ENCINITAS — With less than 47,000 ballots to be counted countywide, The Coast News projects that Encinitas Councilman Joe Mosca will win election to the District 4 seat over Tony Brandenburg, former planning commissioner and longtime Olivenhain resident.
Mosca, as of Nov. 26, led Brandenburg by 193 votes — or about 2.5 percent — in what has proven to be the most bitterly contested race of the three city council seats up for grabs.
Mayor Catherine Blakespear and Planning Commissioner Jody Hubbard have already secured victories in the mayor and District 3 council race, respectively. Hubbard defeated longtime incumbent councilman Mark Muir.
Mosca, a former Sierra Madre councilman who was appointed to the Encinitas City Council in 2017, has never trailed in the race, though he has seen his lead vacillate between 2 and 4 percentage points as the registrar of voters continues to count absentee and provisional ballots.
Barring a significant shift in the next count, which will be released Nov. 30, Mosca will be elected his first full term on the dais.
Brandenburg was a late addition to the race, submitting his paperwork on the eve of the filing period deadline. He ran in 2016, finishing in fifth place out of five candidates for three spots in the city’s final at-large election.
But Brandenburg said during the election he felt confident because the new electoral district encompassed all of Olivenhain and a large portion of New Encinitas, where he felt he would have better name recognition than Mosca and his message would resonate better with the hyper-local electorate.
Brandenburg was fiercely opposed to the city’s latest attempt at adopting a housing element update, Measure U, and the city’s proposed overhaul of Coast Highway 101 in Leucadia, known as the Leucadia Streetscape. He campaigned on a platform of maintaining the city’s character without the two proposals, which he said would drastically alter that character.
The Deputy Sheriff’s Association and a political action committee called Public Safety Advocates buoyed Brandenburg’s campaign with in-kind contributions and mailers attacking Mosca’s support of the Leucadia Streetscape and his relatively short period of time living in Encinitas, referring to him in one ad as a carpetbagger.
Mosca, however, said he would campaign on the issues rather than attack Brandenburg. In an interview on election night, he said he believed the results at the time showed that voters were tired of the negative campaigning and wanted to hear what the candidates’ visions were for the city.
Mosca voted in support of the streetscape, but has expressed concern about the price tag, and he supported Measure U — which failed at the ballot box — because he believed it would get the city out of the lawsuits they face because of its scofflaw status.
Additionally, Mosca at candidate forums discussed his desire to complete recreational and equestrian trails in Olivenhain, as well as pledged to work with Olivenhain residents to address traffic issues along Rancho Santa Fe.
Brandenburg on election night had held out hope that the post-election count would swing the race in his favor, but that did not materialize.
Mosca’s victory also guarantees that the council will have at the very least a progressive supermajority, and will control the selection of outgoing Councilwoman Tasha Boerner Horvath’s replacement.
The council will have 60 days to decide whether it will appoint her replacement or host a special election, but with Blakespear and her allies winning re-election, they almost certainly will appoint a replacement.