Meet Chris Orlando, Hoping to Become San Marcos’ Next Mayor

Chris Orlando has been on the San Marcos City Council for 12 years, but that is not where he started his political career. His experience and knowledge have great breadth and depth as was discovered during his presentation to the club at the monthly meeting.

After acquiring a BA in political science from the University of California, Santa Barbara followed by an MBA from George Washington University, he began his career in Washington, DC working for Rep. John Dingell from Michigan, the longest serving member of Congress. He spent most of his time in DC working for Dick Gephart and then for the DCCC on various national campaigns. 

In 1998 he moved to San Diego, then on to San Marcos where he has lived for the last 16 years. The San Marcos City Council had been in place with many of the same members for years and Chris decided it was time for a change. The first time he ran he wasn’t successful, but he won the second, and subsequent times such that he has served the fully allowed term of 12 years and was unopposed in his last election. Now he’d like to be our Mayor!

His time on the city council provided more opportunities for him to fully understand the key issues impacting the city and also what is top of mind for residents: development, and the resulting impact on traffic and schools. He spent 6 years on the NCTD Board, helped pass a congestion ordinance requiring developers to donate to transit infrastructure and also served on SANDAG. “Every decision was made with what’s best for the city and its citizens,” he explained. 

He says he “takes a common sense approach to development.” He originally supported the Ridgeline development plan and supports more parks to preserve wildlife and habitats, but ever since the Ridgeline ordinance was passed he feels it hasn’t helped too much. He’s been fighting to maintain the right interpretation of it to no avail.

Chris has often been the only dissenting vote in most of the 4-1 votes taken by the Council, mainly because he feels strongly that residents input must be heard first and “that input taken to heart.” That often hasn’t happened. For example, he voted against several development projects because residents weren’t heard regarding impacts. “My candidacy is about the future of San Marcos from a resident’s perspective,” he said. It should be noted that his opponent, Rebecca Jones, has voted for every development project that came before the Council during her tenure.

So what ideas does Chris have to mitigate development impacts? First, he believes that new developments should “bring infrastructure with them and it should be put in place before the first home is occupied.” The biggest issue is Rt. 78, as people are using surface streets to avoid it. “Transit has not been on the minds of any of the Mayors in the 78 corridor,” Chris explained. “We need to do better there.” 

The “Regional coalition” that has been in place isn’t working well, according to Chris. He cited the current controversial Newland Sierra project as an example. This project will add 2,135 new homes and contribute almost 30,000 more cars to Twin Oaks Valley and Deer Springs roads plus add over 800 new students to the already overcrowded San Marcos and Escondido schools. “This project will really impact San Marcos’ traffic, schools, athletic leagues but we have no say in the project as it’s being processed by the County. I asked the San Marcos City Council to request a briefing and they wouldn’t do it.” As a result, Chris now feels that “we got it wrong” and need to rethink how to make San Marcos more livable and walkable.

Chris is only the second Democrat to serve on the city council. San Marcos has only had one Democratic Mayor in the last 53 years and that was only for two years. Republicans dominate all levels of government except for a few on the school board. “It doesn’t reflect the electorate,” Chris explained. And our “suburb” is becoming more purple recently. There now are only 1500 more registered Republicans than Democrats and only 1500 more No Party Preference voters than Democrats and the gap is closing. 

But Chris needs help. “The Republican establishment is strong and my opponent has already received lots of dollars especially from developers and is supported by the Lincoln Club.” Chris went on to explain that although he has worked well with and appreciates Jones, his opponent, she doesn’t realize that “not every development project is perfect. And if the developers view that someone is always going to say yes to every project they don’t work as hard to mitigate concerns.” Furthermore Chris went on to explain, “if she wins and her council seat becomes vacant, she likely will appoint a Republican to fill her seat giving Republicans the majority.”

Housing projects, shopping centers, traffic, school overcrowding – all issues of concern to Chris as both a resident and a politician. He is determined to work with residents to solve these problems, but he won’t be able to if he does not become our next Mayor. 

To read more about Chris and support his campaign you can check out his website. 

Dr. Carl Luna Discusses Our “Taxing Times”

Dr. Carl Luna gave a fast paced, detail rich talk at the May club meeting. He opened by proclaiming, “Funny thing about Trump, he does what he says he’s going to do, unlike most!” To make his point, Luna referenced the move of the Israeli Embassy, withdrawing from the Iran deal, and the tax cuts.

