County Board of Supervisors District 1: A Big Change is Coming

by on January 23, 2020 · 3 comments

in Election, Ocean Beach, San Diego

District One Includes Point Loma and Sunset Cliffs

By Doug Porter / Words&Deeds / Jan. 22, 2020

In 2021, for the first time in more than two decades, the 631,000 residents of District One will have a new representative on the County Board of Supervisors. Incumbent Republican Greg Cox was appointed in 1995 to replace Brian Bilbray, who was moving on to the House of Representatives, has faced minimal opposition over his six terms. Now he’s termed out.

Democrats have a 72,000-person advantage in voter registration in the sprawling district, which includes the cities of Coronado, Imperial Beach, Chula Vista, National City and communities within Southeast San Diego, Point Loma, Sunset Cliffs and parts of downtown San Diego. The district also includes the unincorporated communities of Bonita, Sunnyside, Lincoln Acres, and East Otay Mesa.

The Board of Supervisors is the legislative and executive authority of the County, overseeing departments, programs and budgets, along with land use in unincorporated areas. It appropriates money for programs to provide a safety net and other services for county residents.

The upcoming Supervisor contests, should the Democrats win a majority, will have a large impact in terms of policy. All those contests are technically non-partisan, but there’s no secret about the political leanings of the various players.

In recent history, the Supervisors were mostly white, Republican males. Democrat Nathan Fletcher’s election in 2018 signaled the beginning of a sea change in the board’s make up.

The four major candidates in the upcoming primary in terms of both name recognition and fundraising are Latinx and Democrats.

So this contest is different, reflecting the frustrations of a population governed by a (mostly benevolent) white male, and differing aspirations for elected office. There are long-standing political divisions having nothing to do with ideology or culture. A lot of the animus is personal; some of it goes back for decades.

Major interest groups, including organized labor and the Democratic party in the region have largely been hands off in terms of backing candidates. While much of that energy has been directed toward the District 3 race –which is competitive– infighting has also led some groups to back away.

There is a fundraising war underway, and those numbers (included below) will play an important role in determining which two candidates advance to the November general election.

The Union-Tribune has done an admirable public service in publishing interviews with candidates for all the major offices in San Diego, giving readers the opportunity to see where those seeking to serve the public stand on a variety of issues. The transcripts include “uhs and ums” so there would be no misunderstanding about context. Unlike the Union-Tribune, I’ve done my best to include all the candidates, drawing from other sources to illustrate the character of the people on the ballot.

(The term “money quote” in my listings of candidates means I’ve picked something out from the UT interviews that seemed to characterize the candidate.)


Henry Belisle says he’s the true independent in this race, noting that  Over 37% of the registered voters in District 1 are not Republican or Democrat. Unfortunately for Belisle, just because they’re not registered with a political party doesn’t mean voters are anti-party. Outside of three short posts on what passes for a campaign website, he has no online presence.

Why he’s running

  • This election is a chance for the County to have an independent voice on the Board of Supervisors. 

Union-Tribune Interview – Not done

Money Quote – None. There is simply nothing I could find different than what’s above.

Organization Endorsements n/a

Funds raised: n/a

Website | Facebook | Twitter


Democrat Rafael Castellanos is a San Diego Port Commissioner, and counts the Port’s Climate Action Plan amongst his accomplishments. Good name recognition and a host of endorsements give him a better than even chance of making it to the general election. He seems to a lot of San Diego establishment support.

Why he’s running:

  • I’m running to build a brighter economic future for South Bay families and ensure all our communities are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. 
  • I’ll take on the politics as usual downtown, which has shortchanged South Bay for decades, and stand up against the divisive politics of Trump, which threaten our community’s basic values.
  • Unlike the usual crowd of political operatives and career politicians, I’ve actually gotten things done in the real world.
  • At the Port of San Diego, I led the fight to clean up San Diego Bay.  As an Attorney, I’ve helped small businesses create jobs and protected the rights of immigrants.  
  • As your County Supervisor, I’ll put my proven record to work to:
  •      Create good jobs for working people
  •      Expand affordable housing for local families
  •      Protect clean air and clean water for all
  •      Defend the rights of all San Diegans

Link to Union-Tribune interview

Money quote:

