SOLANA BEACH — Less than three months after declaring his candidacy for the 50th Congressional District, Solana Beach City Councilman Dave Roberts has withdrawn from the race.
Roberts and his partner, Wally Oliver, have 14- and 9-year-old sons they adopted several years ago from foster care. The adoption of their third foster-care son, who is now 5, should be finalized early next year.
In late October, “completely out of the blue,” Roberts said, the county child services department called to say the 5-year-old’s half brother and sister had been removed from their birth mother. Roberts and Oliver brought them into their home.
“We fell in love with the kids,” Roberts said. “We wanted to help protect them and keep them together.” On Nov. 23, they were told the 1- and 2-year-old would be available for adoption.
After “many sleepless nights” and family discussions, Roberts said he decided to suspend his campaign due to his growing family. “We want these kids to have a good chance at life and a loving home,” he said. “That takes a lot of time and energy.”
When the newest additions to their family first arrived about five weeks ago, Roberts described them as looking “shell-shocked.”
“Now they are giggling and laughing,” he said. “They really need us to focus on them right now, and I can’t do that if I’m out campaigning.”
Roberts notified supporters about his decision in an e-mail the night before Thanksgiving. In it he said he would return all contributions — a total of about $200,000.
“My biggest concern was letting people down,” he said. But within three days, he said he received more than 150 e-mails and four dozen phone calls congratulating him on his decision. Most said they didn’t want the money back.
“I want to return it,” Roberts said. “I want to show good faith to those who invested in the campaign.”
Ironically, Roberts entered the race later than Tracy Emblem and Francine Busby, the other two other Democratic candidates, because of complications with the adoption of his third son.
Emblem, who questioned Roberts’ party loyalty when he entered the race, described his decision to withdraw as “very noble.”
“I like Dave,” she said. “We had a good rapport. But he’s raising a family. It’s hard. That’s why I waited to run. Family is No. 1.” After spending time with Roberts on the campaign trail, Emblem said she no longer doubts his party affiliation.
Calls to the Busby campaign requesting a comment were not returned.
Roberts said he doesn’t plan to endorse either candidate before the primary election in June. But he said he will support the winner in her effort to defeat Republican incumbent Brian Bilbray. He also said he’s keeping all options open for 2012, when his City Council term is up.
“I could run for both, but I’m not sure I would,” Roberts said. “I’ll make my decision then.”
Meanwhile, he and Oliver are adjusting to life with diapers, cribs and car seats. He said their other three sons were beyond all that when they adopted them. A few days after Thanksgiving, they also took the quintessential final step that commits them to a big family. “We bought a minivan,” Roberts said.