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A pro-choice rally in Del Mar this summer. The abortion issue has taken center stage in the 38th State Senate District race. Photo by Joe Orellana
A pro-choice rally in Del Mar this summer. The abortion issue has taken center stage in the 38th State Senate District race. Photo by Joe Orellana
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Abortion rights at forefront of Blakespear, Gunderson race

REGION — In the race for the 38th State Senate District seat between Democrat Catherine Blakespear and Republican Matt Gunderson, the issue of abortion has taken center stage, prompting both pro-choice candidates to ratchet up their rhetoric in the final weeks before Election Day.

In a television advertisement and in numerous mailers circulated to district voters, Blakespear has described herself as the “only pro-choice candidate” in the race, despite Gunderson’s stated position as a pro-choice Republican.

Conversely, in a video released via social media last week, Gunderson explicitly stated his support for preserving a woman’s right to choose and characterized his opponent as dishonest for misrepresenting his stance.

In comments made to The Coast News, Blakespear’s campaign manager Kevin Sabellico reiterated the accusation against the Republican, arguing that Gunderson was dishonestly trying to play both sides of the abortion issue in order to garner more votes.

“Matt Gunderson is anti-choice, and what’s worse, he’s lying to voters about his record,” Sabellico said. “He’s against Prop 1, which codifies the right to choose into the state Constitution. He’s endorsed by the California Pro-Life Council and Californians for Life, radical anti-choice groups who want to outlaw abortion in California. He refuses to denounce the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, and he even said that insurance companies should be able to deny coverage for reproductive healthcare.

“Matt Gunderson cannot be pro-choice and simultaneously hold these extreme views,” Sabellico continued. “Through his words and deeds, he has made it clear that he will vote in lockstep with Republican senators to defund Planned Parenthood, criminalize abortion, and impose draconian restrictions on women seeking basic healthcare.”

Blakespear GundersonGunderson fiercely denied the accusations and maintains that Blakespear is pivoting toward the abortion issue to distract from questions surrounding her own policy record both as mayor and SANDAG chairwoman.

“Matt is pro-choice and has been on the record as being pro-choice for decades,” said Duane Dichiara, Gunderson’s campaign spokesperson. “On the day of the Dobbs decision, Matt made the statement of being proud to live in a state that protects his four daughters right to choose. To say otherwise, as SANDAG Chairwoman Blakespear has is just another lie from her.”

“It’s no surprise that this issue is all that Blakespear wants to talk about. She has already been exposed as a non-transparent, inept, and corrupt politician. She can’t stand on her own record, so she thinks her only chance of winning is to lie about Matt Gunderson’s record on the issue of choice. Matt isn’t taking the bait. He’s focused on winning this race to make California a safer, more affordable place to live.”

Thad Kousser, a political scientist at UCSD, explained that Blakespear’s emphasis on the abortion issue is hardly surprising in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health earlier this year overturning federal abortion protections under Roe vs. Wade, given the politically charged nature of the subject.

“Blakespear is just following the playbook nationally, it’s the issue [abortion] that voters care most about, second only to the economy,” Kousser said. “In California politics, this is more about an issue that speaks to candidates’ values than an issue actually up for grabs in policy. It’s not as if abortion rights likely to change in California, but it’s a way for candidates to say where they stand.”

Democrats for Gunderson

Meanwhile, a growing cohort of local Democrats and community activists in Encinitas have issued written complaints to the California Democratic Party about Blakespear’s rhetoric about her opponent on the campaign trail.

Over the summer, Susan Turney, a lifelong Democrat registered as No Party Preference, helped start a group called “Democrats and Independents for Matt Gunderson.”

The group largely consists of supporters of former 38th District candidate Joe Kerr, a self-proclaimed moderate Democrat eliminated after the June primary, and also includes many local residents, such as Turney, long critical of Blakespear’s policy record as mayor.

Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespeare speaks in favor of federal abortion rights to a crowd of hundreds during a Saturday rally in Carlsbad.
Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear speaks in favor of federal abortion rights to a crowd of hundreds during a May rally in Carlsbad. Photo by Laura Place

The group accuses Blakespear of intentionally misleading voters about Gunderson’s position on the abortion issue as a ploy to win over left-leaning voters such as themselves.

