EDITOR’S NOTE: The Coast News will publish an article regarding the District 3 candidates next week.
OCEANSIDE — As summer begins, candidates for City Council’s new third and fourth districts prepare their campaigns for fundraising and listening to constituents about what they want for the city.
In 2017, Council adopted a resolution that would change councilmember elections from at-large to requiring councilmembers to live in the district where they seek election. The mayor’s seat will continue to be elected at-large.
Four districts were established, simply named Districts 1-4. Elections for Districts 1 and 2 were held in 2018 and those seats were filled by incumbent councilmember Esther Sanchez for District 1 and then-newcomer Christopher Rodriguez for District 2.
District 4 is the home of El Corazon park, the Mission San Luis Rey and El Camino High School. It borders all three of the other districts, stretching from the physical center of the city to its eastern border with Vista.
There are four candidates currently running for the District 4 seat. One of those candidates is the current mayor of Oceanside, Peter Weiss.
Weiss had already decided not to run for mayor after seeing the number of other candidates vying for the spot. Still, he wanted to keep the city on track to becoming a better place for businesses to invest.
“Over the last few years the city has been on a positive trend and the reason for that is this particular council,” Weiss said. “What we’ve created is a positive investment environment and I don’t want us to lose that momentum.”
Prior to his announcement, he saw who the two other candidates were — Michelle Gomez and Jane Marshall — it solidified his decision to run.
“I felt that it would let the city down had I not decided to run,” Weiss said.
Weiss has been the current mayor for more than two years. Prior to that, he was the city manager for seven years and a city engineer before that.
According to Weiss, one of the city’s biggest current problems is paving streets. He noted earlier in June the Council passed a $4.6 million contract, partially funded by Measure X funds, to ATP General Engineering Contractors of San Diego for the city’s annual street paving projects.
Jane Marshall has spent the last 30 years that she has lived in Oceanside volunteering her time throughout the city. She is president of the Oceanside Coastal Neighborhood Association and is also involved in the Oceanside Kitchen Collaborative, which is currently making about 1,000 meals per day to distribute throughout the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Marshall refers to herself as a community activist. She frequents City Council meetings and has a hand in the creation of the Climate Action Plan and the Local Coastal Program plan.
Her main focus is on improving housing development plans in the city.
“My observation is the current Council majority does not seem to look at a balanced approach to housing development,” Marshall said.
According to Marshall, the current Council is “too heavily influenced by developers” and feels the Council is taking the city in the direction of more traffic hazards, congestion and evacuation nightmares. She wants to fix all of those issues before a disaster strikes.
“That’s one of the main reasons I’m running,” she said.
Marshall is also concerned about a “lack of continued transparency” from the City Council. She takes issue with how the Council is currently handling comments from the public during the COVID-19 shutdown, which has moved the Council meeting to a virtual setting and bars the public from City Hall.
“You can write in comments and they will be reviewed as requested, but it’s like the decision has already been made,” Marshall said.
Marshall “loves citizen involvement” and believes there is a need for in-present, public influence at Council meetings.
Michelle Gomez realized her love for local politics after her run for county supervisor in 2018.
“We have the ability to make the most impactful change for our community members,” Gomez said.
Though the Democrat was beaten by her opponent, Republican Jim Desmond, she was left feeling hopeful after securing 44% of the vote.
Gomez said she has spent her life trying to fight human trafficking, homelessness and elder abuse. She formerly served as a commissioner on the County Commission on the Status of Women and Girls, where she worked on bringing awareness to domestic violence, elder abuse and human trafficking.
Gomez also chaired the city’s ad-hoc committee on homelessness, which she wants to make a standing committee on its own.
“We really need to focus on regional solutions to fighting homelessness,” Gomez said. “We face a crisis from the (San Luis Rey) river to downtown that we can no longer ignore.”
She also wants to focus on public safety, particularly when safeguarding the community from wildfires.
“We need to be more aggressive with brush management, smart growth, planning and working with our firefighters,” she said. “We need to address staffing shortages, our competitive wages and our response times.”
Recently, some of Gomez’s former employees from her 2018 supervisor campaign have alleged that the Council candidate owes them money.
One of those allegations came from Gary Gartner, a San Diego consultant who believes he is owed close to $2,500 for his work as a campaign strategist and fundraiser.
Gartner said Gomez ended her agreement with Gartner, who was supposed to get 15% of whatever money he helped her campaign raise, days before she would receive money from a cannabis industry fundraiser for pro-cannabis candidates in the county. Gartner said he attended meetings with her regarding the fundraiser as a consultant, which helped her credibility.
Gomez explained that the fundraiser wasn’t for her campaign.
The Association of Cannabis Professionals Political Action Committee (ACP PAC) held the fundraiser to support pro-cannabis candidates and measures and invited Gomez and then-supervisor candidate Nathan Fletcher as guest speakers. PACs cannot directly give money to candidates due to campaign finance laws.
Dallin Young, who was president of the ACP PAC at the time, wrote a letter refuting Gartner’s allegations.
“Fortunately for all those involved, Mr. Gartner had no part whatsoever in the planning, organizing, day of execution, or any aspect of said fundraiser and I am unaware of a single individual that attended due to an invitation from Mr. Gartner,” Young wrote in his letter.
Gartner also noted Gomez’s campaign paid her husband $15,000 while he and others were shorted.
Gomez explained that her husband was contracted as her campaign manager and that the couple had already contributed $16,450 to the campaign so that he could be paid.
“There was no financial gain whatsoever,” she said. “We lost money.”
Gomez said everybody who worked for her supervisor campaign “has been paid in full.”
According to Gomez, the accusations against her are politically motivated, a characteristic of divisiveness that is already plaguing City Council.
Morgan McCray recently threw her name into the ring for the city’s District 4 seat. She had previously thought about running for office but had never gone through with it until now.
“I decided now was a good time to make a positive difference,” McCray said.
McCray, 26, said she wants to be a role model for millennials and other younger age groups by running for Council.
Since filing her candidacy paperwork in late May, McCray has been busy trying to listen to her fellow residents about what they want for the city if she is elected.
McCray’s primary platform focus is bringing more music, art and other cultural events to Oceanside. As a musician herself, she also wants to improve the city’s music industry.
McCray would like to see a music festival like Coachella or other big music events come to the city.
“The vision for me is to bring people together through art and music,” McCray said.
Other issues McCray would like to focus on include addressing the city’s homeless crisis with more life counseling opportunities and more connections to mental health assistance programs.
She also wants to implement a “positive, community outreach program” that would allow the police and the community to get to know one another better and ultimately improve interactions with the city police.
McCray also wants to set a budget aside for community cleanup of the city’s parks, sporting areas and the sides of freeways.
“It’s pretty dirty,” she said. “We can definitely put aside a budget for city cleanup.”