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Supervisor's race up for grabs in North County

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If the direction of the money flowing in the past six months is any indicator of a likely voter trend, a race for a seat on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors could turn out as no other has in many years.

On Tuesday, county voters will decide who will next occupy two Board of Supervisors seats. The decision on a third seat, that of District 3, encompassing neighborhoods from La Jolla to Escondido, may not come that early, as a list of candidates may split the vote enough to require a November runoff, something of a rarity in the Board’s recent elections.

Adding to the uncommon potential, the District 3 seat, left without an incumbent since Republican Supervisor Pam Slater-Price decided not to seek another term in 2012, brings with it another rare possibility for the make-up of San Diego County government, as well as one guarantee.

The guarantee: San Diego County will for the first time since the mid-1990s see a new county supervisor.

The possibility: That new supervisor may be the county’s first Democrat elected to the county Board since the 12-year tenure of Leon Williams — which ended in 1994 — if constituents of Slater-Price follow her endorsement of Solana Beach Deputy Mayor Dave Roberts, a Democrat, to replace her.

Two Republican candidates, Steve Danon, chief of staff to North County Congressman Brian Bilbray, and Del Mar Mayor Carl Hilliard, join Roberts in creating District 3’s shortlist of contenders.

Tea party Republican Bryan Ziegler, senior deputy council for San Diego County, and Escondido’s Stephen Pate, a self-described transportation captain in the film production industry, are also on the ballot, but have run much smaller campaigns.

Slater-Price threw her support behind Roberts in March.

“I looked at all the different candidates,” Slater-Price said Friday.

Her conclusion was that based on the public records and experience of each candidate, and the non-partisan intent of the race, that Roberts was the best for her district, which she described as neither hard left nor hard right wing.

“I’m still a Republican,” she added. “I did not change.”

She pointed to his past experience as corporate vice president at Science Application International Corp. (NYSE: SAIC) as one of his best selling points, saying that the private sector business experience would benefit the county more than a lifetime politico. She also said Hilliard’s experience as an attorney could carry the same benefit.

The top three candidates’ campaign contributions may provide a glimpse into how fired up their supporters are, and though he’s well off the lead, Roberts is hanging in with his rival Republicans.

Roberts’ campaign has raised nearly $234,000 since Jan 1, according to its most recent campaign finance disclosure forms, filed May 24 and covering contributions made through May 19.

Hilliard's most recent disclosure forms, filed May 23, show his contributions to be in excess of $328,000 since Jan. 1. During the same time period, Danon has reported receiving $130,710 — including $5,000 in two late contributions, reported May 30.

Roberts has centered his campaign around his private sector and public service experience as a combination that will bring the region job growth. He’s also emphasized strengthening core public services. Hilliard plans to fight the state prison system’s re-alignment of prisoners from state prisons to county systems, a process he calls ”prisoner dumping,” if elected, and he’s touted the city of Del Mar’s Triple-A bond rating from Standard & Poor’s, its budget surplus and paid pension plan as an indicator of how he’ll promote fiscal responsibility in the county. Danon’s top issues are pension reform for county employees and job creation. He’s also called for the county to crack down on conflicts of interest and to create a county-wide fire authority.

Slater-price drew a comparison between her style of holding elected office to how she thinks Roberts' would be, describing the community-based and environmental approach she took while previously pushing for the development of Rancho Santa Fe and Forest Ranch.

“All of those developments have turned out really well because the developers understood that they had a partnership relationship with the community … That has been my style and it’s been a successful model,” Slater-Price said. “I think Dave (Roberts) will be the same way.”

A candidate must receive a minimum of 50 percent plus one to win the seat outright without a runoff, which hasn't happened in District 3 since Slater-Price was first elected to the seat in 1992.

Recent re-districting subtracted the La Jolla and Pacific Beach communities from District 3, while adding to it Black Mountain Ranch, Fairbanks Country Club, 4S Ranch, Mira Mesa and University City.

As of May 23, District 3 had a total of 304,716 registered voters — 116,120 Republicans and 94,545 Democrats. An additional 80,000-plus are registered with no party affiliation and 10,000 are registered American Independent, while the balance of registered voters is split among a few smaller parties.

The seats for Districts 1 and 2, currently occupied by Greg Cox and Dianne Jacob, will also be for the taking Tuesday. Unlike the District 3 match-up, however, the favored incumbents will face just a single challenger in each — San Diego Deputy City Attorney Brant Will versus Cox and East County archaeologist and local Cedar Fire hero Rudy Reyes in a re-match of the 2008 race against Jacob, which she handily won with 77 percent of the vote.

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