According to Luna, the “tax plan will have the expected impact, the 1% gets it all!” It has helped Republicans move the ball closer to their ultimate goal ever since Reagan, a flat tax.

But Luna, while giving detailed history of our tax structure over the last century and a half, focused even more on the intersection of taxes, economic equality and what he feels is a real threat to our Democracy. According to Luna, “The last time our Democracy was in this much trouble was in the 1930’s.”

Luna reviewed three key economic periods in our history. The first was the “laissez-faire” supply side economy (translation: just leave things alone) of the early 20th century that favored business. This period was characterized by fast industrialization through capitalism after the Civil War, along with an influx of immigrants. Around 1932, “Demand Side” Keynesian economics (1932-1980) took over with the idea that government steps in and creates demand through how it taxes. The goal was to prevent the rich from hiding their money by incentivizing them to invest it instead. World War II ended the depression, and everybody was employed. 

However, “stagflation” hit in the 1970’s characterized by a stagnant economy with rising inflation and high interest rates. People got back to work but wages didn’t keep pace. Then came Reagan’s “Supply Side II” where the “rich figure out how to NOT pay taxes.” During the 1980’s big tax cuts were implemented, top rates were cut but were accompanied by massive spending. “Trickle Down Economics” was born and the result was that while the rich got their cuts, everyone else got poorer. 

“Since Reagan,” Luna explained, “we continue to borrow money to give the rich tax cuts while wealthy people leverage government debt.” Obama and the 2008 recession made things more difficult. Wall St. became huge and was the single largest donor population. When the housing market failed and things started to spiral out of control, Wall St. got a $600 trillion bailout and no one went to jail. More money was pumped into the top while people just kept losing their homes. Now we have a real revenue problem.

“Thinking that the election will stop what’s going on now is magical thinking” according to Luna. “Simply trying to tweak a process that isn’t working is also magical thinking” Luna said. Supply side doesn’t work as well today due to globalization and the global exchange of money. Trump pulling the U.S. out of the global economy will devastate us. “Globalization is the world today,” Luna explained. Wealth concentration is a global phenomenon and the rich are getting richer faster. 

So what are some solutions? One thing happening behind the scenes is George Soros, Democratic donor, is funding District Attorney races around the country to try and right issues of social justice. Luna also said “we need a sustained dialogue on Constitution 2.0.” Getting money out of politics will help some, but “it’s like chicken soup – there are lots of ingredients.” 

And finally, “People movements are an important first step, along with voting for someone who will change the system. Winning is defined by sustained change.”

Ammar Campa-Najjar Describes “Flipping the 50th”

“For the first time in 40 years we have a team that can depose the Hunter dynasty!” So said Ammar Campa-Najjar as he spoke at the monthly meeting of the Lake San Marcos Democratic Club. 

Ammar Campa Najjar addresses club at the April, 2018 meeting

Ammar was invited to address the club as to how he, and all of us, can help “Flip Congress and the Republican Rule.” Things look bright for Democrats in November. We are only 24 seats away to take back the House. “We hold in our moral hands the chance to change history,” Ammar excitedly explained. He continued by describing the support he is receiving from all over the county, including big endorsements from unions. But he cautioned that Democrats can not take things for granted.

Seriously, Ammar explained the importance of the June primary, cautioning that we can’t just wait until the November election. (See our recent article on how the primary works and why its important.) The June primary is key as it will select the top two vote getters regardless of party to run against each other in the November election. Ammar is determined to be one of those top two. “I want to spare you that feeling you had on November 8th when Trump was elected” he said. And we are less than 24 days away from when the first mail ballot will be sent out. Given that 50% of voters will vote before the actual June 5th primary, there isn’t much time to spare.

Ammar played out what he called his “nightmare scenario” – two Republicans, Duncan Hunter and Bill Wells, making the top two and freezing out all Democrats. Not only would this eliminate chances for Democratic representation for CD 50, it would also hurt turnout for the November election and impact down ballot races. Participation favors Democrats so it’s extremely important that we all work hard to get out the vote on June 5th.

Moreover, there are approximately 100,000 eligible but unregistered voters in our District. Help is needed to get them registered and to the polls as well. 

You can help out in many ways, whether it’s phone banking, door knocking, envelope stuffing, talking to your neighbors, holding fund raisers/coffee gatherings, or simply donating. If you can help for even just a few hours between now and June 5th, please contact the campaign at https://www.campacampaign.com 

To see more details and demographics of our district see Ammar’s presentation below.

