REGION — Campaign finance disclosure forms from the second half of 2019 through Jan. 18 show Republican incumbent Kristin Gaspar and Democratic challenger Terra Lawson-Remer leading the way in fundraising for the San Diego Board of Supervisors District 3 primary race. The race’s final outcome will tip the balance of the board to either a 3-2 Democratic Party majority or vice versa, with both parties declaring the seat a top 2020 election cycle priority.
With the March 3 primary on the horizon, the documents show that Gaspar raised $253,993 during that period and has $301,661 cash-on-hand after expenditures. Lawson-Remer raised $135,729 during the time slot and has about $156,768 cash-on-hand after expenditures.
Lawson-Remer’s campaign was also bolstered by $293,000 in independent expenditure money from external labor union-funded political action committees, led in the forefront by Laborers’ International Union of North American Local 89 and Service Employees International Union Local 221, during the time period. In total, the labor independent expenditure group called Friends of Terra Lawson-Remer for the San Diego County Board of Supervisors District 3 2020 has $377,809 in cash-on-hand as of the Jan. 1 to Jan. 18 disclosure period, with a total of $534,509 money in the bank between the independent expenditure and her campaign for Lawson-Remer.
Fellow Democratic Party challenger Olga Diaz did not make her disclosure documents available to The Coast News, with the submission deadline set for Jan. 31. But according to a disclosure for the Jan. 1 to Jan. 18 time period, the Diaz campaign has about $98,000 cash-on-hand. Lawson-Remer made the documents available to The Coast News, though her campaign has yet to submit them to the San Diego County Registrar of Voters. At publishing time, Gaspar was the only candidate who had electronically submitted her disclosure to the county.
The Gaspar campaign received $45,875 in campaign contributions from individuals who work in the real estate sector, or adjacent to it in the legal field, during the time period. She received an average of $417.48 per contribution and got 147 maximum allowable $850 contributions.
Lawson-Remer, by contrast, received $6,350 from individuals who work in the real estate sector. Her campaign received an average of $285.14 per contribution and got 54 maximum allowable contributions.
Likely to get through the officially nonpartisan three-way primary race and advance to the general election, Gaspar supporters have yet to create any independent expenditure accounts. But her campaign manager, Jason Roe, slammed the role of unions in the race.
“Voters should be very concerned about the SEIU efforts to take over the Board of Supervisors,” Roe told The Coast News. “The county is one of the best-managed in the nation and union bosses are expected to invest over $1 million to win this seat and take control.”
Many anticipate the creation of multiple business sector-funded independent expenditure vehicles during the general election cycle in support of Gaspar. Lawson-Remer called Gaspar the candidate of “special interests” in response to the latest disclosures.
“I am not surprised by Gaspar’s fundraising supporters,” she told The Coast News. “Of course she’s in the pocket of the special interests that undermine our quality of life. That’s exactly why I’m running to flip San Diego from red to blue and fight the dystopian Trump agenda right here in our community.”
Lawson-Remer also responded to the labor union critique, which has now become a regular part of Gaspar’s stump speeches.
“I am proud to have earned the support of more than 300,000 hardworking men and women across San Diego County,” she said. “County workers are park rangers, environmental inspectors, nurses and social workers. They are the backbone of our community, dedicated to public service. It’s an honor to have their confidence that I will support them to do their jobs serving all of us.”
SEIU also offered a response to Roe’s comments.
“Her attempts to divide hardworking county employees from the communities they live in and serve are straight from the President Trump and Fox News playbook,” said David Garcias, president of SEIU Local 221. “Her attacks on immigrants, opposition to the state climate action plan and developer-driven agenda earned her two invitations to visit President Trump at the White House but are out of step with her own constituents who she is supposed to be representing.”
For its part, the Gaspar campaign beat back against Lawson-Remer and SEIU tying her to Trump. In a campaign mailer distributed this week by the Lawson-Remer campaign, she said “supports Trump and his policies 100%.”
“Kristin has spent her first term focused on effective ways to deal with the most important issues facing the region: homelessness, housing affordability, public safety, and our infrastructure,” Roe said in response to the mailer. “While the other candidates are focused on litigating the partisan battles in Washington, D.C., Kristin is doing the job she was elected to do.”
Two other independent expenditure groups have shown signs of life, as well, according to disclosure forms.
One of them, Communities for Progress Supporting Olga Diaz for County Supervisor 2020 backed by the San Diegans Against Crime PAC, announced its endorsement of Diaz on Dec. 9. On Jan. 27, the independent expenditure backed by the San Diego Deputy District Attorneys Association received its first contribution, a $10,000 payment. In the past, the group has endorsed Republican Supervisor candidates Jim Desmond, Bonnie Dumanis, Greg Cox and Dianne Jacob.
In recent years, county prosecutors have become a major national focus for criminal justice reform advocates across party lines for the role those groups say district attorneys play in creating mass incarceration. The San Diego County District Attorney race in 2018, as a case in point, garnered national attention and major campaign dollars. Roe — formerly an ally of Diaz — worked as the campaign director for the victor of that race, San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan, a candidate also endorsed by San Diegans Against Crime.
Both Lawson-Remer and her mother Shari Remer donated $500 respectively to Chesa Boudin, according to campaign finance disclosure forms. Boudin was a public defender who became District Attorney of San Francisco after winning the November 2019 election. Boudin’s campaign drew national attention for bucking the trend against the predominant “tough on crime” criminal justice approach.
Another of them, Build Bridges, Not Walls: Opposing Republican Kristin Gaspar for Supervisor 2020 — funded by United Domestic Workers of America Independent Expenditure PAC, SEIU Local 221 Independent Expenditure PAC and SEIU United Healthcare Workers West PAC —raised $185,000 during the second half of 2019 and had $200,122 cash-on-hand as of Jan. 18. The independent expenditure group has spent $75,000 in digital ads and $31,000 on polling as part of its expenditures on the race, according to a Jan. 27 disclosure form, with $125,532 left in the account as a Jan. 28 disclosure.
Editors Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Bonnie Dumanis as a Republican Supervisor. An earlier version of the story also incorrectly stated that the Lawson-Remer campaign donated $100 to Chesa Boudin. The Coast News regrets the errors.
Steve Horn is a San Diego, CA-based reporter covering Escondido and San Marcos. He works in a full-time capacity for The Real News Network, an online broadcast news outlet, covering climate change. He has worked as a staff investigative reporter for the publications Prison Legal News and Criminal Legal News and as an investigative reporter for the climate news website DeSmog.com. Contact Steve at email@example.com.