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Race warms up for Mike Levin's congressional seat

The newly-drawn district is 35.7 percent Democrat and 33.7 percent Republican

Oceanside councilman Chris Rodriguez focuses on The American Dream. He likes guns and fracking. He hates abortion.
Oceanside councilman Chris Rodriguez focuses on The American Dream. He likes guns and fracking. He hates abortion.

Ethnicity, guns, and accusations of being a business failure are all being used as weapons in the race for Mike Levin’s congressional seat. And that’s just between the Republicans.

“He still claims to be a financial planner but he can’t be because he is no longer licensed,” says Lisa Bartlett of fellow GOP candidate Brian Maryott. “You can’t be a financial planner without a license. He used to be a city councilman in a small city. But he isn’t elected to anything. He doesn’t have a job. What’s he going to put on the ballot under his name?”

Brian Maryott has secured the endorsement of the Orange County and San Diego Republican central committees.

March 11 is the deadline for candidates to file to run in the June 7 primary to to unseat two-term Democratic incumbent Mike Levin.

Orange County Supervisor Bartlett of Dana Point is not afraid to lash out against former San Juan Capistrano councilman Maryott. They and Oceanside city councilman Christopher Rodriguez are the three prominent Republicans hoping to finish in the top two in June to represent the new 49th district which runs from San Onofre to Del Mar. It is expected Democrat incumbent Levin will move on to November run-off. The newly-drawn district is 35.7 percent registered Democrat and 33.7 percent Republican.

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Maryott did not respond to Bartlett’s comments about his competency for this article, but it is thought he is the Republican front-runner since he ran against Levin in November two years ago. He has secured the endorsement of both the Orange County and San Diego Republican central committees. “We kept him from getting endorsed by the state GOP...they knew he doesn’t have a job.”

Lisa Bartlett: "I have a stellar track record. I have done a lot in eight years (as a county supervisor).”

Bartlett admits she doesn’t currently have much name recognition in San Diego County which represents about 60 percent of Levin's congressional district. The other 40 percent is in Orange County. Maryott maintains a campaign office on Coast Highway in Oceanside. Rodriguez has been an Oceanside councilman for three years yet most of his stated $466,000 campaign cash-on-hand has come from donations from across the country made by people drawn to his service in the Marines, his Hispanic heritage, and his self-described status as a “businessman/farmer.”

“You show me a photo of a Marine in combat regalia and I will show you $1 million,” says one Republican political operative who did not want to be named about Rodriguez’s “storyboard” fundraising value. “The problem with that...sure you raise the money, but those people who raise that kind of money keep a huge percentage. The net is almost non-existent.”

He says that Rodriguez’s Latin roots and Bartlett’s candidacy as a Japanese-American woman are “absolutely what the Republican party is looking for.” Yet he thinks Maryott may be seen as more down-to-earth and credible. “As far as Lisa Bartlett, we just don’t know her down here.”

Rodriguez showed $466,000 cash on hand as of December 31 while Maryott had $1.2 million to Levin’s $2.4 million. Bartlett had not yet raised money for this race.

On his congressional candidate website, Rodriguez does not go into much detail about his his accomplishments on the Oceanside City Council. He instead focuses on “The American Dream.” He likes guns and fracking. He hates abortion.

Bartlett is much less Trumpian and says she is a moderate, “common sense” Republican. I reminded her that the last time a moderate Republican ran for this congressional seat was in 2018 when State Assemblyman Rocky Chavez of Oceanside came in sixth place in the primary. “His candidacy did not resonate. I have a stellar track record. I have done a lot in eight years (as a county supervisor).”

Last year’s redistricting tanked the candidacy of retired USMC Colonel Doug Applegate who had announced he was gunning for the San Diego Board of Supervisors, District 5 seat currently held by Republican Jim Desmond. “I just got mapped out,” says Applegate whose hometown of Carlsbad was carved out of District 5 and added to District 3. That supervisor seat is already occupied by Terra Lawson-Remer. It was Applegate’s surprisingly strong showing against Darrell Issa in 2016 that many say helped encourage Issa not to run two years later. (Issa later ran for and won the inland district formerly held by Duncan Hunter).

The voter registration numbers in the new District 5 would have helped Applegate: the new county district 5 is 35.9 percent Democrat to 32.8 percent Republican.

The best example of non-partisan elections morphing into classic Dem.vs.GOP battles may be the upcoming Vista mayor race. Longtime Mayor Judy Ritter chose not to run again. Running to replace her are Deputy Mayor John Franklin and Vista Unified School District President Cipriano Vargas.

Franklin’s Vista-based Pacific Political provides campaign advice for state and local candidates throughout the west, His most famous client is Darrell Issa. Vargas was asked by the two Democrats on the Vista City Council to run for mayor. His full time job is as "advisor" to Lawson-Remer.

On March 7 Franklin sent out a citywide email blast paid for by his campaign addressing the evacuation that day of Rancho Buena Vista High after a student reported another student brought a gun to school. Sheriff deputies swarmed the school. Students were told to leave their classrooms and eventually were sent home. The email urged parents to write the school board members including Vargas.

Franklin wrote: “Students’ safety was threatened.” He blamed the school district for discontinuing the hire of two sworn sheriff deputies who worked exclusively as school safety officers. They were partially paid by the city of Vista. Franklin said the district eliminated the officers even while they hired “...almost 40 new non-teacher hires.”

Vargas says that the school district has done everything possible to work with the sheriff department to make Vista schools safe. “This happened before school even started.” He says he’s running for mayor because in his seven years on the council, Franklin, “...hasn’t done much. I think there is a better pathway for the city of Vista.”

Sheriff’s Lt. Meleen says it is the belief of the department that after an investigation it was determined there was no gun, and there was no threat to the campus.