Ammar – 4-14-2018

What’s On My Ballot for the June Primary?

It’s been only seven weeks since 17 students were murdered at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, and only two weeks since the massive rallies were held around the world demanding more be done to take weapons of mass murder off the streets. Momentum is building in support of sensible gun control and the NRA for the first time in a generation or more is feeling the heat for their pro gun advocacy.

Meanwhile, the “top two” primary is approaching fast. Most voters wish to understand what they will be voting on and for whom long before the date of June 5th approaches. In just a little over one month, May 7th, mail ballots will be sent to those registered to vote by mail. It’s time to do our homework!

With the Parkland shooting still so much in the news and on our minds, it is of interest to understand not only who is on our ballot next month, but crucially where they stand on the issue of gun control. So first let’s review what’s on the ballot, then dive a bit deeper on a few candidates.

What’s on the Ballot:

Numerous statewide and county wide races will compete this June. Statewide races are subject to the “top two” primary format while the Countywide races are not. If any candidate in a county race wins 50% + 1 vote on June 5th they automatically are the winner and will not appear on the November ballot. 

To see the complete list including state party endorsements, please check the San Diego Democratic Party website at this location.

Below are a few of the races pertinent to our San Marcos community. The candidates listed are the Democrats in the race. An * indicates endorsement by the state Democratic Party. 

US Senate: Kevin DeLeon, Dianne Feinstein, Pat Harris (no endorsement)

Congressional District 50: Josh Butner, Ammar Campa-Najjar*, Patrick Malloy

State Senate District 38: Jeff Griffith*

Assembly District 75: Alan L. Geraci*

Assessor/Recorder Clerk: Matt Strabone
District Attorney: Geneviéve Jones-Wright

Sheriff: Dave Myers
Board of Supervisors District 4: Nathan Fletcher
, Ken Malbrough, Omar Passons, Lori Saldaña (currently Ron Roberts)

Board of Supervisors District 5: Jacqueline Arsivaud Benjamin, Michelle Gomez* (currently Bill Horn)

San Diego Superior Court: Matt Brower*, Tim Nader

Local elections for San Marcos City Council, San Marcos Unified School District, Palomar College and Palomar Health Boards do not occur until the November election.

Additionally five statewide ballot propositions all created by the legislature will appear on the June ballot. You can read up on the propositions here.  

Gun Control Positions

Since the positions most pertinent to addressing gun safety issues are the federal and state positions, let’s take a brief look at a few of those candidates’ position on gun control. 

While no candidate has been endorsed for US Senate, clearly Kevin DeLeon and Dianne Feinstein have the most name recognition. Sen. Feinstein’s gun control stance has long been well established. She was behind the now expired 1994 ban on assault weapons and in November, 2017 she and fellow Democrats introduced a new Assault Weapons Ban of 2017 that is stricter than the 1997 version. However it has little chance of success in a Republican controlled Congress. You can read details here but suffice it to say that she has had a strong gun control stance for decades. 

Senator Feinstein’s key opponent is Kevin De Leon. He too takes a strong position on gun control. According to his position statement on the issue, “In 2016, he led the charge to enact the most stringent gun control policies in a generation, including his groundbreaking SB 1235 requiring background checks for anyone who buys or sells ammunition.” It is not clear how the two differentiate themselves on the issue as both have very strong positions on banning assault weapons and improving background checks among other suggestions.

Unlike current CD50 representative Duncan Hunter who favors arming school teachers with guns and opposes anything that would restrict “second amendment rights”, his leading opponent, Ammar Campa-Najjar has a very different view. He supports sensible improvements to existing law such as lifting the ban on CDC research, addressing mental health issues, banning bump stocks and conversion kits, and mandatory universal background checks to name a few. He does caution that there can be unintended consequences with outright banning of assault weapons however, given the propensity for those types of purchases to shift underground and no longer be tracked.

At the state level, Alan Geraci supports the second amendment but also acknowledges that with that right comes great responsibility. He supports all that California has done to strengthen our gun safety laws. He says, “Assembly Bill 1135 and Senate Bill 880 now requires registration of assault weapons as defined in Penal Code section 30515.  I would add the requirement of 8 hours of gun biannual safety training and proof of liability insurance to the California Bureau of Firearms.  We require registration, insurance and trained/licensed citizens who own and drive motor vehicles in California. Firearms need to be treated with the same rigor and responsibility.” Suffice it to say that his opponent, incumbent Marie Waldron, has a 100% rating from the NRA.

