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.

Why Should I Vote in the June Primary?

Usually mid-term General elections get deplorably low voter turnout. Primary elections, particularly in the mid-term years, get even lower voter participation. Why does this matter and specifically, why is this such a big deal for California? There are two key reasons: the new “Top Two” format for state wide races and the “50%+1 majority wins” for non-partisan local races, both explained below.

In many voters’ minds, the concept of a “Primary Election” is one in which faithful partisans come out to vote for their preferred candidate to represent them in the November General Election that follows. Many see it as only for partisan candidate selection purposes so some don’t bother, assuming they’ll just vote for whomever is on the slate in November. And in fact, historically that’s the way it used to be for many statewide races. But since 2010 when voters passed Proposition 14, that is no longer the case.

#1 reason to vote in the June 5th primary: Partisan State-Wide Races

Prop 14 created a “Top Two” primary format and applies to ALL state wide races except for the Presidential election and election of delegates to Central Committees. It allows all voters to choose any candidate regardless of the candidate’s or voter’s political party preference. When there are multiple candidates from the same party vying for a statewide position, it is conceivable that two from the same party could end up on the November runoff ballot. Even if a candidate gets 50% or more of the vote, the top two still advance to the November election.

Further complicating the scenario is the number of candidates running from the same party. This could serve to split the vote among good qualified Democratic candidates, but if Republican voter turnout is high and concentrated on one or two candidates, while Democrats split their vote between multiple candidates on the Democratic side, it is conceivable that two Republican candidates could end up on the November ballot with Democrats sitting on the sidelines. The only solution to avoid such a scenario is to have a) high voter turnout and b) votes concentrated hopefully on one candidate, most likely the state endorsed one. Also, the non-endorsed candidates or those having trouble fund-raising may want to consider dropping out before the primary to ensure voter efforts aren’t diluted.

The top two format this year applies to the following state wide races: U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senator, Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Controller, Treasurer, Attorney General, Insurance Commissioner, Member, Superintendent of Public Instruction, State Board of Equalization, State Assembly and State Senator. These are now known as “Voter Nominated Offices”.

Reason #2 may be even more important: Non-Partisan Local Offices

In addition to “Party Nominated Offices” (President and Central Committee Delegates) and the above “Voter Nominated Offices”, there is a very important third category, “Non-Partisan Local Offices. While the top two vote getters categories above are guaranteed a spot on the November ballot, in this third local non-partisan category, IF A CANDIDATE RECEIVES 50% +1 VOTE IN THE PRIMARY IT’S OVER – THEY ARE THE WINNER AND THAT RACE DOES NOT APPEAR ON THE NOVEMBER BALLOT. These positions are those that can have the most impact on you and your family’s lives and include the County Boards of Supervisors, Boards of Education, Superior Court Judges and more. Therefore if you do not vote in the Primary you may miss out entirely on your opportunity to vote for a good Democrat at your local level.

This year in the June, 2018 primary the positions we can vote on that fall into the above and can win outright with a 50%+1 count are Superior Court Judges, County Assessor/Recorder/Clerk, County Treasurer/Tax Collector, District Attorney, Sheriff, County Board of Supervisors (4 & 5), and County Board of Education (3 & 5).

With low voter turnout, these positions may indeed get the required majority vote from only a small amount of your fellow citizens, rather than a broader segment of the population. So, if you care about our Democracy, be sure you are registered to vote and you vote in the June 5th primary as well as the November, 2018 election. If you are not, or know others whom you can spur to register to vote, the registration deadline to vote in the June Primary is May 21. You can register online here (http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/voter-registration/), or mail in your registration but it must be postmarked on or before May 21.

Local Candidates Introduce Themselves

While much media attention is focused on national politics and Congressional races, it is important to remember that good governance and rising political stars begin at the local level. While we rail at our dysfunction in Congress over immigration and gun control, issues such as social justice are paramount to members of the San Diego community. Policies impacting prison privatization, treatment of prisoners, mental health programs, poverty and homelessness are directly the result of the candidates we elect in the local positions controlling these concerns.

To familiarize club members with the Democratic candidates currently running in these critical non-partisan positions (which means you will NOT see any party affiliation listed on the ballots for these positions) we invited all Democratic candidates running for County Sheriff, District Attorney, County Assessor/Recorder/Clerk, Superior Court Judge, and County Board of Supervisors to speak with us at the February monthly meeting. This meeting also served as an endorsement meeting for these positions.

A few things should be highlighted:

  • these positions will be voted on in the JUNE 5th 2018 primary. If any candidate gets 50% + 1 vote they will be the winner automatically and will NOT proceed to a runoff in the November election.
  • as of this writing, the Democratic candidate for Sheriff (Dave Myers), District Attorney (Geneviéve Jones-Wright) and County Assessor/Recorder/Clerk (Matt Strabone) are the only Democrat running in their respective race;
  • two Democratic candidates are running for the same Superior Court Judge seat (see more below);
  • these Democratic candidates do have Republican candidates running against them so they are not running unopposed.

Upon completion of all presentations the candidates were asked to leave the room while club members voted on whom to endorse. The candidates below who have an ** after their name were endorsed by our club.

Esther Sanchez, who was running for County Board of Supervisors was invited and graciously came to speak with us. She explained that she has had to withdraw from the race due to caring for her mom during her fight with cancer. Esther remains committed however, to getting out the vote and will be an active participant in the upcoming election.