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Oceanside councilman Chris Rodriguez focuses on The American Dream. He likes guns and fracking. He hates abortion.
Oceanside councilman Chris Rodriguez focuses on The American Dream. He likes guns and fracking. He hates abortion.

Ethnicity, guns, and accusations of being a business failure are all being used as weapons in the race for Mike Levin’s congressional seat. And that’s just between the Republicans.

“He still claims to be a financial planner but he can’t be because he is no longer licensed,” says Lisa Bartlett of fellow GOP candidate Brian Maryott. “You can’t be a financial planner without a license. He used to be a city councilman in a small city. But he isn’t elected to anything. He doesn’t have a job. What’s he going to put on the ballot under his name?”

Brian Maryott has secured the endorsement of the Orange County and San Diego Republican central committees.

March 11 is the deadline for candidates to file to run in the June 7 primary to to unseat two-term Democratic incumbent Mike Levin.

Orange County Supervisor Bartlett of Dana Point is not afraid to lash out against former San Juan Capistrano councilman Maryott. They and Oceanside city councilman Christopher Rodriguez are the three prominent Republicans hoping to finish in the top two in June to represent the new 49th district which runs from San Onofre to Del Mar. It is expected Democrat incumbent Levin will move on to November run-off. The newly-drawn district is 35.7 percent registered Democrat and 33.7 percent Republican.

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Maryott did not respond to Bartlett’s comments about his competency for this article, but it is thought he is the Republican front-runner since he ran against Levin in November two years ago. He has secured the endorsement of both the Orange County and San Diego Republican central committees. “We kept him from getting endorsed by the state GOP...they knew he doesn’t have a job.”

Lisa Bartlett: "I have a stellar track record. I have done a lot in eight years (as a county supervisor).”

Bartlett admits she doesn’t currently have much name recognition in San Diego County which represents about 60 percent of Levin's congressional district. The other 40 percent is in Orange County. Maryott maintains a campaign office on Coast Highway in Oceanside. Rodriguez has been an Oceanside councilman for three years yet most of his stated $466,000 campaign cash-on-hand has come from donations from across the country made by people drawn to his service in the Marines, his Hispanic heritage, and his self-described status as a “businessman/farmer.”

“You show me a photo of a Marine in combat regalia and I will show you $1 million,” says one Republican political operative who did not want to be named about Rodriguez’s “storyboard” fundraising value. “The problem with that...sure you raise the money, but those people who raise that kind of money keep a huge percentage. The net is almost non-existent.”

He says that Rodriguez’s Latin roots and Bartlett’s candidacy as a Japanese-American woman are “absolutely what the Republican party is looking for.” Yet he thinks Maryott may be seen as more down-to-earth and credible. “As far as Lisa Bartlett, we just don’t know her down here.”

Rodriguez showed $466,000 cash on hand as of December 31 while Maryott had $1.2 million to Levin’s $2.4 million. Bartlett had not yet raised money for this race.

On his congressional candidate website, Rodriguez does not go into much detail about his his accomplishments on the Oceanside City Council. He instead focuses on “The American Dream.” He likes guns and fracking. He hates abortion.

Bartlett is much less Trumpian and says she is a moderate, “common sense” Republican. I reminded her that the last time a moderate Republican ran for this congressional seat was in 2018 when State Assemblyman Rocky Chavez of Oceanside came in sixth place in the primary. “His candidacy did not resonate. I have a stellar track record. I have done a lot in eight years (as a county supervisor).”

Last year’s redistricting tanked the candidacy of retired USMC Colonel Doug Applegate who had announced he was gunning for the San Diego Board of Supervisors, District 5 seat currently held by Republican Jim Desmond. “I just got mapped out,” says Applegate whose hometown of Carlsbad was carved out of District 5 and added to District 3. That supervisor seat is already occupied by Terra Lawson-Remer. It was Applegate’s surprisingly strong showing against Darrell Issa in 2016 that many say helped encourage Issa not to run two years later. (Issa later ran for and won the inland district formerly held by Duncan Hunter).

The voter registration numbers in the new District 5 would have helped Applegate: the new county district 5 is 35.9 percent Democrat to 32.8 percent Republican.

The best example of non-partisan elections morphing into classic Dem.vs.GOP battles may be the upcoming Vista mayor race. Longtime Mayor Judy Ritter chose not to run again. Running to replace her are Deputy Mayor John Franklin and Vista Unified School District President Cipriano Vargas.

Franklin’s Vista-based Pacific Political provides campaign advice for state and local candidates throughout the west, His most famous client is Darrell Issa. Vargas was asked by the two Democrats on the Vista City Council to run for mayor. His full time job is as "advisor" to Lawson-Remer.

On March 7 Franklin sent out a citywide email blast paid for by his campaign addressing the evacuation that day of Rancho Buena Vista High after a student reported another student brought a gun to school. Sheriff deputies swarmed the school. Students were told to leave their classrooms and eventually were sent home. The email urged parents to write the school board members including Vargas.

Franklin wrote: “Students’ safety was threatened.” He blamed the school district for discontinuing the hire of two sworn sheriff deputies who worked exclusively as school safety officers. They were partially paid by the city of Vista. Franklin said the district eliminated the officers even while they hired “...almost 40 new non-teacher hires.”

Vargas says that the school district has done everything possible to work with the sheriff department to make Vista schools safe. “This happened before school even started.” He says he’s running for mayor because in his seven years on the council, Franklin, “...hasn’t done much. I think there is a better pathway for the city of Vista.”

Sheriff’s Lt. Meleen says it is the belief of the department that after an investigation it was determined there was no gun, and there was no threat to the campus.

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