As hi-lited in Monday’s FlashReport, with some updated information here…
Hodges First to Announce in Garrick’s Term-Limited 74th Assembly District — Are there Other Possible Contenders?
by Barry Jantz
The geographic boundaries of a redrawn 74th Assembly District are yet to be determined, but a buzz is quietly building among political watchers regarding the likely field of Republican candidates next year, as Assemblyman Martin Garrick leaves the seat due to term limits. The buzz may quickly become full blown, as longtime conservative GOP activist Sherry Hodges will soon make her candidacy official.
An open Assembly district would typically have a host of “for sure” candidates at least talking themselves up at this point, but with redistricting looming many are hesitant to say anything about a seat they’re not sure will include their homes, nor even guaranteed the number “74.”
The exception is Hodges, who on Friday confirmed that she will announce her campaign on February 17. The move may result in some other currently cautious potential candidates to get more aggressive about their intentions, even if it may mean the reapportionment rug getting pulled out from below their places of residence later this year.
Sherry Hodges’ Support and Background
Hodges has not so quietly worked the area hard the last several months. She released a list of supporters, proving she has wasted little time on the proverbial endorsement drill. She reports she has locked up State Senators Mimi Walters, Tony Strickland and Ray Haynes, Assemblymembers Diane Harkey and Jim Silva, and County Treasurer Dan McAllister.
She also notes she has the support of a number of local officials, some of whom might otherwise have been considered contenders for the seat themselves. The list includes Mayors Matt Hall of Carlsbad, Jim Desmond of San Marcos, Judy Ritter of Vista, and Encinitas’ Jim Bond, as well as City Councilmembers Ann Kulchin (Carlsbad), Rebecca Jones and Kristal Jabara (San Marcos), John Aguilar (Vista), Kristin Gaspar (Encinitas), Jerry Kern, Gary Felien and Jack Feller (all of Oceanside), San Diego County Republican Party 1st Vice President Mike McSweeney, and Republican activist Mindy Fletcher.
Hodges started work as chief of staff to Assemblywoman Diane Harkey in neighboring AD 73 just last week, after serving as district director in Garrick’s office. She has also worked for then-Assemblyman Mark Wyland and as then-Assemblywoman Mimi Walters’ district director, also assisting Walters in her election to the State Senate.
From 1990 to 1994, Hodges served on the San Dieguito Union High School Board, where she gained a reputation rallying parents and community groups to fight against tax increases and to advocate for higher academic standards. In 1995, State Assemblyman Howard Kaloogian honored her as his “Woman of the Year.”
Hodges currently represents AD 74 on the Republican Central Committee, also serving as 2nd Vice Chair of the Party. She resides in Encinitas with her husband of over 30 years, and is the mother of four grown children.
“My background and passion comes from the grassroots,” said Hodges, “fighting tax increases, working to reform our schools and increase government accountability. Add to that the experience I’ve gained in state government with Mark Wyland, Mimi Walters, Martin Garrick and Diane Harkey, and you’ve got a dedicated conservative who can have an impact in Sacramento from day one. Now is the time to fight for the common good, the America we love. To live on the side lines is not my style. I am willing to get in the trenches, and my values are strong and unwavering. I am determined to join conservatives in Sacramento in the on-going fight for limited government, self responsibility, and the freedom from personal and financial intrusion.”
“While it is very early,” said FlashReport Publisher Jon Fleischman,” and unclear what the boundaries of the 74th District will be, with the field of candidates yet to be determined, Hodges will be a formidable candidate. Sherry has worked selflessly for many conservative candidates and causes for decades. This kind of investment in time and energy can really pay off.”
Marie Waldron May Join the Fray
Longtime Escondido City Councilmember and SD Rostra contributor Marie Waldron, who finished second to Garrick for the seat in the 2006 primary, may also consider a campaign effort. “I am forming an exploratory committee to look at a run for the 74th Assembly in 2012,” she said. “Bolstered by overwhelming support, I have the encouragement of many people to consider a run for the seat. I will continue to spend time listening to people in the district and I am looking forward to that opportunity! I feel my experience as a successful business owner and city councilmember would enable me to represent the district well, especially in the areas of making our State business-friendly, cutting taxes and balancing the budget.”
