California 78th Assembly District 2020 Preview: A Case of Name Recognition

by on January 14, 2020 · 12 comments

in Election, San Diego

By Doug Porter / Words&Deeds

Todd Gloria’s decision to run for Mayor of San Diego left the 78th Assembly District looking for a new legislator.

Comprised of coastal communities and center city neighborhoods, this is a solidly Blue district. It’s so Democratic leaning that Republicans haven’t even put up a candidate for 2020. Donald Trump won a mere 25.9% of the vote in 2016

So we have three Democrats on the primary ballot.

As Scott Lay at Around the Capital points out, …”[D78] it’s now perhaps the epicenter for LGBTQ electoral politics, even surpassing San Francisco. Before Gloria, the area (district numbers have changed because of redistricting), previous trailblazers from this area include now-Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins and Christine Kehoe. In a 2019 interview, Atkins–originally from Virginia–talked about this with pride.”

Cruising through their campaign materials and social media content, the ideological differences between these candidates are relatively minor. They’re all claiming to be progressive on issues ranging from healthcare to climate change to housing.

Style and emphasis are where you’ll find the differences, and even those are largely subjective.

Candidate Sarah Davis is a California licensed midwife and lactation consultant whose activism in Sacramento for families and midwives served as a launching pad for her interest in running for office. She has been endorsed by the local chapter of Democratic Socialists of America.

From her campaign website:

  • As a queer single mom of an amazing young daughter, I will show up for women and girls to return the love and support women and girls have always given me. In the Assembly I will use the reproductive justice lens to analyze every bill that touches my desk. I will advocate for paid family leave, access to midwives, primary health care providers, and care for seniors. I’ll fight for all care workers, ensuring that the care providers can make a dignified living wage and afford housing where in their communities. I will work to end mass incarceration, because families belong together and free.

One difference I see between Davis and Chris Ward is her outlook on localized responses to climate change. In an interview with the Uptown News she falls into the trap of poo-pooing changes with the “they’re taking away my stuff” argument.

  •  …Davis is uninterested in these piecemeal changes, like taking out parking to add a bike lane on 30th Street, because she says systemic change is needed first.

There was a hinky bit of polling released by her campaign back in September. A whopping 80% of those surveyed said they’d never heard of or can’t rate Councilman Chris Ward; 84% said the same about Davis. But somehow she’s twice as likely as her opponent to garner the approval of 400 likely voters…24% to 12%.

Issues discussed on her website are: healthcare, climate crisis, affordable housing, preserving neighborhoods, along with protecting human rights in pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum

Sarah Davis
Website | Facebook |Twitter


Micah Perlin is a climate change activist with a vision that encompasses criminal justice reform, affordable housing, and voting rights. He founded the “We The People” political action committee and Get-Out-The-Vote San Diego along with actively supporting the campaign of Genevieve Jones-Wright for District Attorney in 2018.

Twice a delegate to the California Democratic State Convention, Perlin describes himself as a political reformer.  “Too many elected officials and candidates are talking about climate change as just a bullet point in their shtick,” he told San Diego Jewish World.  “We are facing a climate emergency; there is no other way to understand what is happening right now.”

The issues emphasized on his website are: housing affordability, green the economy, universal preschool, public financing of elections, clean air/water, and universal healthcare.

Micah Perlin
Website | Facebook | Twitter


The “legacy” candidate in the race has to be Chris Ward, who replaced Todd Gloria on the City Council. His predecessors have endorsed his candidacy, as have most of the big players in the local Democratic party.

Ward was also chief of staff for State Senator Marty Block, whose district has significant overlap with the 78th. He obviously picked a few tricks of the trade there, as his staff on the city council is top notch.

The top four issues mentioned on Ward’s campaign site are childcare/paid family leave, homelessness, climate change, and education.

Chris Ward
Website | Facebook | Twitter

So here’s the deal in the 78th. This ought to be cakewalk for Chris Ward, given that he’s already an elected official, has all the juicy endorsements, yadda, yadda.