  • We’ve got some big issues, and it’s going to create some friction. And I’m not afraid of that. At the Port of San Diego, when I was chairman last year, we had a lot of friction with the airport, if you recall. A Lot of friction. Um, and I got a lot of, “Hey, don’t mess with the airport, Rafael. That’s the establishment. They really want that airport development plan. It’s a big deal. You’re going to screw everything up.” 
  • Well, I believed, and the Port believed and believes that we need transit connected to the airport so that downtown doesn’t turn into a parking lot over the next decade as the passenger count is going to go up by 10 million. You should always try to work with people to get things done, but sometimes you have to stand strong, uh, you know, on some of these issues. And that is going to create friction. 
  • It’s turning out allright. They went out and negotiated with the airlines to get, you know, half a billion dollars of money for off airport transportation improvements. Amazing what a little leverage will get you. Uh, it’s okay for there to be some friction and we’re gonna need some more of that and I think we’ll get some better outcomes. It’s okay. And I’m not afraid of that. I’m an attorney. I’m used to dealing with, uh, you know, conflict and negotiating at the same time all the time. That’s just part of, uh, getting things done.

Organizational Endorsements: Sierra Club, United Domestic Workers, Chula Vista Police Officers Association, Longshore Workers Union (ILWU Local 29) + 5 other unions, San Diego Harbor Police Officers Association, La Raza Lawyers Association, Chula Vista Democratic Club + 2 other Democratic clubs, Deputy Sheriffs’ Association of SD County, SD Against Crime, SD Deputy District Attorneys Association, SD County Probation Officers Association, Environmental Health & Justice Campaign, Pacific Southwest Association of Realtors, Filipino-American Chamber of Commerce of SD.

Funds raised during calendar year 2019: $339,958.94

Website | Facebook | Twitter


Republican Alex Galicia owns a plumbing business and is a veteran of Navy and Army National Guard.

Why he’s running:

  • San Diego County is unique in the state of California because of its historical track record as one of the most fiscally responsible local California governments.  This is something all Californians should expect but don’t! In the era of bloated budgets, our County has consistently ranked among the best in our state in terms of being a good steward of tax payer money, in terms of living within its means and in terms of avoiding costly bond measures. 
  • It consciously avoids what so many others excel at which is to over spend while kicking the proverbial can down the road. I want to keep us on this path.  We not only owe it to our John and Jane Q Taxpayer, we owe it to our children and grandchildren.

Link to Union-Tribune interview: They didn’t ask him

He responded on Facebook:

  • “Dear UT Editorial board,
  • You chose to exclude half the District 1 candidates. Not sure if it’s an endorsement or nod to a particular party but I’d like to point out that I am a candidate as well. Despite not having perhaps the name recognition and funding approaching that of your chosen 4 candidates but I do possess some unique qualities, relevant to our region, that perhaps were not taken into consideration when determining the criteria by which you decided who to interview. I note as follows:
  • 1. I have an award-winning small business, located on the Chula Vista Bay front that employs 22 locals, pays living wages and proudly supports our local community wherever possible. BPI Plumbing in Chula Vista.
  • 2. I have a 20 years+ private, for profit, industry background. This, like my Masters Degree, focused on Transportation and Logistics.
  • 3. I have an honorable military record (with a combat tour) as both an enlisted man and as a commissioned officer. My service was not one but two branches, the US Navy and the US Army.
  • 4. I have the exclusive endorsement of a major political party, the San Diego County Republican party.

Organizational EndorsementsRepublican Party of San Diego County

Funds raised during calendar year 2019: $1924.50

Website | Facebook | Twitter


Democrat Ben Hueso has been in elected office since 2005, serving on the San Diego City Council, the State Assembly, and is now a Senator representing the 40th DistrictHis service also includes time as a Commissioner for the California Coastal Commission. Hueso is the “politician” in this race, with everything good and bad that entails.

Why he’s running:

  • I’m running for County Supervisor to ensure San Diego is a place where individuals of all walks of life are valued, respected and have the tools to achieve the American Dream. This means an equal chance for everyone to have a good-paying job, quality education, thriving business, safe community, health services they need, and the ability to enjoy our beautiful parks and beaches. With my experience and proven leadership, I will fight to ensure San Diego is a place we are all proud to call home.

