Voters have a choice in the Nov. 2 runoff for the District 3 San Mateo County supervisor's seat, as evidenced by the candidates' differing views on key questions they faced at an election forum Sept. 28 in Redwood City.
The candidates were asked their positions on the proposed building of a community for 25,000 people on the Cargill salt flats in Redwood City, and whether it is appropriate for other cities to express their views on the proposal.
Former sheriff Don Horsley said he would wait to get information from an environmental impact report on the project, but that the development "is essentially a Redwood City issue."
Candidate April Vargas, a small business owner and resident of the coastside, said she is opposed to any kind of development on the Cargill lands, which she said are prone to liquefaction. "Traffic is already very congested," she added. "It's appropriate for everyone to speak up on this issue."
The candidates were also divided on the question of whether supervisors should run in district elections, rather than county-wide, as they do now.
Ms. Vargas said she is a "strong proponent" of district elections because of the difficulty of running county-wide -- trying to reach 400,000 voters -- and the necessity to raise a lot of money to do so. "Money tends to corrupt the process," she said.
Mr. Horsley said he favors county-wide elections because supervisors need a county-wide perspective on major matters such as criminal justice and health care, but he did think the Board of Supervisors should have put the question to the voters.
Asked about the advantages and disadvantages of a candidate being a county government insider or outsider, Mr. Horsley said his long service in the county has given him the experience to know how to work with cities on regional matters, including lowering the crime rate. "I've never been a part of the good old boys' network," he said.
Ms. Vargas said her relative outsider status would provide new leadership in a county with an "entrenched power structure" where new board members are often appointed and incumbents are rarely defeated. The budget, she said, "is crying out for new leadership." The annual deficit could reach $150 million by 2014 unless a "course correction is made," she said.
The forum, organized by the League of Women Voters of San Mateo County, was held at the Redwood Shores Branch Library in Redwood City.
In the June election for this District 3 supervisor's seat, none of the five candidates received the necessary majority -- 50 percent of the vote, plus one vote -- to be elected. So, the top two vote-getters, Mr. Horsley and Ms. Vargas, are in a runoff in the Nov. 2 election.