By Ken Stone
Five Democratic candidates led by well-financed Georgette Gómez and Sara Jacobs will meet Sunday in the 53rd Congressional District’s first wide-ranging debate of the 2020 cycle — the race to succeed retiring Rep. Susan Davis.
Sponsored by three Indivisible groups, the showdown of leading progressives comes seven weeks before a primary election in which the top two vote-getters advance to November.
The district has twice as many registered Democrats as Republicans (43.4% to 22%), with decline-to-state voters making up 28.3% of the 53rd.A capacity audience of 250 is expected at the La Mesa Community Center, 4975 Memorial Drive, La Mesa. The debate begins at 5 p.m. and ends at 7, followed by a half-hour meet-and-greet with the five and any other Democratic candidates who want to staff a table.
Confirmed for Sunday are:
- Jose Caballero, the Navy veteran and business owner who entered the race before Davis announced in September she wouldn’t run for an 11th term.
- Janessa Goldbeck, a businesswoman and LGBTQ Marine Corps captain who spent seven years as a human rights activist before joining the Marines after Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed.
- Gómez, the San Diego City Council president rolling up endorsements including the California Democratic Party.
- Jacobs, the former Obama administration staff member and granddaughter of Qualcomm’s co-founder who also ran in the 49th District in 2018.
- And Joaquín Vázquez, a first-generation Mexican-American and San Diego native and progressive policy adviser.
The same contenders met in late October for a national security forum at San Diego State University, but not in a debate format.
“After the debate, there will be … potential for all candidates, even those who didn’t qualify for this debate, to table out front and talk to attendees,” said Jill Miller, an organizer.
Organizers said Sunday’s debate field was narrowed to allow for in-depth questions and responses.
“We have invited candidates who had raised at least $6,000 via donations of $200 or less, according to FEC filings as of Dec. 1,” organizers said. As of Sept. 30, Jacobs had raised $316,000 and Gómez $201,000. Goldbeck and Caballero trailed with $100,000 and $15,000, respectively.
Moderator will be Chris Jennewein, editor and publisher of Times of San Diego.
Candidates will make 2-minute opening and closing statements. Jennewein will ask questions received earlier from ticketed audience members as well as those of his own choosing.
Planned are a series of questions and one-minute rebuttals, with all fairly distributed alphabetically. No audience response or participation is allowed until the debate is over.
The host groups — Indivisible CBFD, Indivisible San Diego Persist
and Hillcrest Indivisible — call themselves part of a grassroots community organization “focused on informing and engaging citizens so that they can more effectively participate in their democracy.”
Updated at 10 a.m. Jan. 8, 2020
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