“I have met him [Gunderson] on numerous occasions and he assured me and others that he’s always been pro-choice since the mid 1990s,” Turney said, a former candidate for Encinitas City Council who said her vote for Gunderson will be her first ever for a Republican candidate. “The fact that he is endorsed by groups that are pro-life and gets endorsement from pro-life groups is not necessarily because he’s pro-life, just like Blakespear gets money from developers because she supports developers but claims she’s not pro-development. I have no reservation about him being pro-life.”

Several members of the group said they were turned off from Blakespear after her campaign’s purportedly misleading rhetoric about Gunderson’s position on abortion.

“…(Gunderson’s) been pro-choice all his life and will protect reproductive choice in California,” wrote Sarah Lifton, another founding member of the grassroots group. “He is an environmentalist. He opposes assault weapons. He has long supported LGBTQ rights. And most significant for me, he is a staunch supporter of local zoning control…”

CJ Minster, another member of the group, also wrote a letter criticizing the negative ads targeting Gunderson, including Blakespear’s website, “Greedy Matt Gunderson,” describing her opponent as “a MAGA Republican and crooked used car dealer running for State Senate.”

“I can’t believe the depths to which the Democratic Party has fallen,” Minster wrote. “I just received a giant ad paid for by the California Democratic Party smearing Matt Gunderson. Just because someone is a Democrat and endorsed by the Democratic Party, it does not make that person a good candidate or someone who cares about her constituents. And your shameful smear does not bode well for the Democratic Party, which used to hold itself to a higher standard.”

Sabellico questioned the authenticity of Turney’s statements based on her status as a NPP.

“Susan Turney is the chair of the so-called ‘Democrats for Gunderson,’ and she’s not even a Democrat,” Sabellico said. “The fact is Gunderson isn’t just a Republican, he’s an extreme Republican who supports Trump. No amount of letters from fake Democrats will change that.”

On the other side, the California Republican Party has targeted Blakespear’s record as a local officeholder, creating a website entitled “Corrupt Catherine” and featuring news articles from several San Diego-area media outlets highlighting various allegations made against the public official.

“Catherine Blakespear made Encinitas worse,” the GOP site reads. “Don’t let her ruin all of California, too.”

Voters have not been able to hear directly from both candidates — other than individual meet-and-greets — regarding these issues and allegations since there have been no public debates. This summer, Gunderson challenged his opponent to a series of debates in the weeks before November’s general election, but Blakespear declined.

More Election 2022 coverage


hector lopez October 13, 2022 at 9:28 am

As a lifelong Democrat I will join other Democrats s in voting for Gunderson. Anything to get Blakespear out of politics in general. Blakespear is so in the pocket of the developer as is Gunderson. However, the way I see it is, that if Gunderson is elected he will be as effective as current state senator Pat Bates. Given the Democrat super majority Gunderson will have zero impact in Sacramento.
The main thrust is to get rid of Blakespear and if possible the council persons she appointed.
Blakespear is morally and ethically bankrupt, much like Sabellico who speaks nothing but nonsense. The position Blakespear has taken via her mouthpiece Sabellico not to debate Gunderson because of pro choice rights is baloney. Blakespear simply does not want her piles of dirty laundry aired. Blakespear is an arrogant, narrative controlling individual. I guess in a word, gutless.
Send Blakespear packing back to her Cardiff compound

steve333 October 11, 2022 at 1:41 pm

Hopefully this link will work. A counter to Blakespear’s blatantly lying ads and flyers. The woman is the sleaziest, most corrupt politician I have ever seen.

mcat October 11, 2022 at 7:06 pm

Blakespear has been nothing more than an activist ideologue, who has voted against the wishes of her constituents, time and time again.

Addie October 10, 2022 at 2:07 pm

Two points:
1. Anyone is free to search the Secretary of State’s website to see where political campaign donations come from. I find it interesting that Gunderson (who claims to be the anti-developer candidate) is taking loads of money from developers (Scott Brusseau, Don Ankeny, etc) and also is taking tons of money from corporate sponsors such as pharma and oil companies.
2. I called and emailed both campaigns to ask some questions. Gunderson never replied. Blakespear’s staff replied within 5 minutes. Make of that what you will.

We all learned during the Caruso mall episode that money talks. Blakespear takes money from developers. So does Gunderson. See for yourself.

Also telling is that the party of “law and order” seem to be the ones putting up illegal campaign signs in Carlsbad and defacing campaign signs in Encinitas.

