Inside Oceanside: Will new supervisor be an ‘Oceansider’?

The County of San Diego is divided into five districts. In the northernmost 5th district, Oceanside is by far the largest city. 

So it should be no surprise that we have sent two of our own to serve as our county supervisors over the last 45 years.

Mayor Jim Wood just announced that he would run to unseat Bill Horn as the county supervisor for the district.

Insiders and handicappers are weighing in about whether Wood, the ex-cop, can unseat Horn who is about to start his 20th year as supervisor for the district.

Bill Craven was a retired Marine who had served 12 years on the Oceanside planning commission when he was elected as supervisor in 1970. That segued to a decades-long career as our state assemblyman and state senator.

The next Oceansider elected supervisor was John MacDonald, a former teacher at the Oceanside-Carlsbad junior College, who became president of MiraCosta when it opened in 1963.

After running MiraCosta for 20 years, MacDonald served a term as Oceanside City Councilman and then was elected supervisor in 1986 and again in 1990. He retired from politics in 1994 and Horn has been there ever since.

Will Wood become the third Oceansider to represent this sprawling district that also includes Carlsbad, Vista, Rancho Santa Fe and San Marcos? It stretches all the way east and includes Warner Springs and Borrego Springs.

Wood is popular. He beat back a mayoral challenge from Jerry Kern last year by a margin of almost two-to-one. Since he represents the largest city in the district, that automatic base of support could certainly help.

Horn is vulnerable. He beat back challenger Vista City Councilman Steve Gronke in 2010. But Gronke just didn’t bring the juice to topple the well-entrenched Horn.

Gronke was underfunded and just didn’t have a high enough profile within the district. But the point is, Horn was an incumbent and a candidate as weak as Gronke forced him into a runoff.

And according to Voice of San Diego, Horn was caught trying to pass on an inaccurate statement. The online news service did a fact check in 2011 after Horn claimed on several occasions that he went to jail for participating in a civil rights protest and had worked for activist Ralph Abernathy. The Voice of San Diego found that Horn didn’t actually go to jail, though he may have been detained by police while protesting as a student at San Diego State, and they couldn’t find any credible evidence that Horn worked for Abernathy.

The most obvious challenge for Wood will be money. Bill Horn has a lot of it and has the ability to get a lot more. He knows how to grease and how to get greased. Mayor Wood would have to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to campaign as an effective challenger in areas he certainly would have less automatic name recognition in than Horn.

Keep in mind voters care more about bigger races or elections that impact their own city more than they do the county board of supervisors. Mere name recognition means a lot in this race.
And what about endorsements? Will Vista Mayor Judy Ritter or Carlsbad’s Matt Hall dare buck incumbent Horn?

Raising cash is vital. And it may be the deal breaker here. But Jim Wood is immensely more likable and has a lot less baggage than Horn. The question is, can Wood connect with 600,000 in this sprawling 1,800-square-mile district as well as he has with the 175,000 in Oceanside?

I don’t know. But I do know that like Bill Craven and John MacDonald, Jim Wood has never lost an election. Jim Wood kicked incumbent Mayor Terry Johnson out of office and he has also snuffed Jerry Kern and state Assemblyman Rocky Chavez at the voting booth. Do not short change Jim Wood.

Oceanside born and raised, Ken Leighton writes columns for The Coast News, the San Diego Reader and is an Oceanside business owner. He may be reached at


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