Link to Union-Tribune Interview

Money Quote

  • I don’t think government is a problem. We together as a country, as a nation, have put our collective minds together to create a government that ensures for our prosperity and our safety and our health. And that’s what we should be spending money on. We don’t have to break the bank and if we do need revenues, you also know me as somebody who has supported taking ballot measures to the voters for them to support, uh, revenues for important programs that affect them. And sometimes we’ve been successful and sometimes we haven’t.
  •  But the idea is that we should be honest with the people and say, look, we are facing challenges, we need your help, and we ask that you be involved in this process, that we should be honest with the people of our communities, say, you know, government can’t solve every problem, we’re going to endeavor to do our best to get behind the biggest issues. And as long as we focus on the biggest issues, we’ll be okay.

Organizational Endorsements: Plumbers and Steamfitters, Local 230

Funds raised: 7/31 report + partial report filed 12/20: $178,626

Website | Facebook| Twitter


Camilo Marquez
No website or social media presence


Democrat Sophia Rodriguez is a Human Services Specialist at the County of San Diego. This is her first run for office, and her heart is in the right place. Though her chances are negligible, I hope she’s not discouraged. We need more young people running for office.

Why she’s running:

  • I am running because the South Bay deserves a representative who really knows the current struggle and challenge of living in San Diego. Someone who deals with traffic every morning on their drive north for work. Someone who lived in Tijuana, joining the line to cross at 4am almost every morning because paying for rent was impossible. Someone who has had to choose between filling their car with gas or eating dinner. Someone who, if a paycheck is missed, would not be able to pay their housing costs.
  • I love San Diego and the South Bay, but we struggle just to live here. Vote me to represent you, and I promise to put our community’s interests first.

Link to Union-Tribune interview

Money Quote:

  • We need a shakeup. Uh, the, this is the most important locally, this is one of the most important races in the South Bay. We haven’t had a chance to elect someone new for over 20 years. I actually remember, uh, the news when I was in elementary school, that supervisor Greg Cox, won the county supervisor sees little that I know that I’d be seeing him like throughout my entire life. But this is an exciting race. 

We need new voices. We desperately need the voices. And I’m currently the only millennial running and we’re used to getting underestimated, but we need to change that narrative. Uh, we need these types of ideas, these types of new ways of thinking, pulling in the community with us. Um, and I feel like this is going to be one of the highest, uh, out, uh, voter outcomes in the primary. Primaries, usually people don’t vote, but this is an exciting time. 

Organization Endorsements n/a

Funds raised thru 2019: n/a

Website | Facebook| Twitter

Democrat Nora Vargas is currently a vice president at Planned Parenthood and a Southwestern College Governing Board member. A lot of my progressive activist friends are on board with her campaign.

Why she’s running:

  • As a healthcare advocate, I’ve been in some tough fights, championing expanded healthcare services, women’s reproductive rights and health education for youth and families.
  • As a Southwestern Community College Board Member, I’ve balanced tough budgets, increased transparency and fought for all students to have access to affordable education and job training, from recent high school graduates, to our veterans, to returning students and our DREAMers.
  • I’m looking forward to the road ahead, and to continuing to fight for all San Diegans to have the opportunity to own a home, raise their families in safe neighborhoods, and send their children to the best schools possible.

Link to Union-Tribune Interview

Money Quote:

  • I grew up in the South Bay and I have seen how it’s harder and harder for communities to really just survive. And I’ve been working in government, you know, for many years as an advocate, as an organizer and somebody who has… knows how to get additional resources from the national, state and local level into our communities. 
  • But it was when my mom got really, really sick that we went to the County of San Diego and she was diagnosed with cancer and we were unable to get the services that she needed that I realized, you know, it was… it was this feeling of helplessness that I felt that I don’t want anybody else to feel, especially when we have, you know, $2 billion in reserves when we know that there are services that are available for our communities to make a difference. 
  • I want to make sure that those resources are available for our communities because it’s a safety net that should be available for everyone. And I really do believe that government should work for everyone, not just for a few. And the County can do better. We should do better.

Organizational Endorsements: Planned Parenthood Action Fund of the Pacific Southwest, Democratic Woman’s Club of SD County +5 other Democratic clubs, SD National Organization for Women, California School Employees Association Chapters 386 & 724, Run Women Run, Environmental Health & Justice Campaign, Engage SD Action Fund

Funds raised thru 7/31 2019: $155,856.60

Website| Facebook | Twitter


Tony Villafranca is a realtor who ran for San Diego City Council District 4 in 2014 and 2018. He’s a Trumpanista.

