Roberts, Gaspar to face off for county supervisor seat


Incumbent Dave Roberts is set to face Encinitas Mayor Kristin Gaspar for county supervisor in a November runoff election, a race that puts two politicians with experience governing coastal cities against each other. Roberts finished first in Tuesday’s primary election with a modest lead over Gaspar in the Third District. Escondido Mayor Sam Abed trailed in third place and is out of the running.

Roberts, a former Solana Beach councilman and mayor, credits the relationships he’s built with communities and voters as the key to his success. Nearly every day, and sometimes multiple times, he would meet with his constituents at neighborhood meetings, ribbon cuttings, or ceremonies.

He used those interactions to not only introduce himself and make allies, but to listen to their concerns and talk about how the county serves their community, Roberts said.

“I think it helped tremendously,” Roberts, a Democrat, said. “I think it’s extremely important to be out and about.”

Roberts said these countless interactions gave him an understanding of the county and his constituents that Gaspar and Abed lack.

Gaspar, a Republican, said she gained a spot in the runoff because voters were upset about a costly scandal that involved Roberts’ office last year, and they found Abed, a firebrand conservative, too polemical for a moderate district looking for pragmatic representation on the Board of Supervisors.

“His approach and his demeanor, to me, was a defining factor. I think, also, if you take hard party lines, that can be something of a turnoff,” she said.

She believes voters considered her — a Republican mayor with an ethical image in a city with a Democratic majority— as a good choice.

“I think that’s where there is a real clear distinction between myself and Mayor Abed, it’s how we do our business,” Gaspar said.

Abed did not return a request for comment but in a Facebook post he blamed business organizations that supported Gaspar for his loss.

“This will only help Dave Roberts maintain a critical County seat in November. What a shame,” Abed wrote.

Gaspar said she will continue to press Roberts on a scandal that hurt his office last spring. Four of his staff members abruptly resigned and made a series of allegations against the supervisor, including a charge that he offered a subordinate a raise and promotion in exchange for misleading a county inquiry into his office.

Three filed formal complaints that the county later settled for $310,000. The District Attorney’s Office investigated but declined to press charges. Roberts said he did nothing wrong beyond making bad hires.

“There should be zero tolerance for elected officials behaving improperly while they are in office and we need to expect more from our leadership,” Gaspar said.

On policies, she said she’ll emphasize public safety. The county seems to be focused on short- and medium- term public safety projects, she said, adding that there needs to be more emphasis on long-term goals, particularly with fire safety. Roberts’ campaign manager Gary Gartner said he’s concerned that organizations that backed Gaspar in the primary will spend large amounts in the fall, making for a challenging race.

In the primary, a group funded by the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and the business-oriented Lincoln Club spent $108,865 for mailers and literature supporting Gaspar as of May 21. Despite the potential efforts from political organizations, Gartner said he thinks Roberts will do well.

“In 2012 he won by less than 2 percent and he had an avalanche of negative mail against him, too,” he said.

The Roberts campaign will focus on their candidate’s resume to try and show that Roberts is a supervisor who has delivered results to all corners of the district and that he can can build on his successes in a second term.

“This election, I believe, is about the voters and what the voters want and expect from a county supervisor, and I am going to continue to meet their needs. They want their quality of life protected,” Roberts said.

Republicans have a voter registration advantage with 38 percent of voters, while Democrats have 33.2 percent in the Third District. An additional 27.3 do not belong to any party. The district includes parts of the county’s central coast, a part of San Diego as well as inland cities.

Results are unofficial, but with all precincts from Tuesday’s primary election reporting, Roberts leads Gaspar 39.1 percent to 33.6 percent, while Abed is in third with 27.3 percent. There are still 285,000 mail in and provisional ballots across the county that need to be counted, but only a portion are within the Third District.

Joshua Stewart is a writer for the San Diego Union-Tribune.