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North County votes for new San Marcos mayor, opposes Props T and E

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In an election year complicated with two similar sounding propositions, misleading mailers and heated debates over issues like illegal immigration and the strawberry fields, close races and major upsets came as little surprise.

The majority of voters told Tri-City Healthcare District for a second time they approve of a proposed bond to expand Tri-City Medical Center in Oceanside and upgrade its earthquake status, but the 40,286 “yes” votes weren’t enough for the measure to pass. Proposition T required a two-thirds vote to pass, and it was just shy by a little more than 2 percent of the vote.

The $596 million bond measure was a revised version of Proposition F, which was defeated in June after it received 65.9 percent approval, short of the required 66.7 percent.

“Speaking for the medical staff, I think we’re surprised and disappointed that basically a minority of voters are preventing us from voting on the community’s hospital,” said Tri-City campaign spokesman Dr. Richard Burruss. “It’s not a matter of just making it earthquake safe, it’s a matter of making it safe for a growing North County community.”

Tri-City Healthcare District Chairman Larry Schallock said the district plans to poll voters to determine the reasoning behind their choices. Then, he said, the district will take the measure back to voters.

“Once we get the data and can do preliminary analysis we may decide on a more extensive study,” said Dr. Art Gonzalez, president and chief executive officer of Tri-City Medical Center.He said the district could spend as much as $18,000 for the research.

Just before the election, a campaign mailer supporting Proposition T drew criticism for associating health care with illegal immigration, alluding to emergency room overcrowding by illegal immigrants. However, hospitals are prohibited from questioning patients about their immigration status.

The mailer, produced by Citizens for Tri-City -- Yes on T, featured a photograph of a doctor holding eyeglasses next to the heading: “The Emergency Room & Illegal Immigration."

In Carlsbad, a mailer sent out by proponents of Proposition E just weeks before the election caused even more confusion over dueling, similarly titled propositions to protect agricultural lands that line Cannon Road east of Interstate 5.

Voters narrowly approved the city’s proposition, Proposition D, to save the fields as open space, over Proposition E, the citizens’ initiative to preserve the land as agricultural.

Proposition D produced a 50.9 percent “yes” vote and a 49.1 percent “no” vote. A narrow majority of voters voted “no” on Proposition E.

The debate over the agricultural fields also factored into candidate races.

William Griffith and Glenn Bernard, were hoping to win the seat of incumbent Claude “Bud” Lewis, but did not prevail.

In the City Council race, incumbents Matt Hall and Mark Packard were re-elected, eliminating Roland Chicas and two organizers of Proposition E: Ronald Alvarez and Dustin Johnston.

But not all cities witnessed their incumbents prevail.

In San Marcos, a mayoral race that pitted a 13-year mayoral incumbent against a City Council man proved to be a major upset.

In what would have been San Marcos Mayor F.H. “Corky” Smith’s fourth and final term, challenger Jim Desmond, a city councilman and Delta Air Lines pilot, prevailed by a four percent margin of votes.

“I feel kind of relieved,” Smith said Wednesday afternoon. “ It’s over, 27 years is over, and I don’t have to fight battles anymore.”

Smith said he’d have the opportunity now to spend more time with his wife.

During the elections, Desmond called for younger leadership, controlled growth for the rapidly expanding city and an annual summit with Cal State San Marcos, Palomar College and others.

“San Marcos has changed quite a bit in the last 10 years; there’s a lot of newer, younger families and I think that demographic voted and elected me to represent them,” Desmond said Wednesday afternoon from his office.

Besides his immediate goal of cleaning up campaign signs, Desmond said he’s looking forward to opening up dialogue between the city, Cal State San Marcos, Palomar College and possibly others during his term.

“One of things we haven’t done as a council is set annual goals or priorities -- that’s one of the things I’d like to do,” he said.

In another incumbent upset, Mike Preston narrowly lost to planning commissioner Chris Orlando by a 28.3 to 27.2 percent vote.

And Desmond’s appointment, which becomes active in January, creates a vacancy on the City Council that will require either an appointment by Council members or a special election. Desmond said he is discussing the issue with the city manager and attorney.

In other San Marcos news, two propositions produced opposite results in the Nov. 7 election.

Proposition K, a salary-increase ballot measure that aimed to bump the mayor and city councilmembers’ salaries from $886 a month to $1,500, failed to get the voters’ approval.

“I think it was too much at one time,” Smith said. City Council members automatically receive an annual 5 percent salary increase, and voters must approve anything over that amount.

Proposition M, a $694 million bond that called for the expansion and renovation of Palomar College, passed by the needed 55 percent majority vote.

Send your comments and thoughts to heather.chambers@sddt.com

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