A senior state lawmaker is working on the newly redrawn 40 in San Diego Countyth Senate District, covering a large area of central San Diego County.
State Senator Brian Jones, Republican, currently Rep. 38th The Senate district, which covers roughly the northeast quadrant of San Diego County, faces a challenge from Democrat Joseph Rocha, a lawyer and former U.S. Navy officer.
Along with San Diego County and other legislative districts across the state, 40th Recently redistricted as part of the post-2020 Census redistricting process. Jones is a Santee resident and now lives in 40th Area.
Two candidates are campaigning in the Senate district that includes San Diego’s University City, Sorrento Valley, Sorrento Mesa, Miramar and Mira Mesa, as well as Santi, Lakeside, Alpine, Pine Valley, Ramona , Poway, 4S Ranch and North County Lines include Fallbrook, Escondido, San Marcos and Valley Center.
Under California’s open primary system, the top two winners of the June 7 primary, regardless of party affiliation, will continue to face off in the November general election. In the case of primaries with only two candidates, such as this year’s 40th District Senate seats, the two candidates will continue their fall rematch.
Voter registration in the region is evenly split, with Democrats at 34.4 percent and Republicans at 34.3 percent, according to data provided by the California Secretary of State’s office. About a quarter of voters in the region did not list any party preference.
Jones, 53, served as a Santee city councilmember before being elected first to the California Assembly and then the state Senate. Before working in politics, he worked as a commercial real estate broker. Jones attended Grosmont College and earned a BA in Business Administration from San Diego State University.
Rocha, a 35-year-old Escondido resident who served in the Navy and worked as a bomb dog handler in the Persian Gulf, was discharged under the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gay service members. During his retirement, he graduated from San Diego City College and the University of San Diego, and received a law degree from the University of San Francisco.
After “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed, Rocha enlisted, earned the rank of captain in the Marine Corps and served as a prosecutor before retiring in 2021.
The two candidates answered questions about economic development/job creation, education and tax policy in separate interviews.
Rocha said he will work to bring good-paying jobs to the state in areas such as building infrastructure, much-needed new housing and tackling climate change. He also said he would push for policy changes to make it easier for spouses of active duty military members to find good jobs by allowing professional certifications in one state to be recognized in other states.
He said greater economic opportunity for service members, veterans and their families would reduce food insecurity and reduce suicide and homelessness rates.
Jones said his family moved from Colorado to California when he was a child because his father saw the state as a “land of opportunity.” Today, he said, there is an exodus of California residents due to high taxes and onerous corporate regulations.
Workers and their employees need more flexibility to set work schedules without interference from state regulations, Jones said. He also advocated for legal reforms that would make it harder to prosecute businesses for mistakes over payroll or other minor offenses.
Jones said the state should also do more to prepare students for jobs in trades like plumbers and electricians, which offer a good life and not every high school graduate wants to go to college.
On education, Jones said he wants to return more control of school operations to local school boards, which have been more responsive to parents than Sacramento’s lawmakers and governor.
Parents should be able to choose whether to send their children to public, private or charter schools, or to homeschool them. Jones said vouchers that parents could use to send students to private schools were already in play elsewhere and would give parents more choice and create healthier competition among schools.
“When schools are forced to compete, they do better,” he said.
Rocha said he would like to see the state better prepare for all levels of education by focusing on community colleges in kindergarten through grades 14 or two. Rocha said teachers should be paid better and the state should boost spending per capita in public schools because California lags many other states in this category.
“This state relies on brain power to lead science, technology and medicine with minimal investment per student in education. It’s nonsense,” Rocha said.
The state’s tax rules are also on voters’ minds as lawmakers and governors grapple with the best use of the state’s budget surplus that could reach $97 billion.
“It’s irresponsible that some people want to cut the check from the surplus until it’s gone,” Rocha said. Instead, he said, the money should be used for education, climate action and a rainy day fund to support national finances during a downturn. He said it would make more sense to provide targeted petrol tax rebates to those most in need, rather than blanket rebates for all households.
“The wealthiest classes in our state are not affected by gasoline prices,” he said.
Rocha also said he would like to see the state remove the tax on military pensions.
Jones said he will use the surplus to pay down debt, build infrastructure, suspend California’s gas tax, and by giving tax refunds on taxpayers’ income tax returns.
He said suspending the gas tax would reduce the cost of a gallon by $1, providing relief to his constituents, who drive 15 to 35 miles a day to work.
Jones said the state should not impose a per-mile fee on motorists, as state and local leaders are considering. The state is already facing a net loss of population as residents leave California for places with lower taxes and fewer regulations. The exodus has recently caused U-Haul to run out of trucks, he said.