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Tasha Boerner Horvath
Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner Horvath has come under fire for dining with several other state legislators on Monday evening in Sacramento. Photo by Caitlin Steinberg
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Boerner Horvath claims re-election victory while Waldron lead remains in limbo

From staff and wire reports

REGION — North County’s two primary representatives in the State Assembly, Democrat Tasha Boerner Horvath on the coast and Republican Marie Waldron inland, appear headed for reelection unless uncounted mail-in ballots reshape their races.

In the 75th District, Assemblywoman Marie Waldron, R-Escondido, is holding a lead in her reelection bid against behavioral health care provider Karen “Kate” Schwartz, who declined to concede the race in a statement issued early Tuesday.

“The early results of the election show us neck-and-neck with the most powerful Republican in the State Assembly. … As the results currently stand, we are not sure if we will unseat the Assembly Minority Leader Marie Waldron. Regardless of the final outcome, I wish Assemblymember Waldron and her team well; but sincerely hope they start 75,213 the health, safety, and livelihoods of their constituents rather than California’s donor class and big corporations,” Schwartz said.

Updated results released by the California Secretary of State on Wednesday afternoon showed Waldron widening her lead from Election Day results by nearly a percentage point with 83,611 votes (52.6%) to Schwartz’s 75,213 votes (47.4%).

The San Diego Registrar of Voters said today that tabulation of an estimated 370,000 early votes would not be announced until 5 p.m. Thursday; it is not clear how many of those uncounted votes affect the District 75 or other North County races.

Waldron was first elected in 2012 and began serving as Assembly Republican leader in 2018. She previously served on the Escondido City Council. Waldron took about 56% of the vote during the March primary, versus Schwartz, who earned nearly 38%.

Schwartz sits on the Fallbrook Regional Health District Board and has worked as a behavioral health care provider for the past 35 years, according to her campaign website.

The 75th District covers much of northern San Diego County, including Escondido, Fallbrook and San Marcos, and also covers Temecula in Riverside County.

In the 76th District, Tasha Boerner Horvath, D-Encinitas, claimed a re-election win over Republican challenger Melanie Burkholder, a mental health counselor and former Secret Service agent.

“WE DID IT!” Boerner Horvath wrote in a statement released Wednesday afternoon.

“I want to thank the voters of North County and the many supporters who believed in me to make this decisive win possible … I am determined to live up to the trust that our communities have placed in me.”

Late Wednesday afternoon results had Boerner Horvath with with 108,313 votes (57.5%) to Burkholder’s 79,991 (42.5%).

Boerner Horvath was elected to the Encinitas City Council in 2016, then won the 76th District seat two years later. The Assemblywoman won 57.5% of the vote in the March primary, with Burkholder covering the other 42.5%.

She said the health and economic challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic will be her focus. The North County District covers the Camp Pendleton area south through Encinitas.

Elsewhere in the county, other state Senate and Assembly incumbents were leading their races, as well.

In the lone state Senate race in the county, Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, claimed victory over Republican Linda Blankenship in
District 39, which stretches from Solana Beach to southern San Diego, and east into San Pasqual Valley.

While votes were still being counted Wednesday, Atkins issued a statement thanking her supporters for re-electing her.

“I’m overwhelmed with gratitude that you, my neighbors in the 39th Senate District, have elected me to serve as your state senator for a second term,” she said.

As of late Wednesday afternoon, Atkins held 67.5% of the vote. She was running unopposed in the March primary until Blankenship emerged as a write-in candidate. Blankenship, a Carmel Valley resident and business owner, has worked as a consultant, among other roles, on “every level of political campaigns from school board to presidential races,” according to her campaign.

Atkins, California’s first female and LGBTQ Senate President Pro Tem, formerly served on the San Diego City Council. She was elected to the state Assembly in 2010, and was eventually chosen as Assembly speaker.

In the 71st Assembly District, incumbent Randy Voepel, R-Santee, held 57.9% of the vote against Democrat Elizabeth Lavertu, with an unknown number of ballots still left to count from Tuesday’s election.

