REGION — At its September 17 meeting held at IBEW Local Union 569 in the Kearny Mesa area of San Diego, the San Diego County Democratic Party voted 38-20 to uphold the decision by its North Area Caucus to take a “no endorsement” position during the primary season of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors District 3 race.
As a result, both candidates—Escondido City Council member Olga Diaz, as well as UCSD scholar and former Obama Administration Department of Treasury staffer Terra Lawson-Remer—are now rated “acceptable” by the party activists. That initial vote to rate both candidates “acceptable” took place at the August 17 meeting in San Marcos, taking place after multiple rounds of voting in which Diaz fell just short of clearing the 60% bar needed to secure a North Area Caucus endorsement recommendation.
District 3 spans much of North County and northern City of San Diego proper. A seat currently occupied by Republican Kristin Gaspar, it is seen unanimously by area political observers as a one which will tip the balance of power on the Board of Supervisors to either party in the November 2020 general election on a 3-2 basis.
The agenda item to uphold the North Area Caucus passed on the Consent Calendar—a slate of generally non-controversial items passed at the beginning of governmental meetings—but not without a bit of drama preceding it. Central Committee member Bob Hamilton, a supporter of Diaz, first requested to pull the item from the Consent Calendar, citing “irregularities” with the “acceptable” vote taken in August.
“There were a number of irregularities during that meeting with regards to this vote and the one that bothered me most was after being very strict about having a voting stick and signing your vote, they allowed a vote by voice,” said Hamilton. “And they’d already told people that there’d only be two votes and some people left and there were a number of people who were non-voting members in the room. And they’ve got this big loud voice that came out of nowhere and who the hell knows who voted?”
The motion to pull the item from the Consent Calendar triggered a rebuttal from North Area Caucus Chairman Jason Bercovitch, who made his case for why he thought the August vote should stand. He said that the meeting minutes and agenda lays out that the process went soundly and according to the ground rules. He also pointed to an article published by The Coast News about the vote, which observed that the voice vote showed “overwhelming support” in the room for a rating of “acceptable” for both candidates, with that motion passing accordingly.
Additionally, Bercovitch said that there were instances of verbal abuse and threats which ensued before that North Area Caucus vote took place.
“Prior to the meeting, four of the North Area Caucus members were threatened based on how they were supposed to vote. So, there was a campaign of confusion going around and four of them were threatened” he explained. “After the vote, six of the North Area Caucus members were verbally assaulted and left in tears.”
The lack of a party endorsement means that neither candidate will receive a financial contribution from the party during the primary race, set to take place on March 3. Pursuing an early endorsement was a strategy pushed for months by Diaz’s campaign, paralleling what happened during the 2018 race for the San Diego County Board of Supervisors District 4.
That race saw Nathan Fletcher, husband of Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), receive a party endorsement and subsequent historically unprecedented amount of money from the county party. Much of the money had come from Gonzalez’s political action committee, a move derided as a legal form of “money laundering” by one critic. Fletcher would go on to win the race and he now assumes the seat.
Campaign finance disclosures for the first half of 2019 showed Diaz trailing both Gaspar and Lawson-Remer in money raised when accounting for money spent by independent expenditure groups. So far, the combination of the independent expenditure funds supporting Lawson-Remer and her campaign’s own fundraising efforts have pieced together $265,869 in donations, while Diaz has raised $97,299 and Gaspar has raised $129,165. Lawson-Remer has secured endorsements from both the SEIU Local 221 and Laborers Union 89 unions, both of which can now give unlimited amounts of money to her campaign through their independent expenditure funds.
Still, Diaz saw the big picture as a positive looking forward.
“Although the San Diego County Democratic Party has formally rated both democratic candidates for County Board of Supervisors District 3 qualified, I’m proud that by a 2:1 margin — I was the preferred candidate of the North area to represent D3,” said Diaz after the vote. “As a public servant in North County for the past 10 years, I’ve established a reputation for being direct and hard working. The voters in District 3 will realize that my commitment, experience, and character make me the best candidate for County Board of Supervisors.”
Lawson-Remer, for her part, said she looks forward to the next stage of the campaign.
“I am honored to have earned the support of the Democratic Party, and looking forward to organizing the community to flip San Diego County from red to blue,” she said.