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Mayor, two council seats up for grabs for local ballot

ESCONDIDO — Three different races and seven candidates will be on the ballot lines for Escondido residents for the forthcoming Nov. 6 election.

The heavyweight fight, in the eyes of most voters, will be the race between incumbent Mayor Sam Abed and his opponent, Paul MacNamara. But beyond the mayoral race, elections for both City Council District 1 and District 2 will also transpire.

In the mayoral race, Abed has cited that during his time at the helm he has both balanced the budget and induced economic development in the city, particularly in its downtown core. He has also championed the city’s posture toward undocumented immigrants, pointing to his own background as an immigrant from Lebanon in saying that those with a criminal background should face deportation. Thus, Abed has come out against the California Values Act — or SB 54 — known by many as the sanctuary state bill. Indeed, Abed attended a White House forum on the California bill and sat on a panel hosted by President Donald Trump on May 16.

MacNamara, meanwhile, has said throughout his campaign that the economic development in the city championed by Abed has come with a cost on two fronts.

One, that development has not done enough to trickle down and help regular, everyday city residents, he has maintained, saying it has mostly served to enrich the real estate development industry.

Two, MacNamara has ardently criticized Abed for voting to increase the maximum allowable campaign donation to $4,300, arguing it has had a corrupting influence on city civic affairs and is out of line with other inland North County cities such as San Marcos, which has a $250 limit and Vista, which has a $300 limit. He has also criticized the city for taking a position on the California Values Act, saying those are issues for the state and federal government, not the city.

Abed has out-fundraised MacNamara almost by a multiple of almost three, a fact he has championed. Yet MacNamara says that only serves to prove his point that Abed serves as a water carrier for special interests within the city’s business community and has pledged not to take any money from those factions.

For District 1, incumbent Ed Gallo will go toe-to-toe against Consuelo Martinez, who is running for office for her first time with this campaign.

Gallo has a platform similar to that of Abed, coming out for increased real estate development in the city. He has also come out in support of a balanced budget and supports tackling the city’s gang violence and graffiti issues. A resident of the city since 1973, Gallo has also stated that the city needs to prioritize homelessness and providing services to those living on its streets.

Martinez, who has lived in the city for 35 years, has emphasized affordable housing and making City Hall a less partisan and divisive atmosphere. Though she has never held an elected office, Martinez points to her experience in other quasi-governmental areas for Escondido, including serving as a Commissioner on the Escondido Community Services Commission and the Escondido Police Chief’s Community Advisory Team.

District 2 sits as a three-way race between the incumbent, John Masson and two female challengers, Vanessa Valenzuela and Nicole Downey.

Masson, who owns the real estate project management company Masson & Associates, also serves as the city’s deputy mayor. Like Abed and Gallo, he has come out in support of a balanced budget and more real estate development in the city. Due to his real estate industry full-time job, Masson has at times had as recuse himself from votes and discussions around projects in the city being proposed by his company. A 1982 graduate of Escondido High School and product of Escondido’s public school system, Masson has lived in the city for more than four decades.

His opponents, Valenzuela and Downey, are running similar platforms to one another in opposition to Masson.

Downey has run unsuccessfully for City Council before and this will be her second attempt at the seat. She has said that her top priority is tackling homelessness, an issue she says Masson has paid lip service to, but not taken strong enough action on. She has also called for more affordable housing development and like MacNamara, has criticized the raising of the maximum allowable campaign contribution for city elections.

Valenzuela, who also has not held elected office, has also sharply criticized Masson for the intersection of his business connections and city business.

“John Masson continues to accept maximum contributions from developers whom have projects being reviewed by the Council,” reads her campaign website. “My opponent’s private business as a civil engineer and professional relationships are often sources of conflicts of interest. Regular recusals and abstentions keep an elected official from being part of important discussions.”

Though she has not held an elected office, she has served on a quasi-governmental body, akin to Martinez. She served for six years as controller for the Rancho Santa Fe Association.

“The Rancho Santa Fe Association works cooperatively with the County of San Diego and functions very much like a city, complete with planning and building departments, parks and recreation, and is managed by an elected board of directors,” Valenzuela explains on her campaign website.