Marcia Adema of Descanso chats with Joel Anderson after his latest appearance before the Navajo Canyon Republican women's club.
Marcia Adema of Descanso greets Joel Anderson after his latest appearance before the Navajo Canyon Republican women’s club near La Mesa. Photo by Ken Stone

Joel Anderson admits “there’s tremendous speculation” that he’ll run for Duncan Hunter’s seat in Congress, challenging the indicted Republican facing a September corruption trial.

“It’s false,” he said Tuesday.

Interviewed before a GOP women’s club meeting, the former state senator shut the door on a 50th District race, saying he knows Hunter well and supports him “100 percent.”

Instead, the recently termed out lawmaker is promising a “great announcement” in June about another 2020 campaign.

“A lot of people have encouraged me to run for supe,” Anderson said before a 46-minute talk at the monthly luncheon of the Navajo Canyon Republican women’s club at the La Mesa-area Brigantine restaurant. County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Dianne Jacob will leave her East County seat at the end of 2020 amid her own term limits.

In 2016, he set up a fundraising committee — Joel Anderson for Supervisor 2020 — which now has nearly $290,000. (He secured a $200,000 county GOP donation a day before the Board of Supervisors imposed a $25,000 cap on political party donations. He dropped out of a race against Jacob.)

Anderson, who served in the state Legislature from 2009 to 2018, says he’s exploring other work but wants to make sure he finishes “doing what I love.”

“I’ve had some jobs offered to me. I’m looking for the perfect job because I’m actually older than you think,” said the 59-year-old Harbison Canyon resident. “Early in life, you do what puts food on the table. At the end of your career, you try to do things that help others or are enriching.”

Anderson began his talk to 70 club members and guests by recalling how candidate Donald Trump joined him on a Burlingame stage in April 2016 when he was California chair of the New Yorker’s presidential campaign.

“He grabs my hand, pulls me in, turns me and makes sure the press … could get a photo,” he said. “Meanwhile, my wife is texting me: Let go of the man’s hand.”

Humbled that a person of “that stature” would share a front-page tableau with a “small state senator,” Anderson said: “Now I understand why people who work for President Trump are so loyal to him. … It speaks a lot to his character.”

Anderson added: “You hear all these terrible stories [about Trump], but I have nothing but admiration. In all [my] years in politics, no one else has ever done that for me.”

He also shared feelings of loss, noting recent deaths of former county Supervisor George Bailey and one-time San Diego Councilwoman Judy McCarty.

“Judy was an inspiration to me,” Anderson said of the former Navajo Canyon club member. “I’m very disappointed to have lost her because I still wasn’t done learning from her.”

Despite not being in office — and having lost a November bid for a seat on the state Board of Equalization — Anderson continued his club-going routine of previewing state legislation.

He said Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed $209 billion budget is up from the $86 billion when Anderson began work in Sacramento and $130 billion when he left (thanks to 65 percent revenue growth in seven years). That, he said, leaves the Democratic supermajority “lusting for more money, more taxes, more programs.”

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Taxes are being sought on firearms, tires and even drinking water, he said. A payroll tax for a single-payer health care system would cost $400 billion, he said.

He mocked a proposal to tax devices connected to the Internet, including cell phones, to pay for 911 emergency system upgrades.

“We actually had a couple of goofy Republicans thinking about voting for it,” he said. “I worked very hard to keep them on the reservation.”

During an 18-minute question session, he was asked: How safe or unsafe is Proposition 13?

“Completely unsafe,” he said of the landmark 1978 measure that put a lid on skyrocketing property taxes.

Anderson recalled how a young Union-Tribune political reporter didn’t know what Prop. 13 was.

“So if a political reporter doesn’t know, then how many of our kids don’t know — because they don’t own property?” He said. “They’ll never own property because rent’s $2,800 and they can’t come up with the $100,000 down payment.”

He said home affordability wasn’t the problem as much as attainability — with so few units available.

He also issued a warning: Democrats engage in a legal form of ballot harvesting, which allows Duncan Hunter’s opponent Ammar Campa-Najjar a shot at victory in 2020.

Using the term applied to the illegal collecting-and-filling-out of absentee ballots in a North Carolina congressional race, Anderson said a California version of ballot harvesting was made possible by the 2017 law legalizing ballot selfies.

Anderson conceded he once illegally sent photos of his own ballot to his wife. So he voted for the measure because he didn’t want to penalize somebody else for doing it.

But now, he said, “We’ve created a path that if somebody wanted to pay a bounty, you could prove that you voted in the way they wanted. … I never once realized … that we’re just asking for fraud. We’re just asking for people to cross the line.”

Another form of ballot harvesting, he said, is using social media and door-to-door canvassing to learn the hot-button concerns of specific voters. (Anderson gave potholes as an example.)

“And then I call you on Election Night and say, Hey, … Joel Anderson is the one who’s going to fill them [potholes]…. Let me help you fill [the ballot] out.”

Anderson said Democrats used such tactics for months to “cultivate” voters, making sure there was a “minimum of eight contacts with that person.” He said it helped turn Orange County blue in Congress.

“We saw … how Southern California was just swept,” he said. “We saw Duncan Hunter’s opponent — who’s young, attractive, well-spoken — activate a lot of people who hadn’t voted before. And they were using some of these techniques. But in the district next door, the Darrell Issa seat, they put $3-$5 million into this program. And swamped it.”

Such a strategy is legal, Anderson said. But in 2020 he fears a tipping point for East County with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee having more money to spend on ousting six-term incumbent Hunter.

With only seven GOP Congress seats out of 53 in California, Speaker Nancy Pelosi can afford to put $5 million into activating the East County Democratic vote, Anderson said.

“Now I think Duncan wins [in 2020]. …. I don’t think he’s going to have a problem,” Anderson said. “But if they turn out more votes in City Council, in school board, in planning boards, in healthcare districts — that could be a tipping point of losing all those other seats.”

He left the GOP women with hope, however — if they meet his call for “all hands on deck.”

“I would suggest … that we can harvest, too,” he said. “We may not be watching our kittens on Facebook. But we know our neighbors. We’re old school. This is how we used to win” when California was a Republican state.

He said the GOP was assembling an “army” to walk precincts. And he said they’d target “a lot of people who didn’t vote, who should have voted, who should know better.”

He bemoaned young people who aren’t sufficiently educated in Republican values. They lack experience with want or war, he suggested.

“If you constantly vote for everything that kills clear opportunities, then you shouldn’t be surprised that there’s no work for you in California,” Anderson said. “If you constantly vote against any kind of housing. … then you shouldn’t be surprised that there’s no house for you.”

Anderson says that when he talks to young people, “I’m shocked that they don’t get it. They’re looking frequently for the free handout from the government — not realizing that where the government exists (is) in your back pocket. It’s your money.”

“Government didn’t make it,” he said. “They took it.”