San Diego County’s sprawling Fifth District in North County will choose between incumbent Supervisor Jim Desmond and neuroscientist Tiffany Boyd-Hodgson for the next term.
Desmond, 65, is a retired pilot and former mayor of San Marcos, who is running for his second term on the county Board of Supervisors. Boyd-Hodgson, 49, owns a science consulting business and serves on the board of directors for Vallecitos Water District.
The Fifth District includes vast potions of the backcountry and encompasses the cities of Oceanside, Vista, San Marcos and Escondido, Camp Pendleton Marine Base and the communities of Fallbrook, Bonsall, Valley Center and Borrego Springs. Its boundaries were reconfigured during the county redistricting effort last year, and the district no longer includes the city of Carlsbad.
Desmond moved to San Diego 38 years ago as a member of the Navy, earned a degree in electrical engineering at San Diego State University on the GI Bill and then worked for 33 years as a pilot and captain for Delta Airlines. He served for 14 years on the San Marcos City Council, including 12 years as mayor, before running for supervisor in 2018. He now lives in Oceanside.
“Every day I work to protect the people in my district, keep them safe, whether it be from COVID, wildfires, crime, bureaucrats who want more of their money, higher gas prices, the scourge of fentanyl or sexually violent predators,” Desmond said. “I’ve worked on all these things, and many more, so that North County remains a great place to live and raise a family.”
Boyd-Hodgson earned her doctorate in neuroscience from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, and has worked as a medical writer and consultant on central nervous system disorders and other conditions. She moved to San Marcos in 2018, and was elected to the Vallecitos Water District board in 2020.
“With this district being over 90 percent unincorporated, our region needs an advocate to protect our waterways and deter dangerous developments in undeveloped areas prone to wildfire,” Boyd-Hodgson said. “I am a leader who will think critically and push bold ideas when tackling housing affordability issues, homelessness, and keep North County looking like North County.”
Desmond said his priorities for office include “crime control and public safety, ensuring high quality public health services and combatting homelessness.”
“I’m doing so by keeping the residents and taxpayers of North County safe, by prioritizing and managing taxpayer resources, and enhancing our quality of life,” he said.
Boyd-Hodgson said she would focus on improving government efficiency, spurring economic development and improving access to health care and mental health services, particularly for seniors and veterans.
“I will continue to create pathways and forge partnerships between education and industry to prepare skilled workers for our region’s growing needs, and accelerate affordable housing development throughout North County,” she said.
Both candidates affirmed the need to address the effects of climate change, including sea level rise, drought and increased wildfire risk. As the county updates its climate action plan and develops a regional decarbonization plan to eliminate fossil fuel use, Desmond has said there should be more emphasis on electric vehicles instead of transportation plans based primarily on transit.
“Climate change is real, and we should all work to address it,” Desmond said. “It’s the only home and planet we have. It’s time for private clean energy companies and government to promote a strong economy and good jobs as we transition toward more renewable technology-driven solutions and less use of fossil fuels.”
Boyd-Hodgson said she would support programs such as using electric school buses to reduce idling in school pickup lines.
“Bold action is required to stabilize our climate and reach the county’s climate action plan goals, but it isn’t a one-size-fits-all program,” she said.
As the county has led the pandemic response, Desmond has said during board discussions that he supports vaccination but doesn’t favor vaccine mandates. He said he wants to devote more resources to parts of the county with lower vaccination rates.
“Our greatest emphasis must always be on protecting the most vulnerable: seniors and those with serious, complicating medical conditions,” he said. “Additionally, we must expand vaccine access to underserved communities and the rural areas of North and East County.”
Boyd-Hodgson said she would focus on pandemic recovery and planning for future health emergencies.
“North County lost thousands of jobs during the pandemic and many people have re-evaluated how they work and where they work,” she said. “Our recovery efforts must not only allow for this flexibility but also ensure that remote work is an option with internet accessibility in all parts of our county.”
Both acknowledged the dual problems of a housing shortage and homelessness as regional crises. Desmond said the county should streamline permitting processes for housing development, and create more options for people experiencing homelessness.
“Housing is straightforward: we need to get out from under the red tape and unreasonable restrictions that hamper our efforts to create more housing that’s affordable to working families,” he said. “On homelessness, it’s not compassionate to have people living and dying on the sidewalk. That’s not the answer.”
Boyd-Hodgson said the county must avert homelessness before it occurs.
“Preventing homelessness starts with keeping people in their homes,” she said. “Seniors are rapidly becoming at risk for homelessness as their rent increases, but their income remains fixed. We must continue programs that help identify persons at risk and provide services to help them remain in their homes.”
She called for increasing housing near transit within developed areas and improving job opportunities to address the gap between housing costs and income and provide incentives for affordable housing construction.
With only two candidates running, the district will not go to a primary election in June, but will be decided during the general election in November. The county seat is officially a nonpartisan race, but policy issues often fall along party lines, and local political parties weigh in on candidates. Desmond, a Republican, has been endorsed by the Republican Party of San Diego, while Boyd-Hodgson, a Democrat, has the backing of the Democratic Party of San Diego.