But… the Davis name has a certain visibility. Her grandpop founded Al Davis furniture, a fixture in the Hillcrest community. And there appears to be a spillover in terms of name ID from Susan Davis, the retiring congress member, who also represents the much of the district.

My guess for the general election would be Ward vs. Davis.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Micah Perlin January 15, 2020 at 9:43 am

Anyone who has heard the candidates speak recently would be baffled by the assertion that: “the ideological differences between these candidates are relatively minor…style and emphasis are where you’ll find the differences, and even those are largely subjective.”

There is ample evidence to differentiate the candidates in this race on all of the above dimensions…

POLITICAL COURAGE: Anyone who has been following my policy/political advocacy over the years knows that I lead with my values — not with what is politically convenient. I’m the ONLY candidate in this race who has actually demonstrated the courage to actively back a community candidate that was opposed by the party establishment. Given that California is effectively a single-party state, a willingness and commitment to put people over party politics is not trivial — and it definitely isn’t subjective. From my public opposition to the Convention Center ballot measure (the additional TOT should go to support development of affordable housing in the urban core) to my advocacy to repeal the People’s Ordinance (so we can fund curbside organics collection and reduce our methane emissions), I have consistently demonstrated the courage to be out in front on issues and to support candidates and policies that advance the public good.

FUNDING = VALUES: The voters know that talk is cheap. Which is why the voters need to know that the same Chris Ward who asserts that the City should divest from fossil fuels is HIMSELF taking fossil fuel money — from Sempra, a company that is actively working to lock in more dependency on fossil fuels and is funding a fake grassroots advocacy organization to fight the conversion to cleaner energy (at the expense of the ratepayers, taxpayers — AND A LIVABLE FUTURE FOR OUR KIDS). This hypocrisy may be common in politics, but at this moment in the climate crisis, it cannot be tolerated. The decision by candidates, like myself, to only accept contributions from individual donors is not a minor difference; it is meaningful and it is ideological. Sacramento is awash in special interest money pushing an agenda that is contrary to the public’s interest. The fact that I reject contributions from corporations, special interests, and PACS demonstrates a total commitment to actually (1) reform our broken political system, (2) represent the needs of our communities, and (3) fight the hard fight from day one. The forces that corrupt our politics and waste taxpayer money are indeed quite real — as are the values required to reject them.

VISION: Prior to entering the race over the summer, I reviewed my opponents’ websites and social media posts. I had not planned on running, and before subjecting my wife and kids to the chaos and absence that a campaign would impose, I needed know if either of the other candidates was actually advancing a policy agenda that was commensurate to the challenges we face as a society (and unfortunately the answer was “no”…which is what compelled me to get in the race). At the time, climate change was barely a footnote in Sarah’s campaign and Chris was running on “let’s take what I’ve done at City Hall to Sacramento”…which, based on his track record, can only be understood (generously) as incrementalism. We are not in a business-as-usual moment; and I entered the race specifically because the other campaigns lacked a discourse and a vision to build public support for the policies that we need to address the multiple crises we face. Housing, transportation, pollution, income inequality, corruption — these are all inextricably linked — and they must be understood and addressed in a comprehensive, integrated way. Luckily, a large portion of the voters in my district already know this and they are eager to elect a representative that will put an end to the pay-to-play politics that undermine meaningful progress in Sacramento.

I am confident that as the election draws nearer, these differences will get the attention they deserve.


Val January 15, 2020 at 2:50 pm

Damn Micah, you have my attention now. How to you feel about short term rentals??


Micah Perlin January 15, 2020 at 8:40 pm

Simply stated: “Neighborhoods are for neighbors, not vacation rentals.”


kh January 18, 2020 at 6:52 pm



Vern January 16, 2020 at 7:48 am

Micah, what’s your position on the increasing air and noise pollution from SAN? You may be aware of a recent situation involving a Delta Airlines departure out of LAX that chose to dump aviation fuel on a school yard full of children. After listening to the tower radio call, there appears to have been a serious disconnect and, subsequently, people on the ground were harmed. Imagine your children getting a mouthful of aviation fuel – courtesy the Aviation Industry.

