Pandemic politics take center stage in county supervisor election

Pandemic politics that have embroiled San Diego County will play a role in the election for the Board of Supervisors as incumbent Nathan Fletcher takes on Reopen San Diego co-founder Amy Reichert for the Fourth District seat.

Fletcher, 45, a former Navy intelligence officer, is seeking his second term in office. He previously served in the California Assembly between 2008 and 2012. Reichert, 54, is a licensed private investigator and marketer who co-founded ReOpen San Diego, a nonprofit organization that opposed the county COVID-19 response.

A third candidate, Sidiqa Hooker, is listed by the San Diego County Registrar of Electors as a diversity inclusion coordinator. She could not be reached for comment by phone, email or social media.

Although the race is officially non-partisan, candidate platforms are split along party lines that have been etched more deeply as the region grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic. The Fourth District, which encompasses much of downtown San Diego, La Mesa and Lemon Grove, is heavily blue, with nearly 200,000 Democrats to 80,000 Republicans and about 100,000 Independent voters.

Fletcher, in his second year as chairman of the board, advocated for a broader role for the county on issues including mental health and addiction treatment, homelessness and housing.

“We are making real progress on the big challenges facing families in San Diego and I won’t let anyone hold us back,” he said. “We have to keep fighting. This means more affordable housing, more homeless people on the streets, and safer communities.

Despite bitter disputes over lockdowns, social distancing rules and mask and vaccine policy that have led to marathon board meetings and threats against officials, Fletcher credits strict COVID-19 policies prevention of infections and deaths.

“As Chairman of the San Diego Board of Supervisors, I led our region’s COVID-19 response which achieved a 93% vaccination rate and saved lives,” he said.

Fletcher moved to San Diego as a Marine in 1997 and served until 2007 as a Human Intelligence/Counterintelligence Specialist. He made two tours to Iraq, the Near East and the Horn of Africa, for which he was decorated for bravery under fire.

He began his career in the State Assembly as a Republican in 2008, where he passed legislation, including the Chelsea Act, to toughen penalties for violent crimes against children. He later quit the party over what he said were ideological differences and unsuccessfully ran for mayor of San Diego as an independent in 2012. Fletcher, who lives in City Heights, won the county office as a Democrat in 2018, when he defeated the former district attorney. Bonnie Dumanis by a 2-1 margin. Fletcher was endorsed by the San Diego Democratic Party.

Reichert said she was not involved in politics until the pandemic galvanized her. She formed ReOpen San Diego with two other local women to oppose school and business closures and mask and vaccine mandates.

“San Diego County is going in the wrong direction,” Reichert said. “For the past two years, I have watched in disbelief as the county implements draconian lockdown policies against our residents — irreparably harming first responders, small businesses, workers and students.”

Reichert led protests against the county’s response to COVID-19, organizing dozens of speakers to voice their objections at county meetings. She disavowed racist threats and slurs from some protesters, but said she understood the frustration many feel over lockdowns and other measures. While she said she doesn’t oppose vaccines or masks, she doesn’t agree with the mandates.

Reichert launched a campaign for the fourth supervisory seat after redistricting changes placed his home in La Mesa in the Fletcher District. She was endorsed by the San Diego Republican Party.

“When I realized I had the opportunity to overthrow my opponent, I didn’t hesitate to jump at the chance to right the many wrongs committed by him and others like him in leadership positions.” , Reichert said.

Both candidates have identified housing, homelessness and inflation as the main concerns of their campaigns, but differ in the solutions they offer.

“To reduce homelessness, I’m focused on doing the hard work to really address the mental illness and addiction that’s driving the crisis on our streets,” Fletcher said. “We’re providing more shelter, more treatment programs and more mental health support to actually get people off the streets, not just move them from camp to camp.”

He pointed to the county’s efforts to push for gas price relief, expand affordable housing on government-owned land and increase child care options. And he said he was focused on reducing gun violence through efforts including a new ordinance to ban unmarked “ghost weapons.”

Reichert shared her concerns about homelessness, but said she believed there had been a misuse of public housing funds and argued that much of the cost came from permits and regulations. She said if elected she would call for an audit of public spending on affordable housing.

“Every San Diegan should be outraged at this kind of hidden government tax and profiteering on affordable housing,” she said.

Both candidates recognized the importance of protecting San Diego’s environment while maintaining a healthy economy. Fletcher noted efforts to convert the region to 100% renewable energy to help combat climate change, and said the county has approved more than 14,000 new renewable energy permits over the past three years.

“There are extremists out there who are determined to roll us back on homelessness and still aren’t sure if climate change is real, but I’m fighting for a safer, cleaner, more affordable San Diego than any our families deserve,” he said. .

Reichert said she was active in efforts to prevent the SR125 toll road from damaging sensitive habitats and said she believes environmental regulations should be balanced with business needs.

“I believe in balanced government regulations that recognize the importance of protecting the environment, while allowing communities to thrive and prosper,” she said. “I will never vote for fees or taxes that penalize people who want to responsibly use the resources this great county has to offer.”

Despite partisan differences on the oversight board, members generally collaborate on local issues. Fletcher said 93% of the proposals he presented to the board passed with bipartisan support.

The two candidates with the most votes in the primary elections on June 7 will qualify for the general elections in November.