ESCONDIDO — Nine candidates are running for three seats on the Escondido City Council, meaning Districts 2, 3 and 4 could soon have new representatives who could cause a shift in the council’s political tone for at least the next two years.
Despite the council officially being a nonpartisan office, members’ political leanings and philosophies tend to play a part in the council’s agendas and voting patterns.
For eight years, the council had a conservative majority until two Democrats, Mayor Paul McNamara and Councilmember Consuelo Martinez, were elected in 2018, joining Democrat Olga Diaz.
The election could flip the council once again, or maintain a liberal majority. One way or the other, the new council will also be responsible for hiring a new city manager after City Manager Jeffrey Epp officially retired in July.
In District 2, three candidates are hoping to finish out the remaining two years of the term after Republican Councilmember John Masson died in March.
Democrat Vanessa Valenzuela, Republican Tina Inscoe and self-described nonpartisan Rick Paul are vying for Masson’s seat.
Valenzuela told The Coast News that her top priorities if elected are COVID-19 recovery for small businesses and finding solutions for the city’s impending roughly $200 million budget deficit.
“I’m invested in the community’s success,” Valenzuela said. “I want to leave an Escondido that my kids can thrive in, and I believe that I have the energy, the fresh ideas and fresh perspective that will be imperative to Escondido successfully moving forward.”
Republican Joe Garcia, Democrats Don Greene and Susan Reveles, and Dara Czerwonka are running for the council’s District 3 seat to replace Diaz, who opted to not to run again.
Greene, who is endorsed by Diaz, said he wants to bring financial stability to the city by fixing the budgeting process.
“We need to build more housing and stabilize our property tax stream,” Greene said. “We also need to attract new businesses to the city. One of the businesses that I’m very strongly in support of is the cannabis industry. … Opening up the cannabis industry would bring safe, reliable access to cannabis to a number of consumers in the area and bring in a large portion of sales tax generated into the city.”
Greene also said that, with more than half of the city’s population being Latino, he hopes to make City Hall more welcoming by having meeting agendas translated into Spanish and offering translation services at council meetings.
“I want to make sure that everyone in Escondido realizes that City Hall is their building. It should be open for them, they should not fear or have anxiety when they have to come to City Hall and do business. I want to make sure that everyone feels welcome there,” Greene said.
District 4 Republican Councilmember Mike Morasco is the only incumbent running for re-election and he faces Republican April Austin Pugh.
“He’s had 10 years of past, I want 10 years of present and future,” Pugh said of her opponent. “I’m not the status quo. I’m a small business owner, I’m a single mother, I know what it takes to survive. We need a clearer vision to move our city forward. We need to bring new people in and create that vision and move forward toward a healthier city.”