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Election 2020: 76th State Assembly District

REGION — In the race to represent the 76th Assembly District, Democratic incumbent Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner Horvath (D-Encinitas) will face-off against Republican challenger Melanie Burkholder, of Carlsbad, offering voters opposing viewpoints on a number of issues.

There are roughly 470,000 residents and 270,000 registered voters in the District, ranging from Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton to Carlsbad, Encinitas, Oceanside and Vista.

Boerner Horvath
The first Democrat elected to the 76th District seat in nearly 40 years, Boerner Horvath has served in office since 2018, previously holding positions on the Encinitas City Council and Planning Commission.

A third-generation Encinitan, mother and businesswoman, Boerner Horvath believes her belief and long-standing connections to the district make her the ideal candidate for the job.

“I share the values of our district and I think that’s really important,” Boerner Horvath said to the Coast News. “I am the effective leader we need on sustainability, opportunity, equality and equity issues, delivering results, protecting public health and our economy. I’d be honored to earn their vote.”

Boerner Horvath believes issues facing residents are largely interconnected, highlighting her recent efforts to preserve San Onofre State Beach in authoring AB 1426; reducing unemployment with AB 1731, which discourages employers from firing staff by reducing employee hours and compensating employees with federal unemployment, not state funds.

“Not only do I represent the values of my constituents, but I can be successful,” Boerner Horvath said.

During a year of unprecedented change and uncertainty due to the coronavirus, protests sparked by decisions in Sacramento have illustrated a growing frustration among residents and a fear of misrepresentation.

Through this, Boerner Horvath is proud of her representation of the 76th District, citing her fight to keep funding for schools, personal protective equipment and public health in the state budget, established citizen advisory committees and her commitment to bipartisan cooperation.

“We govern best when we work together on solutions,” Boerner Horvath said, citing her work co-authoring a bi-partisan bill strengthening California’s fish hatcheries in addition to her legislation protecting sexual assault victims and witnesses.

However, according to Burkholder, Sacramento is out of touch with local needs.

“What’s missing right now in Sacramento is a balance of power,” Burkholder told The Coast News.

State Assembly Democrats currently hold a majority with 61 seats, with Republicans (17) and Independents (1) holding the remaining 18 seats.

A Carlsbad resident and “proud wife and mother,” Burkholder owns and operates a mental health counseling practice, holding a doctorate in clinical Christian counseling and serving as a Secret Service agent for six years prior.

“I am running to serve my constituents; to protect our freedom to work; to preserve the middle class and lead us to a brighter future,” Burkholder said.

Burkholder sees her conservative beliefs in better alignment with residents, opposing excessive statewide spending and supporting local control of education and business initiatives.

“Sacramento has a spending problem and it’s getting worse,” Burkholder said. “I’ll propose a tax cut for working families and demand accountability of how our money is spent, focusing on teaching students and not on political indoctrination.”

Burkholder also considers environmental conservation and issues such as fire prevention, public safety, and coastal erosion important, but she believes the current method of funding change with taxpayer dollars isn’t necessarily the correct choice.

“My answer is to hold folks accountable,” Burkholder said. “The answer isn’t always putting more money into something but instead looking at the issue critically. Needs have to be independently assessed by each district and city and that’s the missing piece in Sacramento.”

Additionally, in regards to relationships with police unions, campaign donations and civil rights groups, the race for the 76th District seat is particularly unique.

Boerner Horvath is currently endorsed by both San Diego and Carlsbad Police Officers associations while simultaneously supporting civil rights groups, speaking at a Black Lives Matter rally for Encinitas 4 Equality in June.

In June, the San Diego County Democratic Party asked all candidates to refuse donations from law enforcement unions. Despite the party’s mandate, Boerner Horvath had already received several large campaign donations from police unions during the course of her 2020 campaign, something she does not view as an issue.

“I value our law enforcement unions and I value our social justice organizations,” Boerner Horvath said. “It’s not mutually exclusive. When we come together to talk about what’s working and what’s not working, we can find real solutions to problems for everyone.”

Burkholder, a former federal law enforcement agent, received an endorsement from the Oceanside Police Officers’ Association and but no campaign donations.

“I have put on a badge and I have protected people before so I understand,” Burkholder said. “I tell these folks I am there for you, however, their endorsements already seemed lined up in the primaries. If elected, they would realize how I can help them.”

Both candidates openly support an increase in de-escalation training for law enforcement, with Boerner Horvath voting in favor of a bill requiring an increase in de-escalation protocols statewide in January.