A "Pray America" sign seen in front of a home in Oceanside on Oct. 18, 2022.
A "Pray America" sign seen in front of a home in Oceanside on Oct. 18, 2022. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

As voters prepare for Election Day, a couple of tight North County races have our attention, and following the abrupt resignation of former Vista City Manager Patrick Johnson, city Fire Chief Ned Vander Pol has also resigned, the Union-Tribune reports

Here’s a roundup of some news in North County we’re keeping an eye on. 

The Contentious Blakespear – Gunderson Race in the 38th State Senate Race 

Democratic Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear and Republican small business owner Matt Gunderson’s jockeying for the 38th State Senate District seat has emerged as maybe North County’s most-discussed race. 

Abortion rights have taken center stage as Blakespear has centered her campaign on reproductive rights. She’s stressed that she is the only pro-choice candidate. Gunderson has maintained that he is pro-choice, though he opposes Proposition 1 – a California ballot measure that would codify the right to abortion and contraception into the state constitution. He is also endorsed by the California Pro-Life Council and Californians for Life, both anti-abortion groups. 

Protesters march through downtown San Diego in response to the decision that the U.S. Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

Blakespear declined Gunderson’s challenge to engage in a series of debates because she wanted him to take a more explicit stance on abortion rights.  

Gunderson’s ads have also sought to connect Blakespear to a SANDAG auditer’s findings that staff and managers misspent their expense accounts, because she is the chair of the agency’s board.  

Dems Call in Biden to Help Mike Levin in 49th Congressional Race  

It’s a surprisingly tight race in the 49th Congressional District as incumbent Democratic Rep. Mike Levin faces off against former San Juan Capistrano Mayor Brian Maryott in one of a handful of races that could decide whether Democrats maintain their majority in Congress. 

The 49th District includes the cities of Oceanside, Vista, Carlsbad, Encinitas, Del Mar, as well as Camp Pendleton and some portions of southern Orange County. 

View of the Oceanside Pier on Oct. 18 2022.
View of the Oceanside Pier on Oct. 18 2022. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

The swing district, long held by Republicans before Levin won it in 2018, had a more Democratic tilt before redistricting. 

Recent polls have indicated a “toss-up,” so now President Joe Biden is coming to the district to campaign for Levin. 

Levin’s top three priorities, according to a report by KPBS, are environment protection, serving veterans and military, and protecting democracy. Maryott’s top three priorities are inflation, personal security and securing borders. 

The Assembly District 74 Race That Everyone Should Be Watching 

The race for the 74th Assembly District seat has also been a close one. Republican incumbent Assemblywoman Laurie Davies, who now represents the 73rd District, will face off against Democrat Chris Duncan in the newly drawn 74th District. 

The district now covers the cities of Oceanside, Vista and a small portion of Fallbrook, as well as Camp Pendleton and the South Orange County cities of San Clemente, Laguna Niguel, Dana Point and San Juan Capistrano. 

Oceanside, Vista and Camp Pendleton were previously part of the 76th Assembly District, represented by Democrat Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath. 

Camp Pendleton entrance in Oceanside on Oct. 18, 2022.
The Camp Pendleton entrance in Oceanside on Oct. 18, 2022. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

After redistricting, the previously Republican leaning district is now a swing district, with polls from the past few months showing consistently close numbers. 

Duncan is currently the only Democrat on the San Clemente council. He told Voice of San Diego that his top priorities are economic assistance, public safety and homelessness. 

Davies declined an interview with Voice, but she told the Union-Tribune in September that her top priority is fighting inflation and addressing the cost of living. 

More Staff Shake Ups in Vista 

Last week, I wrote about former City Manager Patrick Johnson’s resignation one month after the Vista City Council voted to limit his authority to hire department heads.   

Under the new policy, which went into effect on Oct. 14, one day after Johnson resigned, new hires for the city’s department heads will be recommended by a hiring panel and made in agreement with a council majority. 

In his resignation letter, Johnson said he was “involuntarily resigning” because the city had fundamentally changed his position and authority against his wishes. 

His involuntary resignation means there were unwanted changes to his job that weren’t consistent with the contract he agreed to when he was hired, therefore he is still entitled to severance pay. 

The Vista City Council named Assistant City Manager Amanda Lee as his interim replacement at their Oct. 25 meeting. 

Not long after Johnson’s resignation, the Union-Tribune reported that City Fire Chief Ned Vander Pol also resigned and is expected to leave the job Thursday.  

Vander Pol had been the city’s fire chief since October 2019. It is still unclear why he decided to resign. 

In Other News

  • Interfaith’s new recuperative Care Center officially opened last week, which will serve homeless people who are discharged from a hospital but still need to heal in a safe place. The Abraham & Lillian Turk Recuperative Care Center is in a former motel that underwent two years and $15 million of renovations. (Union-Tribune) 
  • A few North County communities are under new water restrictions amid a statewide drought that has placed parts of North County in a Stage 2 water shortage, meaning they must reduce water use by up to 20 percent. Now, the Vallecitos Water District is asking residents in San Marcos and surrounding areas to restrict outdoor irrigation to two days a week. (NBC 7) 

Tigist Layne is Voice of San Diego's north county reporter. Contact her directly at tigist.layne@voiceofsandiego.org or (619) 800-8453. Follow her...

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