SAN is pushing to increase operations including larger, heavier aircraft that barely make it 800 feet over schools and homes on departure, lower on arrivals. Also, there is some chatter about modifying or eliminating the curfew – airlines and the FAA do not like curfews (or to be told what to do for that matter).

The Terminal One project suggests operations with departures every 53-74 seconds for eighteen straight hours each day, making living in communities like Point Loma and Ocean Beach far more challenging. This definitely doesn’t take into account the increase in aborted landings/missed approaches. And certainly the Quieter Homes Program is painfully ill-equipped to accommodate the impacted communities in real time.

In any case, what say you?


Micah Perlin January 18, 2020 at 8:57 am

Hi Vern,

I definitely share your concern about the the health and noise impacts from aircraft on our neighborhoods. What happened in LA is indeed frightening (I can relate to this personally as my son attends a school that is directly under the flight path of the planes that take off from SAN). The entire reason for my campaign is that the real needs of our communities are not being prioritized in policy-making. I fully support impacted communities having a seat at the table in planning for proposed changes to flight patterns and operations. Let me know if you want to get coffee or lunch to discuss further.



kh January 16, 2020 at 5:09 pm

I see free healthcare, free preschool, subsidized housing for low income, more spending on education and homeless intervention…. All great things.

But how are you gonna pay for it? Cost of living in CA is already 50% higher than the national average.

Please explain if you want to be taken seriously… higher taxes? cutting spending? other?


Micah Perlin January 18, 2020 at 9:36 am

Hey KH,

Thanks for the question. These are all complicated policy areas that could each warrant pages of explanation, but here’s the gist on healthcare (I’ll come back to the other areas later).

As a society, we are already paying more than enough to achieve universal healthcare. Healthcare spending accounted for 18% of the nation’s GDP in 2016. Almost all other “civilized” countries pay far less and provide quality healthcare to all their citizens (and California has a bigger economy that most of these other countries, so scale is not an issue). We need to stop profiteering and redirect resources into actually improving our health. Here are a couple sources that show how much more we spend as a share of GDP.

It is important to note, that even in countries where people have both basic universal healthcare AND use supplemental private healthcare (for those that can afford it), the private healthcare is still a fraction of what we pay.

Here are a couple of examples of policies that I will immediately push for in CA.

*It is worth mentioning that my opponent (Chris Ward) has taken $4,700 from Eli Lily, one of 3 companies that control 90% of the global insulin market. My campaign is 100% community-powered, without a penny in corporate, PAC, or special-interest money.

Keep this in mind when you read about skyrocketing insulin prices (a drug that was effectively donated to the Canadian government1, so it could be accessible to everyone).


Micah Perlin


kh January 18, 2020 at 7:18 pm

Thank you for the detailed response. After seeing my premiums increase substantially post ACA I think I’m resigned to the fact that our health care costs will go from bad to worse as we approach universal coverage. Correlation is not causation and subsidized health care further will not decrease costs. There’s zero incentive for providers to control costs. Maybe we have too many attorneys.

I won’t hold it against anyone but it’s easy for a candidate to say they don’t accept PAC money if no PACs support them. Idk how anyone navigates the political ladder without dirty money. With that said Mr. Ward may be a little to entrenched and cozy with special interests for my liking.

I do hope with all candidates having the same party affiliation it will drive a few more voters to research the differences. I’ll be following the local races and stop by if there are future meet and greets. If I’m not read up on a particular contest I leave it blank.


Geoff Page January 20, 2020 at 1:36 pm

Just to further the discussion, kh, can you tell us: 1) how much your premium increased 2) was this employer insurance or are you self-employed?


kh January 20, 2020 at 4:28 pm

Apples to apples it’s probably would’ve tripled except that we’ve switched to worse plan offerings and a cheaper provider to try and lessen the hit. So from 2012 to now it’s gone from $340 to $744.

Employer covers the employee individual rate but it pinches the business which is employee owned.


Geoff Page January 20, 2020 at 4:52 pm

So do you believe the ACA is to blame?


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