The rhetoric surrounding the runoff battle between two candidates for San Mateo County supervisor has a familiar ring: establishment versus anti-establishment.
Coastside resident and business owner April Vargas, 60, has tried to paint former Sheriff Don Horsley as part of the traditional political circles in the county.
“People tell me they want somebody new, they want somebody who’s not part of the entrenched power structure, someone who’s not beholden to the same special interests,” Vargas said.
But Horsley, 66, says he has new ideas of his own, along with the experience of managing hundreds of employees and a multimillion-dollar budget when he helmed the Sheriff’s Office from 1993 to 2006. His backers include labor unions, police chiefs, two members of Congress and dozens of city council members.
“I think I’ve got the experience, I’ve got the track record that shows I know how to get things done,” said Horsley, president of the Sequoia Healthcare District board.
The two candidates are nearing the home stretch of the first competitive San Mateo County supervisor race in more than a decade as they seek to replace termed-out Rich Gordon representing the Coastside and cities like Atherton, Woodside, San Carlos and Portola Valley.
Horsley was the top vote-getter during the June primary with 39.1 percent out of five candidates, followed by Vargas with 23.6 percent.
Since no one got more than 50 percent, Horsley and Vargas face off in a runoff Nov. 2.
Vargas has made Horsley’s $208,000 annual pension an issue at a time of heightened public attention surrounding public employee compensation with the pay scandal in the Southern California city of Bell.
Vargas said the pension gives residents “little confidence that he will be motivated to make agreements different than what we’ve seen before.” She has called for raising the retirement age for public safety workers from 50 to 60.
But Horsley said he contributed to his pension over three decades in law enforcement and pledged to forego any salary or medical benefits as a supervisor. He said he called setting the retirement age at 50 “bad public policy” while he was sheriff but it was approved anyway.
“I’ve taken a tough line with things I feel were excessive,” Horsley said.
Both say they favor reducing the number of managers among the county’s 5,500 employees to help the county close a projected $150 million deficit over five years. For further savings, Vargas said the county should reduce its use of fleet vehicles, while Horsley wants to get private hospitals to take on more charity health care.
San Mateo County supervisor candidates April Vargas and Don Horsley will have a series of public meetings:
7 p.m. Tuesday
Shelter Creek Home Owner’s Association
Shelter Creek Club House
701 Shelter Creek Lane, San Bruno
2 p.m. Oct. 9
St. Francis Heights Association
Westmoor Park Clubhouse
123 Edgemont St., Daly City
Midcoast Community Council
Seton Medical Center Coastside
Etheldore and Marine Blvd.,
7 p.m. Oct. 14
Peace and Justice Committee of St. Bartholomew’s Parish
St. Bartholomew’s Catholic Church
600 Columbia Drive at Alameda de las Pulgas, San Mateo
7 p.m. Oct. 19
Palomar Park Home Owner’s Association
Clifford School Library
225 Clifford Ave., Redwood City
6 p.m. Oct. 25
Notre Dame de Namur University
Department of History and Political Science
Ralston Hall Ballroom,
1500 Ralston Ave., Belmont
Sources: April Vargas, Don Horsley