By Joe Tash
Voters have a choice between two veteran politicians — both Republicans — in the June 3 election for the 5th District seat on the County Board of Supervisors.
Incumbent Supervisor Bill Horn, 71, a Valley Center resident, is seeking his sixth and final four-year term on the board. He is prohibited from running again due to term limits approved by county voters in 2010. His challenger is Oceanside Mayor Jim Wood, 66, who is serving his third term, and previously worked as an Oceanside police officer for 30 years.
“I have a couple of projects I’d like to finish. Besides, I don’t play golf,” said Horn, explaining why he is running for one more term.
As for Wood, he said, “Certainly I’ve got public service in my blood.”
The 5th supervisorial district stretches from the North County coastline east to Borrego Springs. It includes the cities of Oceanside, Vista, Carlsbad and San Marcos, along with Rancho Santa Fe. County supervisors earn an annual salary of $145,033.
While both men belong to the GOP, Horn has often sided over the years with development and land-owner interests. One example was in 2010, when he was on the losing end of a 3-2 vote that rejected a proposed 2,700-home development north of Escondido called Merriam Mountain. A year later, his was the lone vote against a long-awaited update of the county’s land-use blueprint. At the time, he objected to provisions in the new general plan that “down-zoned” land in the back country, meaning fewer homes could be built on it.
Wood, on the other hand, draws support from labor groups that are actively working against Horn’s re-election. For this year’s race, Service Employees International Union Local 221 has formed a political action committee named “Citizens Against Career Insider Politician Bill Horn for Supervisor 2014.” As of April 23, the group’s latest filing, it reported spending $20,875 on canvassing and phone banks.
“Basically, (people) say there’s no representation for them and (Horn) is only interested in special interest friends in the development world and people from out of the area, that’s where he gets his money. He wants to build anywhere where there’s a piece of dirt,” said Wood.
Horn said that in his last re-election bid, a local union spent $170,000 on an unsuccessful bid to unseat him. While he doesn’t begrudge employees’ rights to form unions, he doesn’t believe they should be “in control” of elected officials.
“I know the union wants to get rid of me,” Horn said. “It didn’t work last time and I hope it doesn’t work this time.”
Horn appears to enjoy a significant fundraising lead, at least as of March 17, the latest reporting deadline. The incumbent’s campaign had raised $234,460 for his re-election bid, compared to the challenger’s $53,135.
Both men accuse the other of distorting facts. For example, Horn said Wood has incorrectly stated that Horn supported the Gregory Canyon landfill, a controversial project proposed for east of Interstate 15.
“He says I’m for Gregory Canyon. I’ve been against Gregory Canyon since the day it was initiated,” said Horn. However, Horn said public votes in favor of the landfill project have taken the matter out of the Board of Supervisors’ hands. “I’m not fighting phantoms here.”
Wood called Horn’s denial of supporting the landfill, “bull.” “He’s on record, written record… that he supported the Gregory Canyon landfill,” said Wood.
Another area of difference between the two men is their support, or lack thereof, by the Republican Party in San Diego. Most Republican establishment officials, including North County mayors, support Horn.
But Wood touts himself as a moderate who apparently doesn’t appeal to “right-wing” Republicans such as Horn. Many people are also put off by Horn’s style, said Wood, which some in the press have referred to as bullying. Elected officials have also privately told him that if they supported Wood, they feared retaliation from Horn, Wood said.
On the Oceanside City Council, Wood often sides with Councilwoman Esther Sanchez, a Democrat, on the losing end of 3-2 votes.
“He’s not used to dealing with a Marine, that’s all,” said Horn, regarding Wood’s bullying allegations. “In the Corps you’re taught to tell the truth or people die. So that’s just my nature.”
Horn said among the projects he’d like to see to completion are a proposed extension of the runway at county-owned McClellan Palomar Airport in Carlsbad, which he said would increase the range of corporate jets that could take off there, and also allow quieter jets to use the facility.
Another big project, he said, is bringing a train station to Camp Pendleton to connect the base, and those who work there, to residential communities to the north and south.
“I like getting things done,” said Horn. But he questioned Wood’s record of accomplishment. “What has he done in 12 years? All I’ve seen in Oceanside is chaos.”
Horn pointed to what he said is the county’s strong financial position, evidenced by Triple A credit and bond ratings.
“Those things don’t happen by random chance. I think we’ve been very good stewards of the taxpayers’ money,” he said.
Wood countered that he’s done plenty during his tenure as mayor and councilman.
“Oceanside’s booming, no doubt about it,” he said. “When I got into office as mayor, my priority was to change Oceanside’s image from a crime-ridden military town from the ‘60s and ‘70s. I think you’ve seen that’s happened,” he said.
Wood said he appeals to voters from a variety of political and ethnic backgrounds.
“I’m very happy I get support from Democrats, Republicans and independents. That’s what makes a city, not one group,” he said.