SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Voting begins Monday in the special election to fill the 79th Assembly District seat vacated by Shirley Weber when she was appointed secretary of state.
Ballots can be cast at the San Diego County Registrar of Voters headquarters in Kearny Mesa weekdays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Voters are asked to bring a face mask and plan to maintain social distance.
A field of four Democrats, including Weber's daughter, La Mesa City Councilwoman Dr. Akilah Weber, and one Republican are seeking to represent the district that encompasses southeastern San Diego, La Mesa and Lemon Grove and parts of Chula Vista, Bonita and National City.
The younger Weber is also an obstetrician/gynecologist who leads the Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology Division at Rady Children's Hospital-San Diego.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has placed a spotlight on many of the disparities that exist in our society, including access to good health care, equal educational opportunities, continuing racial injustices and economic disparities," she said.
"I am running to continue the fight to truly eliminate these disparities and improve the health of our families, the health of our community, and the health of our democracy."
Weber has also pledged to:
-- "push for investments in primary care clinics and services to improve public health and reduce long-term costs"
-- "work to improve equity in health care and increase health care coverage in underserved areas"
-- make public colleges tuition-free
-- increase teacher salaries to attract and retain talented educators
-- "invest in STEM education to prepare students for high-paying jobs"
-- expand early childhood education and universal preschool
Leticia Munguia, the business representative for the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, District 36, which represents government employees across Southern California, said, "It is critical that our next Assembly member not only be a fighter but also a healer, ready to repair the deep wounds too many have endured, not just over the last year but for far too long."
"The issues we face, from health care access and equity, to protecting and expanding workers' rights, to delivering opportunities for every Californian, are not new," Munguia said. "And yet, the global pandemic has lifted the curtain on how these issues are linked and their impact on people's lives and livelihoods."
Munguia said "no one will work harder than I will for our working families, young people and seniors."
"As the daughter of immigrant parents from Mexico, I know what it means to have opportunity," Munguia said. "I will always listen to the people I represent and fight for our communities, from building stronger schools to ensuring affordable college, access to health care, high-wage jobs and equity in our society."
Shane Suzanne Parmely, a teacher at Bell Middle School, said she is running "to continue my advocacy for our students, their families, and our communities by writing and supporting legislation that supports housing, food, and health/dental care as basic human rights, criminal justice reform, environmental justice, living wages, LGBTQ+ fam, immigrants and asylum seekers, and of course, fully funded truly public education from preschool through college."
Aeiramique Glass-Blake, a restorative justice consultant, activist and preacher who works in the juvenile justice field, had sought to run against Rep. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, in the 51st Congressional District in 2020, but failed to gather enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.
"After becoming ill I never thought I would run for office again," said Glass-Blake, who said she had been diagnosed with cancer and endometriosis, a disorder in which tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside the uterus.
"Of course I would continue my work towards justice, equity and unity as a diplomat, but one of my mentors reminded me, I am the people's choice for this assignment, for this seat, for such a time as this."
The lone Republican, Marco Contreras, the owner of Rancho Customs Brokers, which provides custom compliance and consulting services, said he has "never seen America more divided."
"We've forgotten how to respectfully disagree and sit at the same table together to come up with solutions," Contreras said. "We experienced a life-changing pandemic that was devastating. So much pressure revealed the truth about the policies that we currently have in Sacramento.
"The extreme and harsh lockdowns caused great harm to our children, our hard working people and our general well-being. People have been put out of work, thousands of small businesses have been forced to permanently close, children have been locked out of classrooms, and California has been the slowest to safely reopen.
"As a husband, father, small business owner, pastor I knew I had to do something about it."
If no candidate receives a majority in the April 6 election in the overwhelmingly Democratic district, a runoff between the top two finishers will be held June 8.
Ballots are being mailed to all voters in the district and could arrive at voters' homes by Monday, according to Tracy DeFore, a communications specialist with the San Diego County Communications Office.
A pre-paid postage envelope is being sent with the ballot. Voters who return their mail ballot can track it by signing up for "Where's My Ballot?" at www.sdvote.com/content/rov/en/elections/wheres-my-ballot.html.
Starting March 29, voters will also have the option to drop off ballots at a drop-off location.