Voepel served as Santee’s mayor from 2000 until 2016, when he was elected to represent the 71st District, which encompasses a large portion of eastern San Diego County, as well as portions of Riverside County.

Voepel and Lavertu were the only two candidates in the March primary, with Voepel taking more than 60% of the vote.

In the 77th District, Assemblyman Brian Maienschein, D-San Diego, was leading with 57.8% of the vote against Republican June Cutter, who held 42.2%, according to early results.

Maienschein, who was elected to the seat in 2012, is seeking re-election two years after switching parties. He previously ran as a Republican in every election, but shortly after being re-elected in 2018, announced he was changing his party affiliation, partly due to disagreements with President Donald Trump’s leadership.

Cutter, an attorney and small business owner who lives in Del Sur, says schools, crime, and homelessness have all gotten worse under Maienschein’s watch and said his party switch was part of what prompted her to run for office.

Prior to being elected, Maienschein served on the San Diego City Council and as the city’s first commissioner on homelessness. He took 57.5% of the March primary vote, with Cutter taking 42.5%

The 77th District covers northeastern San Diego, and Poway and Rancho Santa Fe to the north.

In the lone race without an incumbent, San Diego City Councilman Chris Ward won the race to represent the 78th Assembly District against health care worker Sarah Davis.

The two Democratic candidates were seeking the seat vacated by Todd Gloria as he vies to become San Diego’s mayor.

“THANK YOU to the voters for their strong support for their next representative in the State Assembly,” Ward wrote in a statement. “I’m grateful for all our volunteers who worked hard to get the word out. I’m ready for the hard work ahead and look forward to continuing public service for San Diegans.”

Davis issued a statement Wednesday afternoon in which she thanked her supporters.

*I hope you will stay involved. I know I will,” it read. “The issues are too important to ignore and know that I will keep on fighting for what is right. We changed the conversation on healthcare, housing, and climate action in the 78th — and we will hold my opponent to the promises he made in the course of this campaign.”

Ward has been on the city council since 2016. He serves as chair of the council’s Land Use and Housing Committee and previously served as chair of the Economic Development l and Intergovernmental Relations Committee. He also previously served as chief of staff to state Sen. Marty Block, who represented the 78th District.

Davis is a licensed midwife who is vice president and policy chair of the California Association of Midwives. She also co-founded Birth Roots Women’s Health & Maternity Center in Chula Vista.

Ward took more than 55% of the vote in the March primary, with Davis trailing at nearly 28%. The 78th District covers coastal San Diego County from Solana Beach to the U.S.-Mexico border.

In the 79th District, incumbent Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, was heading for victory over Republican challenger John Moore. As of Wednesday afternoon, results showed Weber with 66.4% of the vote.

Weber has held the seat since 2012 and took nearly two-thirds of the vote in the past two elections, both against Moore.

According to Weber’s campaign, her legislative priorities include strengthening civil rights, protecting people with disabilities and increasing educational opportunities, which she described as a “lifelong commitment,” stemming from her work as a board member for the San Diego Unified School District, and as a San Diego State University professor.

Moore is a retired businessman and Air Force veteran who said he wanted to fight to increase economic opportunities for district residents, who Moore says have been adversely affected by regulations driving companies out of state.

The 79th District stretches from Mission Valley to La Mesa, then south into Chula Vista.

In the 80th District, covering City Heights to the north and stretching south to the U.S-Mexico border, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, D-San Diego, was also heading for re-election.

By Wednesday afternoon, numbers had Gonzalez Fletcher taking 71.6% of the vote, with 28.3% of votes for Republican John Vogel.

Gonzalez Fletcher received nearly 73% of the March primary vote, with Vogel trailing at around 18%.

She was first elected to the Assembly in 2013, and previously worked as senior adviser to then-Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante.

Vogel previously sought election to the South Bay Irrigation District in 2016, but was defeated by incumbent Jose Cerda.

Coast News reporter Brad Rollins contributed reporting to this story.