In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, abortion rights have emerged as a central issue in North County races, even at the city council level.
In the race for state Senate District 38, the divergent views on abortion from Democratic Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear and Republican small business owner Matt Gunderson. are increasingly swamping issues like housing affordability and homelessness, which both candidates say are their top priorities.
Blakespear has focused much of her campaign on reproductive rights and has made it clear she is pro-choice, supports Planned Parenthood and supports Proposition 1 – a California ballot measure that would codify the right to abortion and contraception into the state constitution.
She has repeatedly claimed to be “the only pro-choice candidate,” even though Gunderson says he is a pro-choice Republican. Gunderson, however, does not support Proposition 1 because it doesn’t explicitly limit late-term abortions.
Blakespear insists that Gunderson is anti-choice – so much so that she recently declined Gunderson’s challenge to engage in a series of debates because she wanted him to take a more explicit stance on abortion rights.
“He’s lying to voters about his record,” said Kevin Sabellico, Blakespear’s campaign manager, via email.
He pointed out that Gunderson is endorsed by the California Pro-Life Council and Californians for Life, both anti-abortion groups.
“It’s important to elect pro-choice leaders who will make sure California remains a reproductive freedom state,” Sabellico said.
Gunderson told The Coast News in August he thinks Blakespear is avoiding having to answer for her “record of blocking her critics on social media and refusing to answer questions for SANDAG’s egregious misuse of taxpayer money.”
“She can’t stand on her own record, so she thinks her only chance of winning is to lie about Gunderson’s record on the issue of choice,” said Chris Marsh, Gunderson’s campaign manager.
District 38 encompasses some of North County’s coastal cities, with redistricting shifting the previously Republican-leaning district to a Democratic majority. The seat is currently held by termed-out Republican State Senator Pat Bates.
Local Councils Divided Over Prop 1 Support
Abortion is also taking center stage in local races, like those for the San Marcos City Council and the Vista City Council. Both of those councils recently rejected resolutions supporting Proposition 1.
In San Marcos, Councilmembers Randy Walton and María Nuñez introduced a resolution last week that would state the city’s support for Proposition 1 and urge local voters to support the measure.
Mayor Rebecca Jones said the measure was “divisive” and was outside’s the Council’s role as a nonpartisan body. The Council voted 3-2 to table the resolution indefinitely.
“I don’t accept the premise of the question that a woman’s reproductive rights, namely a right to privacy and a right to choose, are ‘partisan,’” Walton said via email. He said he didn’t introduce the resolution as a candidate for office, but as an elected official.
Jones and Walton are both running for mayor this November.
Vista’s City Council heard a similar resolution, introduced by Councilmember Katie Melendez, that would state the city’s support of Proposition 1. That was replaced by a resolution by Councilmember Joe Green stating city officials stand by California state law protecting reproductive freedoms.
Both resolutions failed.
Mayoral candidate Cipriano Vargas spoke at the meeting in support of the resolution. Councilmember John Franklin, who is also running for mayor, said the council shouldn’t take a stance on an issue that “voters have strong feelings about.”