REGION — With the election just around the corner, San Clemente Mayor Pro Tem Chris Duncan is seeking to improve representation and results for residents of the newly formed 74th State Assembly District.
Duncan is currently the only Democrat running in the 74th District top-two primary race. Since there are only two candidates currently vying for the seat, Duncan will likely advance in the primary to face off against incumbent Assemblywoman Laurie Davies (R-Laguna Niguel), the lone Republican candidate, in the general election in November.
Previously, the 74th District covered central Orange County with Irvine as its center. But starting this year, both Oceanside, Vista and small parts of Bonsall and Fallbrook have been grouped into the new 74th Assembly District, along with Camp Pendleton at its geographical center, and four Orange County cities to the north – Laguna Niguel, San Juan Capistrano, Dana Point and San Clemente.
Duncan told The Coast News he wants to bring results to the people of his district.
“Our residents deserve a voice in Sacramento that is going to deliver results for them and not to special interests or political agendas,” Duncan told The Coast News. “This district is a bipartisan district, and people are looking for somebody that’s not working a political agenda but has their best interest at heart.”
When Duncan joined San Clemente City Council, he was the first Democrat to be elected since it was founded in 1928. Now serving as mayor pro tem of the city, he isn’t afraid to work across the political aisle, which is why he feels best fit to represent this newly drawn district.
Duncan also has a connection to North San Diego County as a former Carlsbad resident at the time he started his family with his wife and three young children.
“When this district was created, it felt like it really fit me,” Duncan said.
Duncan also previously ran for the Democratic primary for the 73rd District in 2020 but lost to Scott Rhinehart, who subsequently fell to Davies in the general election.
For 16 years prior to his political career, Duncan worked as a senior attorney for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection under the Department of Homeland Security. One of those years, he also served as a federal prosecutor in San Diego.
Duncan earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Boston College, a law degree from the University of Hawaii School of Law and another graduate law degree in international law from Georgetown University Law Center.
In a district consisting primarily of coastal cities, Duncan aims to protect coastal access and invest in the region’s shoreline, which is eroding away due to sea level rise.
Earlier this year, San Clemente received $9.3 million from the federal government for its sand replacement project.
And with Oceanside also currently working on its own beach replenishment study and other cities grappling with the same issue, Duncan acknowledged the importance of preserving the area’s beaches.
Duncan encouraged the city to explore other options other than using groins, a controversial issue among residents of Oceanside and neighboring cities who fear the groins will look out of place and prevent sand from naturally replenishing the southern beaches.
Another popular issue throughout the region is putting more local control into the hands of cities rather than the state, particularly regarding new housing developments. Duncan said he is a strong believer in local control and acknowledged that although the state does need more housing, its approach of forcing cities to comply with projects rather than incentivizing them is not working.
“We need legislation that actually empowers cities to develop housing that fits the needs of those communities by providing incentives rather than penalties,” Duncan said.
Duncan said cities need to be able to have a say in how housing is built in such a way that meshes well with existing developments and architecture without disrupting neighborhoods or the culture of a community.
“By-right housing is very detrimental to cities like San Clemente and Oceanside,” Duncan said. “I don’t think it’s a good idea to force projects down the cities’ throats because they’re never going to buy in that way.”
Duncan also wants to bring more support from the state level to address the district’s issues surrounding homelessness. He noted that many cities have been left on their own to figure out the entire region’s homeless crisis.
San Clemente has already taken its own steps by hiring a homeless outreach coordinator, a decision that has proven itself so effective that the city wants to hire a second coordinator. Oceanside is currently working on constructing its new 50-bed shelter, but that one shelter alone is not enough for the entire district.
“We need a regional facility to provide homeless intake and connections to stable living environments,” Duncan said.
Duncan wants to lower taxes for working families and consider removing some regulations for people who want to start small businesses. He also supports paid leave for women after giving birth and more robust public preschool programs.
“We need to make sure that our public education system is the absolute best,” Duncan said.
While Duncan also supports fully funding fire, lifeguard and police services, he believes in strong accountability and transparency for law enforcement agencies.
“To have public trust, there has to be accountability and some level of transparency,” he said.
Duncan is supported by groups like the California Democratic Party, California Labor Federation, California Young Democrats, California Teachers Association, Democratic Club of Carlsbad and Oceanside (DEMCCO), Democratic Club of Vista, Democratic Woman’s Club of San Diego, Democratic Women of South Orange County (DWSOC) and Democrats for Equality (formerly San Diego Democratic Club).