Why he’s running:

  • “Are South Bay San Diego Politicians consumed by Alcoholism, Sexual Deviance and Moral Depravation?” asks, Tony Villafranca . “Is power and money really the root of all evil or is it a lack of Jesus in one’s life?” What happened to “Old School Values,” asks Tony Villafranca.
  • Social media theme is “Gods, Guns, Babies. Vote Trump, Vote Pence, Vote Villafranca.”

Link to Union Tribune Interview: He wasn’t asked

Villafranca is chairman of the San Diego chapter of “pro-family” group MassResistance; the  Southern Poverty Law Center has designated MassResistance an anti-gay hate group.

Funds raised thru 2019: $2068.00

Website | Facebook | Twitter

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Alex Galicia January 24, 2020 at 2:27 pm

Thank you OBRAG for including all the candidates in your District 1 analysis. Glad to see we still seem to have objective journalism in San Diego County.


Brian Brady January 24, 2020 at 6:15 pm


If I could say one extraordinary thing about you, it’s that you try to be fair to all candidates when you write pieces like this. That’ s a heckuva lot more than I can say about the U-T.

Alex Galicia is a good friend, an American patriot, and a man with whom you might disagree on policy but would be hard-pressed to find fault with his character.

Thank you for some well-needed journalistic integrity


Tony Inocentes January 25, 2020 at 7:22 am

I’ve know Tony Villafranca for 3 decades he was a fierce competitor in racquet ball. But I also know him as an expert Realtor from the South Bay for 32 years where he attained the direct experience and knowledge necessary to resolve the homeless issues we desperately seek a solution too. He has improved the quality of life of more than 25,000 residents through expert guidance that has brought them the comfort of a roof over their head. Let me nor forget he is an absolute genius in helping to obtain new financing and renegotiating loans. He knows the rental market problems better than any candidate running. Homelessness and affordable is a huge problem throughout District 1. I prefer a eye surgeon when I need a visual operation. And Tony is the housing expert among all the candidates. NO ONE is better prepared to tackle and resolve the housing issues faced in District 1 then Tony Villafranca.
On AB 5 our neighbor Tony has shared with me his plan to protect the earnings and rights of our citizens. .AB 5 will not improve our quality of life instead it will have the opposite effect. Jobs are already being lost lcally to independent contractors outside California and overseas. Villafranca says he will immediately take steps to stop AB 5 in San Diego.
Where AB 5 has a couple of good points, it overreaches. It benefits few while creating problems for the majority of independent contractors. This is upsetting their quality of life.
Further Tony Villafranca has shared with me his solid plans of Water and Air Quality, Education, Public Safety and health care that will improve the quality of life for all us. This is what the voters care about most!
Shame, Shame Shame on the UT. Once again they attempt to manipulate elections through #FAKENEWS and #FAKEFORUMS. They deem only 4 candidates viable and all 4 are the Democrat candidates? Democrats represent 39% of District 1 this is far less than a majority. Why have they dismissed 61% of the voters in District 1? UT is bulldozing and burying these voters. There was a time it when it was simple to bamboozle the public, but, in the our new world we have internet and social media to counter such evil intent.
Moreover, where are these candidates that say they want to, and will, represent all voters in District 1 while this evil dismisses 61% of District 1 citizens? They are totally silent as the bulldozers are running over their rights and burying them? The candidates claim they will have our backs, but REALLY? They are already showing proof of what can be expected. These so called viable candidates are watching from the sidelines as the bulldozers run full steam ahead? Instead, everyone of them are holding flowers behind their backs eager to plant flowers on top of the dirt where they are buried. Isn’t this behavior ironic as the impeachers call for fairness and witnesses.
LET’S ALL STAND UP AND CALL IT WHAT IT IS. POLITICAL DISCRIMINATION against moderates and conservatives AND RACIAL DISCRIMINATION AGAINST ASIANS who also make up 35% of the District 1.
This is why I urge everyone to VOTE TONY VILLAFRANCA TO IMPROVE OUR QUALITY OF LIFE on March 3, 2020.


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