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Update February 19, 2024-- Video of this candidate forum is now posted.  View the forum here:  79th State Assembly Forum 2/3/2024 (

By Jessyka Heredia 

Miriam Raftery also contributed to this report

Photo, left to right:  Mayor Racquel Vasquez, Councilman Colin Parent, and County Office of Education Community Engagement Specialist LaShea Sharp-Collins.

January 31, 2024 (East County) --Three Democrats are running for the 79th District State Assembly seat on March 5th . Lemon Grove Mayor Racquel Vasquez, La Mesa City Councilmember Colin Parent and Dr. LaShae Sharp- Collins. There are no Republicans in this race.

All three candidates will be attending a public forum being held Saturday February 3rd, 2024 at the Lemon Grove Library at  2 p.m. The library is located at 3001 School Ln, Lemon Grove, CA 91945

With three strong names in the same party competing, it may be hard for voters to decipher the differences. ECM breaks down their experience, accomplishments, the goals they have outlined in their campaigned, and key endorsements.

Mayor Racquel Vasquez

Experience: Vasquez was elected Mayor of Lemon Grove in 2016 and reelected in 2020. She previously served on the city’s planning commission and is also senior public works office for the city of San Diego’s public works department.

Her bio lists a Bachelor of Arts in Radio, Television, and Film, emphasis in Management, from California State University. 

She is the founder of Thrive Lemon Grove, a nonprofit promoting healthy initiatives to benefit residents. Her memberships and affiliations include Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Epsilon Xi Omega League of California Cities, San Diego Municipal Employees Association and SANDAG Board of Directors. 

 Goals: According to her campaign website, her top focuses if elected to state Assembly will be “ensuring neighborhood safety, revitalizing the local economy, championing affordable housing, and combating homelessness.”

Accomplishments: Vasquez states on her website, “I championed a Lemon Grove economic stimulus program utilizing ARPA Funds. This program energized our local Lemon Grove economy with over $500,000 in less than a year’s time and introduced new customers to our small local businesses.” 

Lemon Grove is the only city in the San Diego County to meet the state’s affordable housing mandate over the past eight years, and one of only 13 cities in the state to do so, according to Vasquez’s website.

Vasquez adds, “Human-created climate change is the largest, most pervasive threat to the natural environment, our communities, and future generations. I championed a City of Lemon Grove Climate Action Plan, to ensure we are doing our part to preserve our future.”

As Lemon Grove’s Mayor, Vasquez says she “created budget transparency, uncovering 20 years of deficit spending.”

Her website lists other accomplishments including a public/private partnership with OUTFRONT Media to build a new Lemon Grove gateway near highway 94 that she says will generate over $325,000 annually for the City for 20 years. She also cites creating a Homeless Outreach Program funded by the Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP).  

Endorsements: There were no endorsements listed on Mayor Vasquez’s website. 


Councilmember Colin Parent  

Experience: Parent has served two terms on the La Mesa City Council since 2016. He is also  Executive Director of the non-profit Circulate San Diego.

He was appointed by Governor Jerry Brown as Director of External Affairs for the California Department of Housing and Community Development. He has also served as Director of Policy at the San Diego Housing Commission.

Also an attorney, he has served as a commercial litigator at DLA Piper US LLP,an international law firm based in San Diego. He co-founded the San Diego Leadership Alliance and served on the board of the League of Conservation Voters in San Diego.

 Raised in East County, he is a graduate of Valhalla High School

Goals:  According to his website, Parent’s goals as a state Assemblymember will be “walkable and safe neighborhoods, and affordable homes.”

Accomplishments:  Parent states on his website, “As a Councilmember, I have a clear understanding of the challenges that our communities face. From the housing crisis to homelessness, I’ve championed policies aimed at improving the lives of the people I represent.” 

His website lists accomplishments that include championing “the first 100% affordable development in La Mesa in decades,” as well as saving the La Mesa Farmer’s Market and “making it easier for homeowners to invest in their properties and build equity.

Parent says he also expanded the city’s homeless outreach teams to help those in need, led a campaign to transform empty transit agency parking lots into affordable homes, and prioritized investments in road repairs and safer streets.

Endorsements:  Parent’s endorsements include Congressman Scott Peters, Assemblymember David Alvarez,  La Mesa Mayor. Mark Arapostathis,  State Senator Steve Padilla, Lemon Grove Councilmembers Jennifer Mendoza and George Gastil and other politicians, as well as organizations the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council, several police and firefighters unions, the California Association of Realtors, and the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation.

Dr. LaShea Sharp-Collins

Experience: Sharp-Collins  currently serves as San Diego County Office of Education Community Engagement Specialist.  She is also an adjunct professor at San Diego State University. She holds several degrees from  San Diego State University, including and Ed.D in education leadership.

She has also served as district director for Assemblymember Shirley Weber. Sharp-Collins has served on the boards of the San Diego NAACP, San Diego Urban League, Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest, and the Association of African American Educators. She is also a founding member of the Black Women Institute for Leadership Development.  A San Diego native, she is now raising her own children in the district.

Goals: The issues Sharp-Collins lists as her priorities are  to ”protect a woman’s right to reproductive freedom, prioritize equity in education, deliver environmental justice by building a more sustainable California by passing policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, transition our economy to 100% clean energy, and ensure that all communities have access to clean air, clean water, and a healthy environment.”

Sharp-Collins also wants to address the homelessness crisis, expand affordable health care and mental health care, create a stronger economy, and build a more just California by supporting policies that address racial and gender inequities and promote social justice, protect the right to vote, women’s health care and reproductive freedoms, and civil rights.

Accomplishments:  Sharp-Collins list of achievements on her website include, “The San Diego County Office of Education’s Community Engagement Specialist, Sharpe-Collins strengthens curriculums in 42 school districts. She also helps parents, students, and community members access health screenings and vaccines, programs to find jobs, career training, apprenticeships, and assistance in finding quality schools for their children.” 

Sharpe-Collins “has served on the boards of Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest, the San Diego NAACP, the San Diego Urban League, the Educational Enrichment System, and the Association of African American Educators, and is a founding member of the Black Women Institute for Leadership Development and a former member of the San Diego BAPAC.”

Sharp-Collins a;so served as District Director for Assemblymember Dr. Shirley N. Weber, who is now California Secretary of State, Sharp-Collins managed staff and policy in that position.

Sharp-Collins says she “is a proud union member in the California Faculty Association and the onlyunion member in this race.”

Endorsements:  Sharp-Collins is the only candidate endorsed by the San Diego County Democratic Party California Democratic Party. She is also endorsed Dr. Akilah Weber, the current State Assemblymember in the 79th district, who is running for State Senate. In addition, her endorsements include Secretary of State Shirley Weber,PhD, Tony Thurmond ,State Superintendent of Public Instruction, the California Faculty Association, and Planned Parenthood.









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