Addie October 10, 2022 at 3:54 pm

Besides the boatloads of cash from the CA Republican Party, here are Gunderson’s major donors

Oremor Mgt 4900
Genentech 3000
CA Resources Group 4900
RMV Development 7350
PG&E 4900
Infrastructure PAC (General Contractors) 4900
Philips 66 6900
Smartstop Asset Mgt 9800
Assn of General Contractors PAC 5000
Torrey Pacific Development 7500
CREPAC (Realtors) 19,400
BNSF Railway 4900
Anheuser Busch 9800
Chevron 4900
Davita (Dialysis corp) 4900
Don Oliphant DWO Enterprises Real Estate Developer based in RSF 6900
Reynolds Tobacco 4900
Philip Morris Tobacco 4900
Philco Construction 4900
TX Capital Strategies 4900
Sares Regis Group 4900

BobNichols October 13, 2022 at 5:52 pm

Addie actually Matt Gunderson’s largest donors are:

$803,134.75 California Republican Party – State ENTITY
$19,400.00 CA Real Estate PAC (crepac) ENTITY
$14,700.00 California New Car Dealers Association PAC ENTITY
$9,800.00 Anheuser-Busch Companies LLC ENTITY
$9,800.00 Apartment Association of Orange County PAC ENTITY
$9,800.00 David Marvin INDIVIDUAL
$9,800.00 H Michael Schwartz INDIVIDUAL
$9,800.00 Holly Schwartz INDIVIDUAL
$9,800.00 Jim Antonowitsch INDIVIDUAL
$9,800.00 Mark Dershem INDIVIDUAL
$9,800.00 Morongo Band of Mission Indians Native American Rights Fund ENTITY
$9,800.00 Orange County Automobile Dealers Association PAC ENTITY
$9,800.00 Scott Wilk ENTITY
$9,800.00 Timothy Busch INDIVIDUAL
$9,800.00 Western Manufactured Housing Communities Association PAC ENTITY
$8,900.00 Bnsf Railway Company ENTITY
$7,500.00 Rotolo Chevrolet Inc ENTITY
$7,400.00 David Wilson INDIVIDUAL
$6,900.00 Cargo PAC ENTITY
$6,900.00 Don W Oliphant INDIVIDUAL

Catherine Blakespear’s largest donors are:

$631,274.52 California Democratic Party ENTITY
$200,000.00 San Diego County Democratic Party ENTITY
$150,000.00 Democratic Party of Orange County ENTITY
$100,000.00 Fresno County Democratic Central Committee ENTITY
$100,000.00 Napa County Democratic Central Committee ENTITY
$100,000.00 Tehama County Democratic Central Committee ENTITY
$50,000.00 San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee ENTITY
$50,000.00 San Mateo County Democratic Central Committee ENTITY
$21,838.59 Aggregated Unitemized Contributions INDIVIDUAL
$19,400.00 American Federation of State County & Municipal Employees – CA People (Afscme CA People) Small Contributor Committee ENTITY
$19,400.00 California Nurses Association PAC (Cna-PAC) ENTITY
$19,400.00 Raise the Wage California Sponsored by the California State Council of Service Employees and Its Affiliates ENTITY
$19,400.00 Service Employees International Union Local 1000 Candidate PAC – Small Contributor Committee ENTITY
$19,200.00 Faculty for Our University’s Future a Committee Sponsored by the California Faculty Association ENTITY
$14,900.00 United Domestic Workers of America Action Fund ENTITY
$9,900.00 Service Employees International Union Local 221 PAC ENTITY
$9,800.00 American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 PAC ENTITY
$9,800.00 Consumer Attorneys of California PAC ENTITY
$9,800.00 Daniel U Smith INDIVIDUAL
$9,800.00 Erik Anderson INDIVIDUAL

The difference is Blakespear’s largest donors are mainly ENTITY’s (85%) such as PAC’s (Political Action Committee’s) that’s not a good look for a Blakespear, and a shame she will be beholden to these ENTITY’s when elected. No wonder she refused to publicly debate Matt Gunderson.

steve333 October 10, 2022 at 1:20 pm

I don’t even have to add anything here, it is clear that Blakespear is a congenital liar and she hired the perfect person to head her campaign in Sabellico. They can both keep lying and sending out slanderous flyers about Matt Gunderson since I’ve spoken to many people who decided to vote for Matt after seeing them.
Blakespear refuses to debate because that would expose her horrible record as Mayor Flipflop who sold her own City out for her political career, and it’s the only career she ever had.
Send the developer puppet packing.

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