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Council races heating up in Encinitas, San Marcos

The nonpartisan City Council races in Encinitas and San Marcos could have a strong partisan feel in the fall, largely in part due to the new by-district election formats in both cities.

San Marcos, in particular, could have its most polarizing elections in more than a decade, as both major political parties have endorsed candidates in the race for mayor as well as District 2 council member.

Three people have pulled nomination paperwork for San Marcos’ open mayor race — made possible by current Mayor Jim Desmond’s term limits and run for county supervisor. Current Vice Mayor Rebecca Jones and current Councilman Chris Orlando have been campaigning and fundraising for a number of months.

Bradley Zink, a prolific children’s author and vice president of fundraising at Twin Oaks Elementary School, has also pulled papers for the mayor run.

Jones, a Republican, has the endorsement of Desmond, the Republican Party of San Diego and a host of area Republican officeholders. Orlando, conversely, has the Democratic Party endorsement and a corresponding number of Democratic officeholders.

Meanwhile in District 2 — where current Councilwoman Kristal Jabara announced she would not seek re-election — three prominent San Marcos officials have pulled papers. Vallecitos Water District board member Mike Sannella, Planning Commission Chairman Eric Flodine and current San Marcos Unified School District board member Randy Walton.

Both Flodine and Sannella are Republicans, but Jabara has backed Sannella in the race, and the Republican Party has yet to weigh in. The party is scheduled to make its endorsements on Aug. 13.

So far, only one potential candidate has pulled papers in third race on the ballot, District 1: Craig Garcia, owner of the Old California Coffee House & Eatery in Restaurant Row, who has been campaigning since early 2017. Clifton Ireland Jr., who had announced intent to run earlier this year, has yet to file paperwork.

In Encinitas, incumbent Mayor Catherine Blakespear has pulled papers for a second term. Only one other person has pulled papers in the race: 21-year-old Zack Mair, a self-described “Democrat, but not a liberal,” who said he believes in compromise and sees his youth as an advantage in the race.

“I am 21, which may be a problem to some, but i see it as an asset,” Mair said on a crowdfunding website. “I am young, full of energy, potential, and i can connect better to the youth of Encinitas.”

Currently the District 3 council race appears to be the pivotal race in the fall. Incumbent Mark Muir has announced his intention to seek re-election, and current Planning Commissioner Jody Hubbard has pulled papers to challenge.

Hubbard has the backing of Blakespear and former Councilwomen Teresa Barth and Lisa Shaffer, who often are and were on opposite ends of key votes with Muir.

Incumbent Joe Mosca so far is the only candidate to pull papers in the third race, District 4.

Both communities are hosting their first district-based elections, after years of residents electing their elected officials in citywide races. The changes come in the wake of a Malibu-based attorney threatening to sue cities and agencies across San Diego County alleging that their so-called “at-large” elections disenfranchised Latino voters.