County Sheriff, Dave Myers **

Dave Myers, candidate for County Sheriff, 2018

Dave Myers has been with the Sheriff’s Department for 32 years and he had once contemplated retiring. “I’ve been at the table but not on the menu for decades,” he explained. “When I look around that table it’s 20 white guys. There is no representation of our diversity in the command structure.” He went on to explain that especially during this time under Trump, hate crimes have increased threefold in the county. “The current sheriff, Bill Gore, was doing commercials for Darrell Issa and he escorted Jeff Sessions to the border wall.” And there hasn’t been a Democrat running in the Sheriff’s race for 60 years! During times like these he felt he can’t yet retire.

Dave feels strongly that it’s time to put some common sense into our justice system. Homelessness and mental health crises need to be decriminalized and we need to stop using the county jail system to hold them. As a recent example of the injustices in our current prison system, he cited the recent example of how U-T reporter Kelly Davis was harassed and served with an order that the courts ultimately struck down, to turn over her notes related to her reporting on the unusually high number of deaths and suicides in our county prisons.

“I am running because I have a true understanding of what goes on in the community. I will listen and change the dynamics of transparency, including use of body cams and release of those recordings within the largest department in the county,” he promised.

Dave has already received the endorsement of the San Diego County Democratic Party. He noted that his Republican opponent and current incumbent Bill Gore, has not gotten the Republican party endorsement. You can read more, donate or sign up to volunteer for his campaign on his website.

District Attorney, Geneviéve Jones-Wright **

Candidate Geneviéve Jones-Wright running for District Attorney 2018.

“Incarceration is a health crisis” Geneviéve Jones-Wright declared in her opening comments. “The status quo isn’t working.” She spoke passionately about the need to represent the real needs of our veteran, homeless and addicted populations. She went on to describe San Diego’s prison system, over 6,000 inmates strong, as the largest mental health facility in the county.

“We need a District Attorney who will give help, not handcuffs” she explained. “How much can you help someone with mental health issues as a prison staffer?” she asked. Since our prisons are privately funded, there is an incentive to “keep the beds full. How can you profit off the incarcerated?” she queried.

The office Geneviéve is hoping to win was once held by former District Attorney, Bonnie Dumanis, who resigned the post in 2017 to run for County Board of Supervisors (but not in our district). Summer Stephan, a Republican, was appointed interim District Attorney and is now running for the role permanently, against Geneviéve.

Dumanis’ legacy is dubious according to Jones-Wright. Although Dumanis claimed to be a national expert in Human Trafficking, in 2016 she opposed a bill that would vacate the conviction of a victim solely because they were a victim. “When your only focus is on conviction,” she explained, “you can’t focus on justice and fairness.” Dumanis has also left behind a backlog of 2,873 untested rape kits.

“We have a chance to bring humanity and compassion back and break the back of recidivism by focusing on root causes,” she stated. That is the focus of her campaign. Her goal? “Compassion, not handcuffs” she said.

You can read more about her native San Diegan background on her website.

County Assessor/Recorder/Clerk, Matt Strabone **

Matt Strabone, 2018 candidate for County Assessor/Recorder/Clerk

Matt Strabone introduced himself to club members, describing himself as a “first time candidate and non-profit and ethics attorney”. This seemingly obscure position is responsible for deciding on amount of property taxes, issuing licenses and birth certificates, and takes care of all county records.

This may seem unimportant or boring, but “public records belong to all of us and should be available, for free and online” he said. His opponent, incumbent Ernie Dronenberg, charges $2 per page and you have to go downtown to retrieve them. “Marriage licenses should be a no brainer” he exclaimed. Dronenberg had resisted issuing licenses to gay applicants, and says he will go back to that stance should Trump change the law. The County Assessor’s office is also the only office that can audit businesses.

This election will be decided in the June primary because Strabone and Dronenberg are the only two candidates running. “This is a not a partisan position, nor should it be” Matt explained, “but it’s too bad my opponent injected ideology into his role and he sought all the Republican and Lincoln Club endorsements that turned this into a political race.”

Read more about Matt’s campaign on his website.

Superior Court Judge, Matt Brower **

Matt Brower, Superior Court Judge candidate 2018

Remember fringe candidate birther Gary Kreep who became Superior Court Judge in 2012? Kreep made a name for himself by launching an unsuccessful ballot initiative to keep President Obama’s name off the California ballot unless he produced his long form birth certificate. Kreep’s six year term on the bench has been riddled with scandals resulting in censure for violating a number of ethics rules. Due to his discriminatory treatment of women, minorities and litigators he was transferred to traffic court and now has been relegated to only resolving landlord/tenant disputes. Matt Brower feels we can do better.

Matt has both a legal and military background. He is still in the Marine Corp Reserves after having spent 8 years on active duty, including tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He served as both a Deputy District Attorney and and Marine Judge Advocate. He is concerned about how we can support our European allies in the face of the Russian threat. He is adamant that substance abuse should first be viewed as a mental health issue.

He has been endorsed by the San Diego County Democratic Party and has a great deal of support from within the law enforcement community. Read more about his campaign here.

Superior Court Judge, Tim Nader

Tim is the other Democrat running for the same seat as Brower above. Tim was not able to attend our meeting but he did send a representative from his campaign. Nader feels he is the best candidate to replace Kreep because he has the most name recognition from his time as Chula Vista Mayor and on City Council in the 90’s. He has served on the Board of Southwestern College since 2010 and says he “knows how to win an election”. He has served as Deputy Attorney General in the Business & Tax Section of the California Attorney General’s office (handling advanced civil litigation in business regulation and tax), since 2008 to the present. Read more on his website.