REGION — For several months, Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner Horvath appeared to be heading into her third term unopposed after Republican challenger Melanie Burkholder dropped out of the race in January.
But the Encinitas lawmaker is facing a new opponent in the race — business owner, entrepreneur and financial advisor, Dan Downey.
In an interview with The Coast News, Downey, who is from Point Loma, acknowledged that he’s a political outsider but argued the district needs a “new approach” to the office, something he brings with his unique background developed from his experiences in the business and investment world.
“My career has been in investments, recommending investments that are going to perform and being focused on the bottom line,” Downey said. “That’s something that could be brought to bear on the state in terms of how the state is run and being results-oriented. People are looking for solutions, and when you’re performing against a benchmark in finance, you tend to be results-oriented, and I’ve always gotten results in my career.”
Downey also firmly believes that he has a path to success against Boerner Horvath due to the significant demographic shakeups affected by redistricting.
“With redistricting, things have changed here with the people that she’s representing,” Downey said. “I mean, she hasn’t represented more than half of this new district before now, and that puts me on sort of an equal footing with her.”
Downey said that he began to think about running for political office as he became more involved and engaged with issues affecting San Diego and California as a whole, specifically homelessness, immigration and the state’s high cost of living.
“The number one issue we need to tackle in this state is the cost of living, and specifically, the highest taxes in California,” Downey said. “During this time with unprecedented inflation, it’s even more urgent to take a look at the level of taxation in this state…and then you can focus on the electric bills and fees” — all of which add up “to the highest cost of living in the country.”
“The second thing I’ve noticed in this district is our problem with homelessness,” Downey continued. “I’ve also lived in San Francisco and other cities that have a problem with homelessness, and I think that it has to do with a state that’s under one-party rule. We’ve seen how the Democrats are going to approach this issue. It’s time for a new approach.”
After breaking away from his previous investment firm to start his own financial advisory practice in San Diego, Downey said he was free to put his dream into action and represent the district he’s privileged to call home.
“I’m honestly really grateful for the opportunity to run,” Downey said. “San Diego is a great place in California, it’s balanced politically, there’s an interesting mix of people whether it’s the military presence or the biotech community or the tech industry, there’s travel and tourism here and it’s got the best weather in the country. People love living here, and we have an opportunity to have a voice in the legislature and do some incredible things for San Diego and for California.”
Boerner Horvath released the following statement regarding Downey’s entrance into the race.
“I applaud anyone who takes the initiative to seek public office and serve their community,” Boerner Horvath’s statement reads. “That said, my focus is on ensuring our campaign’s message reaches the voters of the 77th Assembly District.”
Boerner Horvath said her campaign will center around the issue of climate change, which she says is presently the most pressing policy matter facing district residents. She also touted her work on advancing such policies in the state legislature and pledged to continue to press for meaningful solutions on the issue.
“Climate change is a pressing challenge for our world, but its effects will be more keenly and quickly felt in coastal communities like ours in the 77th Assembly District,” Boerner Horvath said in a statement. “I have worked since my first year in the Assembly to advance policies that help move us away from fossil fuels, support the development of clean energy sources, create high-paying jobs in our communities, and build the distribution infrastructure necessary to sustain a clean energy future. As the Assemblymember for the 77th District, I would continue that work.
“In addition to the work I have done to address climate change, I was proud to help bring the fight to save Trestles to a successful conclusion by authoring legislation that permanently protects San Onofre State Beach and the land surrounding it. I have also created policies that advance gender equity in sports as well as our local boards and commissions, and helped pass laws protecting sexual assault survivors and witnesses to those crimes.”
Boerner Horvath has raised approximately $650,000 in campaign contributions and has been endorsed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, State Sen. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, and U.S. Rep. Scott Peters, among others.
In Assembly District 76, incumbent Assemblyman Brian Maienschein is facing off against two Republican challengers — June Yang Cutter, a business and employment attorney who ran unsuccessfully against Maienschein in 2020, and Kristie Bruce-Lane, an elected member of the Olivenhain Municipal Water District’s board and a nonprofit founder.
Bruce-Lane has raised approximately $200,000 so far and has secured endorsements from a plethora of state and local leaders including Congressman Darrell Issa (CA-50), State Sen. Brian Jones, and Supervisor Joel Anderson.
“As far as my campaign, I am actively meeting voters in our communities to understand what they care most about and the challenges they face,” Bruce-Lane said in a statement.
“I also continue to build up a strong base of support from elected officials, business owners and community leaders and I continue to fundraise. I am the best-prepared candidate, and the only candidate with experience working on the issues, that is running for the right reason — the genuine desire to serve the community. As an incumbent office-holder, and according to recent polling data, I am well-positioned to win the 76th District.”
Cutter has raised over $150,000 and has been endorsed by U.S. Reps. Michelle Steel (CA-48) and Young Kim (CA-39), as well as Assemblymembers Laurie Davies, Randy Voepel, and Marie Waldron, among others.
Bruce-Lane took aim at Cutter in comments made to The Coast News, accusing her of misleading voters and lying on ballot designation forms about her principal occupation.
Specifically, Bruce-Lane said that Cutter has ties to Highland-Illuminate, a nonprofit fundraising and event marketing company that supports GOP candidates in California.
