By Mike Allen
Photo, top left to lower right: Carl DeMaio, Andrew Hayes, Kevin Juza, Jack Fernandes, Joy Frew, Christie Dougherty
February 10, 2024 (Santee) -- Politics makes strange bedfellows. This is certainly proving true in the 75th Assembly race, which has attracted a field of six candidates, evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. Incumbent Marie Waldron is termed out this year, making this an open seat.
In the last few weeks, television viewers have seen ads for the most recognizable and funded candidate, Republican Carl DeMaio, at his most combative, railing about the mess at the southwest border. It closes with pictures of him alongside one of Democrat Kevin Juza, who has the endorsement of the state’s Democratic party and big labor backing.
“I have no connection to (the ad) at all,” Juza said. “He’s chosen me to run against in the primary….As my grandmother always said, ‘Watch out what you wish for.’”
In the deeply red district, which includes much of East County, the cities of Poway, Santee and parts of San Diego, the expectation is the top two finishers in March will be the best known— DeMaio and longtime aide to State Sen. Brian Jones, Andrew Hayes, also an elected member of the Lakeside School District board.
DeMaio, who didn’t receive the official endorsement of the county Republican Party, obviously wants to see Juza make the top-two finisher cut and eliminate Hayes, so he can skate in the November general election. He declined to comment on the ad.
This will be DeMaio’s fourth run at public office here. He moved to San Diego from the East Coast in the early 2000s, setting up two think tanks aimed at holding local government accountable, but helping him gain mounds of publicity.
In 2008 he was elected to the San Diego City Council and served one term. In 2012, he placed second in a five-person primary for San Diego mayor, but was defeated in the general election by a Democrat with even stronger name recognition, Bob Filner, who beat him by a 5 percent margin.
In 2014, he lost to Democrat Scott Peters for Congress, and in 2020 lost in the primary for the Congressional seat held by Darrell Issa.
DeMaio may be the front runner, but there’s a ton of entrenched funding backing Hayes, as evidenced by the continuous flow of mailers to registered voters mail boxes. While DeMaio tries to paint Hayes as soft on illegal immigration, Hayes touts his conservative credentials laced with many pictures of Donald Trump.
Both candidates are spending heavily and records are likely to be broken for this seat. Through the end of January, DeMaio reported raising another $210,000 to bring his total contributions to more than $1.1 million including a $100,000 personal loan. Hayes reported contributions of more than $623,000.
Here’s an overview of the six candidates— DeMaio, Hayes, Juza, Jack Fernandes, Joy Frew, and Christie Dougherty, and their reasons for seeking office.
Experience: Before running for public offices, DeMaio founded Reform California, a political action committee aimed at making significant changes to both state and local governments. The committee’s website says it “represents 50,000 donors who give an average of just $67 per year.” That translates to $3.35 million annually. After he lost the San Diego mayor’s race he took up a radio host gig at KOGO-AM 600, a post he left last year after announcing his candidacy.
Of Reform California, on which he sits as CEO, DeMaio says, “We’ve built a statewide grassroots movement dedicated to shaking up the political system and making government work for the people—not the special interests.”
Goals: DeMaio has been fighting against the heavily Democrat dominated state legislature he says has been imposing insane and damaging policies on residents with apparent acquiescence from what’s left of the Republican opposition. He vows to change that dynamic.
Accomplishments: He said his organization has led many efforts to stop tax hikes and hold politicians accountable including one that thwarted a Sacramento proposal to impose taxes based on the amount of vehicle miles driven.
Endorsements: Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, Latino American Political Association of San Diego, California College Republicans.
Experience: Hayes took a leave from a longstanding job as an aide to State Sen. Brian Jones. Previously he was an aide to former State Sen. Joel Anderson. In 2018 he was elected to the Lakeside Unified School District board and is the current president.
Goals: Hayes listed his three main goals as promoting parent involvement in the educational process, enforcing fiscal responsibility and creating a more business-friendly environment, and supporting law enforcement to combat a rising crime wave in the district.
Accomplishments: He emphasizes his lifelong residency in East County, saying “nobody in the race understands the district the way I do. My roots in this district, combined with my experience as a problem-solver for constituents and President of the Lakeside School Board, give me a front-row seat to the problems caused by Sacramento.”
Endorsements: Republican Party of San Diego County, California Republican Party, Deputy Sheriffs Association, San Diego Police Officers Association, Association of Builders and Contractors and many other organizations and elected officials.
Experience: Democrat Juza works as a business consultant. He’s run for elected office twice before, losing both times for Poway school board, and Poway City Council.
Goals: “My top priority is to bring real resources home from Sacramento to help AD 75’s working families. This means investing in projects here that will provide well-paying union jobs and opportunities that take advantage of the potential of our district.”
Accomplishments: “Over my 25-year career, I’ve worked in every sized business, from multiple Fortune 500 companies to my own small business. In 2018, after over 20 years in corporate America, I decided to take the reins and live my dream: as a consultant, helping founders and their teams maximize their potential.”
Endorsements: California Democratic Party, California Labor Federation, California Young Democrats, San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council and others.
Experience: After passing the California bar, Republican Fernandes said he launched several successful biotech companies including Regenica Biosciences and recently, Machine Bio.
Goals: “Jobs and companies are leaving San Diego at record speeds while the average San Diegan is being taxed into oblivion. When I am elected, that ends. Our new era begins.”
Accomplishments: Besides his entrepreneurial achievements, Fernandes serves on the board of the Cabrillo National Monument Foundation.
Endorsements: , San Diego Building Trades and IBEW; also GROWElect, a PAC dedicated to supporting Latino Republican candidates.
Experience: Democrat Frew is a retired revenue officer, U.S. Dept of Treasury, 17 years; Washington State Dept of Social and Health Services; Los Angeles County Dept of Public Social Services. “I know how government works. I have worked for county, state and federal governments.”
Goals: A founder of the Fallbrook Climate Action Team, Frew says she wants to work “with other knowledgeable climate activists in the Assembly and the State of California, to make our grid more resilient and more locally sustainable. We need to stop turning over our “power” to Investor-owned utilities like SDG&E and PG&E, who charge more to consumers for energy than any other state in the U.S.”
Accomplishments: Frew said she grew up working in her immigrant family’s print shop, and earned her college degree while working multiple jobs. As a longtime member of the Fallbrook Democratic Club, she helped elect more than 20 Democrats to local offices in the past decade, and has been a delegate to the State Democratic Party since 2017, and editor of a free newsletter that reports on local agencies.
Endorsements: The last two Democratic nominees for AD75, Kate Schwartz (2020) and Alan Geraci (2018), and also the chair emerita of the California Environmental Caucus, R.L. Miller, Health Care for All-California and the Center for Freethought Equality.
Experience: After serving a hitch in the U.S. Navy, Dougherty earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from SDSU, and has worked as a teacher.
Goals: “My promise to you, the voter, is to continue to do what I have done all my life, work hard to make a difference.” In her questionnaire for Ballotpedia, she states, “ My party affiliation, to me, indicates that I prioritize health care, education, equality, the right of a woman to have a choice over her body, and climate crises (insurance) concerns. I am tired of the polarization of politics and the ease at which misinformation has spread and created rifts between good people. As an educator I value input from people, research from experts, and fact checking. I see no reason why with patience and all the tools we have today, we cannot get together to mend those rifts and seek solutions.”
Accomplishments: “I have worked hard all my life, from my first job at 12 to enlisting in the United States Navy at 18. As a veteran, I utilized the GI Bill, and became the special education teacher I am now.”
Endorsements: None listed.