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The pandemic politics that have embroiled San Diego County will play a role in the Board of Supervisors election as incumbent Nathan Fletcher faces Reopen San Diego co-founder Amy Reichert for the fourth district seat.

Fletcher, 45, a former Marine intelligence officer, is running for his second term in the office. He previously served in the California Assembly between 2008 and 2012. Reichert, 54, is a licensed private investigator and marketing specialist who co-founded ReOpen San Diego, a nonprofit that has opposed the county’s COVID-19 response.

A third candidate, Sidiqa Hooker, is listed by the San Diego County Registrar of Voters as a diversity inclusion coordinator. She could not be reached for comment by phone, email or social media.

Although the race is officially nonpartisan, the candidates’ platforms split along party lines that have been etched more deeply as the region contends with the COVID-19 pandemic. The fourth district, which encompasses much of central San Diego, La Mesa and Lemon Grove, is heavily blue, with nearly 200,000 Democrats to 80,000 Republicans and about 100,000 independent voters.

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Fletcher, in his second year as chair of the board, has advocated for a more expansive county role on matters including mental health and substance abuse treatment, homelessness and housing.

“We’re making real progress on the big challenges facing San Diego families and I won’t let anyone take us backwards,” he said. “We must continue to fight forward. That means more affordable housing, more homeless off the streets and safer communities.”

Despite bitter disputes over lockdowns, social distancing rules and mask and vaccine policy that have led to marathon board meetings and threats against public officials, Fletcher credits strict COVID-19 policies with preventing infections and deaths.

“As chair of San Diego’s Board of Supervisors, I led our region’s COVID-19 response that achieved a 93 percent vaccination rate and saved lives,” he said.

Fletcher moved to San Diego as a Marine in 1997 and served until 2007 as a human intelligence/counterintelligence specialist. He served two tours in Iraq, the Near East and Horn of Africa, for which he was decorated for valor under fire.

He began his career in the state Assembly as a Republican in 2008, where he passed legislation including Chelsea’s Law to strengthen penalties for violent crimes against children. He later left the party over what he said were ideological differences, and ran unsuccessfully for mayor of San Diego as an independent in 2012. Fletcher, who lives in City Heights, won county office as a Democrat in 2018, when he beat former District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis by a 2-1 margin. Fletcher has been endorsed by the San Diego Democratic Party.

Reichert said she was not involved in politics until the pandemic galvanized her. She formed ReOpen San Diego with two other local women to oppose school and business closures and mask and vaccine mandates.

“San Diego County is moving in the wrong direction,” Reichert said. “For the past two years, I watched in disbelief as the county implemented draconian lockdown policies against our residents— irreparably harming first responders, small businesses, workers, and students.”

Reichert led protests against the county’s COVID-19 response, organizing scores of speakers to voice objections at county meetings. She has disavowed the threats and racist slurs from some protestors, but said she understands the frustration that many feel over lockdowns and other measures. While she said she doesn’t oppose vaccines or masks, she disagrees with mandates.

Reichert launched a campaign for the fourth supervisorial seat after redistricting changes placed her home in La Mesa within Fletcher’s district. She has been endorsed by the Republican party of San Diego.

“When I realized I had the opportunity to unseat my opponent, I did not hesitate to jump at the chance to correct the many wrongs committed by him and others like him in leadership positions,” Reichert said.

Both candidates identified housing, homelessness and inflation as top issues of concern for their campaigns, but differ in their proposed solutions.

“To reduce homelessness, I’m focused on the tough work to really tackle the mental illness and drug abuse that are at the root of the crisis on our streets,” Fletcher said. “We’re delivering more shelters, more treatment programs and more mental health support so we actually help people off the street, not just shuffle them from one encampment to the next.”

He pointed to county efforts to lobby for gas price relief, expand affordable housing on government-owned land and increase childcare options. And he said he’s focused on reducing gun violence through efforts including a new ordinance to ban unmarked “ghost guns.”

Reichert shared concerns about homelessness, but said she believes there has been misuse of public housing funds, and argued that much of the cost comes from permits and regulations. She said that if elected she would call for an audit of public spending on affordable housing.

“Every San Diegan should be up in arms about this kind of government hidden tax and profit-making off affordable housing,” she said.

Both candidates acknowledged the importance of protecting San Diego’s environment while maintaining a healthy economy. Fletcher noted efforts to convert the region to 100 percent renewable energy in order to combat climate change, and said the county has approved more than 14,000 new renewable energy permits in the last three years.

“There are extremists out there hellbent on taking us backwards on homelessness and who still aren’t sure climate change is even real, but I’m fighting forward for the safer, cleaner, more affordable San Diego all our families deserve,” he said.

Reichert said she was active in efforts to prevent the SR125 Toll Road from damaging sensitive habitats, and said she believes environmental regulations should be balanced with business needs.

“I believe in balanced government regulations that recognize the importance of protecting the environment, while still allowing communities to flourish and thrive,” she said. “I will never vote for fees or taxes that penalize people who want to responsibly utilize the resources this great county has to offer.”

Despite the partisan differences on the Board of Supervisors, members typically collaborate on local issues. Fletcher said 93 percent of the proposals he has brought to the board have passed with bipartisan support.

The two candidates with the most votes in the June 7 primary election will advance to the general election in November.

Source: This post first appeared on sandiegouniontribune.com

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