She argued that Cutter’s ballot designation as “attorney” in forms filed with the Secretary of State’s Office is inaccurate, as she works primarily as a fundraiser for Highland-Illuminate, making her culpable of misrepresenting her employment status to voters.
“(Cutter’s) failure to be transparent and honest with the voters is troubling,” Bruce-Lane said. “She fails to state that her principal profession is as a fundraiser and not as an attorney as indicated on her ballot designation and her political website: junecutter.com. In addition, she has taken down her list of those candidates she is fundraising for from the business website: highland-illuminate.com. We need to ensure that we put forth the best possible candidate for AD76. June lost by double digits in 2020, lacks experience, transparency and honesty. Our communities deserve better.”
Cutter’s campaign consultant Aime Faucett dismissed the allegations.
“June’s ballot title is 100% accurate, she is a business owner as well as an attorney,” Faucett said. “June’s opponent spends a significant amount of time criticizing June’s record. Candidates only do that this early on in the race when they don’t have anything to talk about themselves. June is focusing on the issues in this district and focusing on her record and educating voters on that record, her experience, and why she is the best choice to represent them in Sacramento.”
Cutter meanwhile expressed that she’s going to be campaigning heavily on issues of excessive government regulation, lower taxes, and reducing the state’s high cost of living.
In particular, she’s calling for an end to California’s controversial gas tax. Last week, Maienschein voted against a resolution at the state assembly that would have temporarily suspended the gas tax–a vote that Cutter said was unacceptable given the high cost of gas in California.
“It is an outrage that Brian Maienschein continuously refuses to stand up for San Diego families who are overburdened by the high taxes that are impacting our gas prices,” Cutter said in a statement. Californians pay over a dollar more per gallon of gas compared to neighboring states – yet, California has record budget surpluses. The gas tax must be cut. In the Assembly, I will fight every day to lower taxes and ease the cost of living for all San Diegans.”
Bruce-Lane has also heavily criticized Maienschein, whom she has called the “poster boy for Sacramento dysfunction.”
“He’s the invisible Brian Maienschein, he’s not even present in his community,” Bruce-Lane said. “I’m visible in the community, people see me. (Maienschein) has voted for every policy that is driving our friends and neighbors out of the state. He’s failed miserably on public safety, he’s done nothing to address the growing homeless problem, yet supports a liberal agenda that raises the cost of living.”
Maienschein could not be reached for comment on this article despite numerous attempts to contact his campaign.
Laurie Davies (R-Laguna Niguel) leads the way in fundraising in the race for the 74th District, having garnered approximately $300,000 in contributions at this point in time, according to campaign manager Duane Dichiara. She’s been endorsed by the California Republican Party, Republican Party of Orange County, ATLAS PAC and Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, among other organizations.
Davies has also received the support of a slew of public officials including the current mayors of Laguna Niguel, Dana Point, Aliso Viejo, as well as by former U.S. Representative Mimi Walters.
As election season approaches, Dichiara said that Davies is increasingly focused on looking at policies to combat the state’s growing opioid epidemic, working on several bills in the state legislature to specifically address the issue of fentanyl overdoses.
One such bill that Davies is currently working on is Assembly Bill 1598 which would reform CA drug paraphernalia laws to allow the general public to purchase and be in possession of testing equipment meant to detect the presence of fentanyl and date rape drugs.
“She’s really been working hard with members of both parties helping pass legislation that helps the people of this district, specifically dealing with fentanyl, the heroin crisis etc., and spending time talking to the people of this district so that she knows what they need and that they know that they have a voice in Sacramento,” Dichiara said.
San Clemente Mayor Pro Tem Chris Duncan, a Democrat and former Homeland Security attorney, launched his campaign in January and has raised $70,000 so far. Some of the organizations and individuals endorsing Duncan include the California Democratic Party, California Young Democrats, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 569, along with state and federal leaders, such as Congressman Mike Levin (CA-49), State Sen. Josh Newman and Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner Horvath.
Duncan is the only candidate running against Davies currently, after fellow Democratic challenger Laurie Girand dropped out of the race in February.
Last month, the California Democratic Party held a Pre-Endorsement Conference where Duncan secured 80% of the vote from party leaders, the Orange County Register reported. While Girand says that she believes that polls had indicated that she was the strongest candidate in the race, she decided to bow out after realizing that she would not have the support of the state party.
While Duncan has yet to kickstart his own campaign fundraisers yet, he says that he’s confident in his chances to win the district, characterizing himself as the candidate more in touch with the on-the-ground needs and wants of AD-74 residents.
“I think that I reflect the voters in this district more than my opponent, I relate to them, their concerns, I’m one of them…I’m talking to people and seeing what they’re struggling with everyday, and that’s what resonates with people, I put policy over party every day of the week,” Duncan said.
“When it comes down to it, I think that we win this election on every count–we have the best policies, the best ideas–I understand the concerns of law enforcement, of parents, and my opponent has no experience in lot of these issues, she’s never really made any difference in Sacramento. I understand what parents have gone through with the pandemic and I understand better than Laurie the adjustments we need to make in our public safety system to make sure that there’s accountability and transparency, to make sure that we can trust our law enforcement, and that’ll be the difference in this race.”