Club Endorses Candidates for Congress and State Legislature

During this primary season it’s important to know who is running and what they stand for. Multiple candidates always wish to speak to our club and this year is no exception with so many vying for a spot in our June and November elections. This month the club invited candidates running for State Assembly District 75, Senate District 38 and Congressional District 50. Every candidate who attended had time to address the audience and answer two questions.

In the end the club voted to endorse Ammar Campa-Najjar for CD50, Alan Geraci for AD75 and Jeff Griffith for SD38.

Ammar Campa-Najjar, Congressional District 50

“If we can pull this win off,” Ammar began, “we will make history. Don’t tell me this isn’t a blue wave year. But I can’t do it alone, and I won’t do it by dividing people,” he said. Ammar went on to explain that what drives him every day is his life, raised by a single mom. He started working at 15 1/2 years old as a janitor. He said “a woman named Abigail Campa told me hard work doesn’t define you, it reveals you.”

“We have a fight for the soul of our county, our district, but if we can do it we can be a light for the rest of the country,” Ammar said. To do this though, he explained that we have to rise above it all and bring people back together. He said it is a challenge, but also an opportunity for all of us, not just Democrats, to talk about common sense for the common good.

Regarding the issues, his view on the border wall is that it isn’t needed. “It won’t work” he said, “because we have airplanes.” There are multiple ways of circumventing the wall. He indicated that it would be better to put that $25 million into putting people back to work instead.

As for the amount of the federal budget, half of it, that goes to military funding, he’d like to see how we can refocus the military and especially put an emphasis on taking care of our troops. His goal is to ensure vets can live a good life after they retire. “We should be relentless chasing the bad guys,” he explained, “but we also need to lead by the power of example, not by the example of power.” He absolutely feels it would be crazy to launch a pre-emptive strike on North Korea and instead it would be a show of weakness. “We need to make peace more profitable than war. For example we could work with defense contractors to help us with more innovation in the renewable energy field,” he explained.

When asked about his thoughts on an assault weapons ban, Ammar said he was “willing to die on the hill” for the issue even if it meant he only lasted one term. But he also cautioned that there have been attempts to ban abortion, stop illegal immigration and drug abuse and we need to consider how did those attempts work out? He explained that a ban could actually make things worse. It could drive sales underground, and “underground sales come with an ideology.” He supports lifting the ban on the CDC to study gun violence because it’s imperative to have the research to ensure we avoid unintended consequences. Additionally he also supports banning conversion kits, bump stocks etc.

To support Ammar and learn more about his campaign, see his website

Alan Geraci, Assembly District 75

Alan Geraci, an attorney who has fought to preserve open space, fought to ensure every vote is counted, and is now taking on Escondido for privatizing its public library, is running to take the place of Republican Marie Waldron in Assembly District 75 of the state legislature.

He sees himself as the leading progressive to take on issues of healthcare, improving schools, pushing forward with plans for California to be on 100% renewables by 2030 and improving election transparency. He also believes that cities need to stick to their general plans along with improving infrastructure.

Specifically for San Marcos, he indicated the housing crisis is that we are building too much, most of which is not affordable housing. We have many veterans, people with mental health needs and homeless people who need help. “We have to show we can build homes that fit the need, not just the $800k housing market. We have to stand ready to work with the counties to make sure that state is providing the necessary resources to tackle housing.”

When asked how that can be achieved he replied, “Most of the legislative process happens through the budget and what is allocated, so we need to be sure proper funds are earmarked and used appropriately to solve the issue and follow the money trail.”

“I am ready to take the fight to Sacramento,” he said. “California will continue to lead in innovation and creativity, let’s get to work.” To read more about Alan and his campaign see his website.

Jeff Griffith, Senate District 38

Jeff Griffith says he decided to run when he realized that Brian Jones, Republican from Santee, had jumped into the race to replace termed out state senator Joel Anderson. “Brian Jones spent 6 years in the Assembly, sponsored one bill which was a small tweak to welfare, and now that he’s termed out he wants to try to go back to Sacramento. He doesn’t represent me,” Jeff explained.

Jeff has spent 30 years in public service, as a California Fire Captain and 10 years as a paramedic. In 2012 he was elected to serve on the Palomar Health Board of Directors and was re-elected in 2016. He’s now ready to step up to a bigger role, to represent the largest Senate district in San Diego County. He needs help all around and especially where he doesn’t have much name recognition in East County.

To learn more about Jeff and his stand on key issues see his website.