Community reacts to candidates at forum
Published - 02/24/20 - 03:30 PM | 1642 views | 2 2 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Candidates for various local, statewide and national offices shared their political stances and personal backstories at a forum hosted by the College Area Community Council (CACC) and the College Area Community Planning Board on Jan. 24 at the Faith Presbyterian Church on Campanile Drive near San Diego State University.

Although attendance was light for the Friday evening forum — with a large portion of the estimated 50 attendees either candidates, their staff or CACC board members — two audience members shared why they came out. 

I’m here to learn about the candidates for mayor,” said Leonard Farello of North Park.

I’m here to meet the people behind the faces,” said El Cerrito resident Ellen Banks. 

At the forum, CACC chair Jose Reynoso noted that candidates or their representatives from races for San Diego City Council District 9, state Senate, Congress, mayor, and city attorney were invited to the forum. 

Candidates in all races whose district covers the College Area were invited,” Reynoso said. “One candidate for city attorney could not attend because of the death of his father, another was scheduled and committed but did not show up, and the third, who was not able to make it, managed to squeeze her schedule and did appear. Two candidates for mayor spoke and the other top three were scheduled but did not arrive. We had one congressional candidate but two had committed.” 

The candidates that did appear were:

Congress CA 53 district: Sara Jacobs

State Senate 39th district: Toni Atkins — unable to attend but her representative, Doug Case, spoke on her behalf

State Assembly district 78: Chris Ward — attended but left early due to his child’s illness

Mayor: Barbara Bry and Scott Sherman 

City Attorney: Mara Elliott 

San Diego City Council District 9: Kelvin Barrios, Johnny Lee Dang, Sean Elo, Andrew Gade, Ross Naismith and Alex Soto 

The speakers rotated in and out to the microphone and were asked two main questions. The first was their standing on SB 50, a statewide housing bill that would allow multi-family housing complexes to be built in single-family neighborhoods. A few days after the forum, SB 50 was rejected by the state Legislature.

The second question was on candidates’ support for the CACC’s effort to produce its own community plan update. The plan will eventually be presented to the city of San Diego’s Planning Department, which will choose the next point of action.

On the plan update, Farello summed up his observation. 

From what I heard, the candidates all seemed to offer support for the plan and one candidate basically said she trusted the community board to make their own decisions,” he said. 

The CACC forum will be the only one held before the primary, although one after the primary, with the top two contenders in each race, “would make sense,” Reynoso said. “That will be proposed to the board.”

The board is non-partisan and cannot endorse any candidate,” continued Reynoso. “But we can take a position on propositions. We’ve only had one other [forum] four years ago, but I’d like to continue having them because a big part of our mission is to educate and inform the public.” 

Farello and Banks offered their reactions after the forum was over. 

I got more than I expected,” Banks said. “I learned from the candidates and the floor.” 

I’ve made decisions, after being undecided, after attending the debate,” said Farello.

Rebecca J. Williamson is a local freelance writer. Reach her at

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