By Ken Stone
County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar on Friday announced formal plans to run for re-election in 2020, but a left-leaning poll obtained by Times of San Diego indicates she would be an underdog to Sara Jacobs, the Democrat who made a failed run for Congress in 2018.
Gaspar, a Republican linked to President Trump by her opponents, was matched up against Jacobs, the Qualcomm founder’s granddaughter, and three other rivals — Terra Lawson-Remer, Olga Diaz and Jeff Griffith.
“Though this poll was conducted just among likely primary voters, it’s clear Jacobs is well positioned for ultimate victory in BoS-D3,” Benenson Strategy Group said of the District 3 race.
On Wednesday, however, Voice of San Diego reported that Jacobs has opted against a run for the Gaspar seat.
“While I believe that flipping the county Board of Supervisors is one of the most important tasks this cycle, I ultimately didn’t feel that running was the right decision for me,” Jacobs was quoted as saying. “I look forward to supporting whichever of the impressive, well-qualified Democrats makes it through the primary.”
On Friday, Union-Tribune political columnist Michael Smolens wrote: “Gaspar is the [GOP’s] firewall to keep Democrats from gaining a majority on the Board of Supervisors, which has been controlled by Republicans for decades.”
Benenson said it conducted 400 phone interviews with likely 2020 primary election voters in District 3 from March 1 to March 5. The poll claimed a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points, with a “95% confidence level for the overall sample.”
After voters heard “negatives” about both candidates, Jacobs led the former Encinitas mayor 50% to 30% as “Gaspar’s hard right pivot in the 2018 congressional race and open embrace of Donald Trump create an overall low ceiling of support,” Benenson said.
Benenson Strategy Group — which has a B-minus pollster grade on fivethirtyeight.com with half of its races called correctly — didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
But Jason Roe, a strategist for Gaspar, said the poll was “for a multimillionaire candidate who isn’t even running.” It “doesn’t tell us much about the race.”
“The fact is once voters learn the positions of the candidates, they break hard to Kristin, who is actually talking about issues they care about, not just jumping on the Washington D.C. talking point du jour,” he told Times of San Diego via email.
It was unclear who paid for the poll, but Benenson Strategy Group was founded by President Obama strategist Joel Benenson, who also was chief strategist for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Attorney and economist Lawson-Remer is a former senior adviser in the Treasury Department under Obama. Jacobs worked for an Obama State Department contractor but was not a policymaker in the administration itself as the Union-Tribune noted.
“A year out from the March 2020 primary election for San Diego County supervisor, Jacobs sits as the strongest candidate to defeat Gaspar,” said the Benenson poll summary.
“Jacobs’ candidacy is buffeted by high favorability in the district compared to the rest of the field, stemming from her 2018 congressional campaign and subsequent community activism.”
After Gaspar made clear her intention to run for re-election, San Diego County Democratic Party chairman Will Rodriguez-Kennedy slammed her as a “a rubber stamp for Trump’s dangerous agenda.”
“Gaspar can try to make voters forget that she’s spent the last two years supporting Trump’s outrageous border wall and racist, anti-immigrant agenda,” Rodriguez-Kennedy said in a statement. “San Diegans rejected Trump in 2016, and we will make sure that voters know that Kristin Gaspar shares Donald Trump’s values, not ours.”
Friday afternoon, Rodriguez-Kennedy said he didn’t know who commissioned the poll, “but it is demonstrating something many political observers and activists have suspected — Trump Republican … Gaspar is vulnerable.”
“After … devoting a lot of time trying to abandon the constituency she was elected to serve for greener pastures, it’s clear that she can be beaten,” he said via email.
San Diego County Republican Party chairman Tony Krvaric didn’t respond immediately to a request for comment on the Benenson poll.
District 3 takes in the cities of Encinitas, Solana Beach, Del Mar, Escondido and northern areas of San Diego from San Pasqual south to Tierrasanta, and including Mira Mesa, University City and Scripps Ranch.
Updated at 9:40 p.m. May 3, 2019
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