CARLSBAD — The field for the 76th Assembly District seat has another challenger.
Melanie Burkholder, a Republican from Carlsbad, announced July 17 she will challenge incumbent Tasha Boerner Horvath (D-Encinitas). Burkholder is one of four candidates vying for the seat in 2020, joining Michael Murray (R-Oceanside) and Ray Pearson (R-Carlsbad).
Burkholder said the seat is for the taking and is promising to challenge Democrats, their spending and overreach, while tackling issues including homelessness, environmental protections and housing.
“How do we balance what’s coming out of Sacramento with what the people of the district want?” she asked. “It’s not balanced. It’s been run by Democrats for two decades. They have been passing legislation quickly and quietly with no opposition.”
Burkholder is a former decorated U.S. Secret Service field agent, who has since earned a doctorate degree in counseling. She now owns a consulting firm dedicated to mental health.
And while she took aim at established Democrats and progressives who are unwilling to even speak with a member of the opposite party, Burkholder said part of why she is running to work across the aisle and come up with more practical and logical solutions to some of the state’s biggest problems.
Burkholder said her professional background positions her to take on homelessness, mental health and drug addiction with a different perspective than what has been pushed through the legislature over the years.
“You can’t solve this problem in a vacuum,” she said of homelessness. “With my background and training, it’s a very good fit to address this issue.”
Although she has not been elected to office before — she withdrew from the 2016 Carlsbad City Council race and lost in 2018 for the District 1 seat on the Carlsbad Unified School District board of trustees — Burkholder said her work experience and ability to lead the city and school district to switch to nontoxic chemicals for landscape treatment shows her ability to help pass good policy.
Additionally, she worked with the district to address lead in the water by installing water filters on all campuses. Those issues and actions, she said, show what she can accomplish, but more importantly, why AD 76 is winnable.
“This is a very important district,” Burkholder said. “The numbers are in our favor, I believe. We need somebody who is going to be a fighter.”
As for another early entry, Burkholder said it is necessary for any candidate to do so in order to earn the San Diego County GOP endorsement, which then allows the party to contribute campaign contributions.
The race is expected to be a costly one for all the candidates, Burkholder said, noting she is aiming to raise $1 million. Horvath, meanwhile, raised more than $600,000 in her 2018 win over fellow democrat Elizabeth Warren, and will have a healthy war chest going into the 2020 race.
Paula Yokoyama, president of the Carlsbad Republican Women’s Federated, said Burkholder is a strong candidate, one the party can get behind, assuming she wins the endorsement of the county party. The group, though, will not endorse a candidate until after the March 2020 primary.
Yokoyama said one challenge will be countering outside political campaign donations from Democrat donors outside the county and state.
“The thing about Melanie … is she is young, a great background, very sophisticated, knows how things work and has a great view of Carlsbad and what we need to make better,” Yokoyama said.
Burkholder is married with two children. She graduated from University of Memphis in 1993 with a double major in psychology and sociology; earned a master’s degree there in counseling and educational psychology in 1997; and earned a doctorate in clinical Christian counseling from the International Institute of Christian Counselors in 2016.
She also volunteers with Friday Night Lights, Association of Former Agents of the USSS, Carlsbad Republican Women, California Women in Leadership, Agua Hedionda Lagoon, Lincoln Club, Reagan Club Donors Club San Diego GOP and is a graduate of the Carlsbad Citizen Academy and Leadership Institute.
Photo Caption: Carlsbad resident Melanie Burkholder announced on July 17 her plans to challenge for the 76th Assembly District Seat. Courtesy photo