Waldron is a conservative firebrand that — despite intense opposition from those disagreeing with her high profile positions on immigration and other lightning rod issues — enjoys substantial support throughout Escondido. On Sunday, in a recap of the November city council elections, the North County Times noted the “popularity of Councilwoman Waldron” city-wide.
“Of the 65 precincts in the city where votes were cast in the council race, Waldron got the most votes in 48,” wrote NCT reporter David Garrick, “…but she received relatively strong support everywhere in the city…”
Assuming Escondido is included — and that’s not a definite — the city could be one of the most populous areas of a redrawn AD 74, further bolstering Waldron’s chances.
It’s safe to say that a potential matchup between conservatives Hodges and Waldron in the 2012 primary would be quite a race to watch. Yet, of course, there may be a boat load of other contenders.
Other Potential Candidates
Also said to be seriously eying a run is Mark Muir, a three-times elected board member of the Olivenhain Municipal Water District and fire chief of the recently consolidated City of Del Mar, Encinitas, and Solana Beach departments.
Encinitas Councilmember Jerome Stocks, also a Rostra blogger, has long been considered a potential candidate for higher office, and he did consider running for AD 74 in 2006. However, he said he will not run for Assembly in 2012. “My role as an actively involved dad to my age six-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son preclude me from staying in Sacramento four or five days each week,” said Stocks. “I will continue to advocate for improvements locally and regionally, as well as for our state as an Encinitas councilman, a North County Transit District board member, and chairman of the San Diego Associations of Governments.”
A look at the seven cities largely making up the current 74th district — Carlsbad, Del Mar, Encinitas, Escondido, San Marcos, Solana Beach and Vista — and taking into account Hodges has support from five of the mayors and a handful of councilmembers in those communities, it’s difficult to ascertain what other local Republican elected officials remain that would both be interested in running and bring a formidable name to the race.
Certainly, newly elected Escondido Mayor Sam Abed would be a credible name, but just coming off a hard fought mayoral victory in his city may mean he has no interest only two years into office.
Interestingly, some analysts conjecture that neighboring Assembly District 73, represented by Assemblymember Diane Harkey, could be wholly swallowed up by Orange County in the upcoming reapportionment. About one-third of AD 73 currently overlaps San Diego County, with nearly all of the City of Oceanside included within its boundaries. If the 73rd District does indeed move north, the newly drawn AD 74 could include Oceanside. Again, however, Hodges’ endorsement list already includes Republican Oceanside Councilmembers Kern, Felien and Feller (as noted above).
Yet, following the original iteration of this piece appearing on the FlashReport yesterday, Councilman Kern contacted me. “I have been approached by some prominent business interests here in North County asking me to consider running for the 74th AD IF Oceanside is included in the redrawn lines for the District,” he said. “I did endorse Sherry Hodges several weeks ago well before I was approached by these potential backers. As for right now I am weighing my options and waiting to see how the district is drawn.”
Vista Unified School District Board Member Jim Gibson, as a prior Assembly candidate, could also be expected to mull a run if Oceanside lands in the 74th district.
Former Del Mar Councilmember Crystal Crawford, the Democratic nominee defeated by Garrick in 2010, has filed papers to run again next year, as previously reported by Jim Sills on Rostra. She clearly hopes redistricting will provide a more competitive seat in which to run, after losing 55-38 percent in the current GOP stronghold.
Other Others, Anyone?
As we’ve come to expect, the names of any potential contenders not mentioned here could be of significant interest. The surprise candidates often flesh out the final field, especially if they are viable and/or bring financial resources to a race. If I failed to mention you or you’re aware of someone considering a run in AD 74 — wherever it may end up — please email me here.
Lastly, it should be mentioned that not included on Hodges’ current list of supporters is incumbent Garrick, who himself may be cautious about endorsing in a seat with to-be-decided boundaries. He may also simply want to sit this one out, given the likelihood he vies for State Senate in 2014. Clearly, if and when he decides to support a candidate, that will be of substantial interest. I will of course try to break that news on these pages.