ENCINITAS — Freshman Encinitas Councilwoman Tasha Boerner Horvath announced Tuesday she is running for the California Assembly, challenging Rocky Chavez in the 76th District race.
Boerner Horvath, a Democrat, was elected to the Encinitas City Council in November 2016. In a prepared statement, she said that the Assembly district deserves a representative who can get things done in Sacramento.
“North County residents deserve an Assembly member who shares the value of our region and is able to cut through the bureaucracy in Sacramento in order to get things done for our communities,” Boerner Horvath said.
The 76th Assembly District includes Encinitas, Carlsbad, Vista, Oceanside, Camp Pendleton and portions of Fallbrook and Bonsall.
Boerner Horvath’s regional profile has risen rapidly among Democrats in recent months. In the last two weeks alone, she has appeared alongside two high-profile Democrats to lobby for the passage of Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher’s SANDAG reform proposal and to urge U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa to oppose the most recent Republican Affordable Care Act repeal effort.
Boerner Horvath announced her candidacy Oct. 3 and also unveiled a long list of high-profile Democratic party endorsements, including Gonzalez Fletcher, Assemblyman Todd Gloria, San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliot, San Diego City council members Barbara Bry, Chris Ward and David Alvarez, Carlsbad Councilwoman Cori Schumacher, Encinitas Councilman Joe Mosca and Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear.
Blakespear said she believes the city would benefit from having her council colleague represent their interests in Sacramento in the state Assembly.
“While I enjoy serving with Tasha and will miss her, I believe there are lots of great people who can be effectively locally,” Blakespear said in a statement. “The state legislature needs more people like Tasha and I applaud her initiative, ambition and willingness to jump in.”
Mosca, who also served on the Sierra Madre City Council in Los Angeles County before moving to Encinitas, echoed Blakespear’s sentiments.
“From my years of experience in local government, Tasha has accomplishment more in her time on the city council than most people do in an entire term,” he said. “She is tenacious, intelligent, hardworking, focused, collaborative, and results driven. She will bring with her to the State Assembly an understanding of how local government operates and the challenges that we face on a daily basis.”
Boerner Horvath’s opponent, the incumbent Chavez, won re-election in 2016 when he defeated fellow Republican Thomas Krouse by a 59.4 to a 40.6 percent margin as no Democratic challenger emerged.
Chavez, a former Oceanside City Councilman and retired U.S. Marine Corps colonel, hasn’t faced a Democrat in his three previous Assembly bids as Republicans have enjoyed relative control of the district in recent memory.
Boerner Horvath said she believes the district’s position within the hotly contested U.S. 49th Congressional District, where embattled incumbent Issa (R-Vista) is likely to face a stiff challenge from Democrats, will put the Assembly seat in play.
“I think I saw numbers in the summer where this district’s winnable,” Boerner Horvath said. “I think it’s not about the length of time planning it, I think it’s more about what does it mean to have someone that represents our values in Sacramento, and our values are about collaboration, protection of the environment and innovation, and I really don’t see we have a representative who is present in any of our districts who is championing that.
“Rocky’s not present and he’s not a collaborator,” Boerner Horvath continued. “He is toeing the Republican party line up there, and that is not helpful for our district.”
When asked how Boerner Horvath would overcome the popularity Chavez has with veterans — a major voting bloc within the district — Boerner Horvath said the district’s interests and issues are more than diverse than just veterans’ issues. She pointed to the recent movement by cities along the coast to consider breaking away from San Diego Gas & Electric by way of community choice aggregation, an issue that she said Chavez has been silent on.
“Veterans are very important and we need to do more for those people who risk their lives in defense of our freedoms,” she said. “And our district has more than just veterans’ issues going on. We have a very pro-environment district … and (he) hasn’t come out and says he supports community choice aggregation, and that is what the people in his district want and are doing and he’s not supporting us.
“There are many different issues that we have here and we need someone connected to the community who knows what we want and is able to carry that voice to Sacramento,” she said.
Some former and current elected officials – including two former supporters – however, expressed disappointment in Boerner Horvath’s decision to run for assembly less than a year into her four-year term on the council.
Lisa Shaffer, a former councilwoman who endorsed Boerner Horvath’s bid to replace her on the council after she announced she would not seek re-election, said she felt “betrayed” by Boerner Horvath’s decision to run for state office. Shaffer has endorsed Elizabeth Warren, who is one of two Democratic candidates already in the race. Michelle Cassel Gomez is the other.
“As someone who encouraged Tasha to run for City Council and who actively contributed to her campaign, I feel betrayed, and I believe other Encinitas voters will feel the same way,” Shaffer said. “We elected Tasha so that she would work for us on issues she championed … I did not expect her to use her council seat as a stepping stone to higher office before even completing her first year.”
Shaffer said she had hoped Boerner Horvath would complete her first term and gain experience on some of the region’s larger appointed boards, such as SANDAG or the North County Transit District, before deciding to pursue other positions.
“I sincerely hope she will reconsider her decision, throw her support to Liz, and continue working for the people of Encinitas, who elected her to represent them for the next three years,” Shaffer concluded in her statement.
Former Encinitas Councilwoman Teresa Barth also expressed disappointment in Boerner Horvath’s decision.
“While I consider public service a worthwhile career, I would have expected her to serve out her first term on the city council before pursuing higher office,” Barth said in an email. “The city of Encinitas needs stability durning this challenging time of district elections and the housing element update. Tasha should focus on the commitment she made to serving the people of Encinitas for a full four-year term before pursuing higher office.”
Current Councilman Tony Kranz also expressed surprise in the announcement, considering there are already two Democratic candidates in the race.
“”I’m not sure where she will find the time to do it all, but that’s her challenge, not mine,” Kranz said. “In my opinion, political ambition is best spread out over time and after accomplishing some of what you claimed were your goals when you asked voters to support you for the seat you have.”
Boerner Horvath sidestepped the criticism when asked for comment.
“I am proud of the list of local elected leaders who have already announced their support of my campaign, and I am excited about the campaign ahead,” Boerner Horvath said. “I understand that there is likely going to be more than one Democrat challenging Rocky Chavez next year, which I think is a positive thing. If the Democratic candidates can focus on running issue-oriented campaigns in the primary, it will improve our likelihood of success in the general election.”
The 44-year-old mother of two served on the Encinitas Planning Commission for a year before voters elected her, Blakespear, Mark Muir and Tony Kranz last fall. She rose to prominence in Encinitas after championing an effort to provide safe pedestrian access at Paul Ecke Central Elementary School.
Professionally, Boerner Horvath is a marketing and communications expert who, according to her bio, has worked as a consultant for nonprofits, global Fortune 500 companies, higher education institutions and international organizations.
Candidates can officially file for the June 5, 2018 primary election between Feb. 12 and March 9.