, Republican-led fight. It’s why a lot of people took note former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who battled Newsom in the gubernatorial primary in 2018, took a swipe at how the state has managed the pandemic, especially schools.

The Lorena nightmare: The conservative Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association president wants to make sure Republicans think it through before their nightmare comes true. “What happens if [Assemblywoman] Lorena Gonzalez runs?” he pondered in the Los Angeles Times. Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s team wants her to run.

Gavin’s kids: The governor should stop saying he knows what it is like for kids to have to learn via Zoom. He doesn’t. His kids have been attending in person school since the fall.

Be Kind, Dream Big Goes to Washington: The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions will consider the nomination of Cynthia Marten to serve as deputy secretary of education and ask her questions Wednesday at 7 a.m. PST. Marten, known here as Cindy Marten, is the superintendent of San Diego Unified School District. If she makes it out of the committee, she’ll get a full Senate vote.

Correction: A previous version of this story said Councilwoman Priya Bhat-Patel announced her state Senate campaign in September 2020. She launched her campaign in February 2020.

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Scott Lewis

Scott Lewis oversees Voice of San Diego’s operations, website and daily functions as Editor in Chief. He also writes about local politics, where he frequently...

Andrew Keatts

I'm Andrew Keatts, a managing editor for projects and investigations at Voice of San Diego. Please contact me if you'd like at

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