The three candidates for the District 3 seat on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors have raised, and loaned themselves, a total of nearly $300,000 in the first four months of this year, according to financial disclosure forms filed with the county of San Diego.
The contributions, received between Jan. 1 and April 23, were fairly evenly split between the three candidates – incumbent Dave Roberts and challengers Sam Abed, mayor of Escondido, and Kristin Gaspar, mayor of Encinitas.
Roberts, whose freshman term has been marred by allegations that he mistreated staffers – putting taxpayers on the hook for $310,000 in settlement costs – took in $77,655, of which $15,000 came from the San Diego County Democratic Party. He is the sole Democrat in the race.
Gaspar raised a total of $78,451 during the same period, and also loaned her campaign $50,000, for a total of $128,451. Of the money raised, $798 came in the form of non-monetary contributions.
And Abed collected $85,547 from January 1 through April 23, 2016, a figure reduced by a $10,000 payback on a $75,000 loan he made to his campaign last year. Also last year, he received $25,000 from the county Republican Party, the most allowed under a new county law.
But Gaspar has a big advantage in the fundraising game because her campaign also is being backed by a political action committee called Fair & Honest Leadership Supporting Kristin Gaspar, whose sponsor is the Lincoln Club and the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce. According to a filing, the pro-business PAC received a $75,000 contribution from the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce on April 26 and a $30,000 donation on March 9. Another donation of $10,000 was received March 1 from Job Creators for a Strong Economy
Roberts’ diverse roster of individual donors includes such familiar names as Sweetwater Union High School District Trustee Kevin Beisler, $200; National Asian American Coalition CEO Faith Bautista, $550; San Dieguito Union High School District Vice President Joyce Dalessandro, $200; Coast News publisher James Kydd, $1,000; San Diego County Sheriff’s Commander David Myers, $750; and Port Commissioner Robert Nelson, $500.
Roberts also received contributions from some of the beneficiaries of his Third District’s “community enhancement” grants, including the administrator for the California Ballet and the artistic director of the North Coast Repertory Theater, which Roberts in January recommended for a community enhancement grant of $24,000.
Roberts also received $100 each from former Encinitas Mayor Teresa Barth and her husband Don. Barth and Gaspar were frequently at odds when the two served together on the council.
Gaspar has the most individual contributions. Her campaign disclosure filing stretches 64 pages (compared with 59 pages for Roberts and 38 pages for Abed) and includes donations mostly ranging in size from $100 to $500 from North County dentists, optometrists, restaurant owners, real estate and engineering firm executives, and various small businesses ranging from the store manager of the Broadway Farmers Market to the owner of the Seaside Market in Cardiff. Some of her more prominent individual donors include Poway Mayor Steve Vaus, $250; Cisterra Partners CEO Steven Black, $750; and Rancho Santa Fe’s Jason Hughes, CEO of Hughes Marino, whose family has long been a player in San Diego politics.
Big donors to Abed include members of the real estate law firm Cox Castle Nicholson of Los Angeles, who gave a total of $4,150; three top executives from Lusardi Construction of San Marcos, who gave a total of $2,000; and Stone Brewing’s Steve Wagner and Gregory Cox ($1,500).
Abed’s campaign also received a total of $3,750 from partners and executives with New Urban West, which in March announced it is looking into buying and developing the site of the old Escondido Country Club. Last October, Escondido ended a long legal battle with a prior developer who bought the club and golf course, closed it down and planned to replace it with 600 homes. A citizens initiative prompted the city, with Abed’s support, to change the zoning on the land to open space, only to lose in court, with a judge ruling that such a zoning change amounted to an unconstitutional “taking” of private property. The settlement restores zoning to residential, on the condition that original developer Michael Schlesinger bow out and cut a deal with another developer to take over the project and ultimately buy the land. Homeowners were not happy with the settlement, with one, Mike Slater, president of the Escondido Country Club Homeowner’s Organization (ECCHO), telling the San Diego Union-Tribune, “Sam turned his back on the community and that will not bode well for him in his upcoming endeavors, particularly his campaign for the County Board of Supervisors.”
Abed’s financial disclosure forms also show payments of $70,707. The biggest payments went to Pacific Political, his campaign consultant, which received a total of $32,632, more than half of which ($17,996) went to for campaign literature. His campaign also spent $17,600 on a poll conducted by Probosky Research.
Gaspar spent $58,699.19, mostly on her two consultants, Golden State Consultants and Revolvis Consulting. She also spent $500 on advertising with the Seaside Courier. Of her total payments, $7,313.44 were for prior unpaid expenses.
Roberts spent a total of $48,190.36, including a $750 adjustment and $2,864.20 in accrued expenses. Most of his money, too, went to consultants, including Gartner Public Affairs. Principal Gary Gartner writes on his LinkedIn profile that he is “recognized as a leading strategist in California with extensive state and national experience as a legislative and public affairs specialist skilled in strategic and crisis communications, technology, advocacy and government relations, effective coalition building, public policy and legislative development, political campaigns, major donor fundraising and event planning.”
Thomas K. Arnold is a veteran San Diego journalist who throughout the 80s and 90s wrote for the San Diego County Edition of the Los Angeles Times, the San Diego Reader and San Diego Magazine. He has won numerous awards from the San Diego Press Club and the San Diego Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Arnold is currently publisher and editorial director of Home Media Magazine, a weekly trade publication serving the $20 billion home entertainment industry. He is a former City of Carlsbad planning commissioner, editorial editor and editorial writer for U-T San Diego, and columnist for U-T San Diego and the North County Times.