Sara Jacobs (‘07), TPHS alumna and granddaughter of Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs, is running for California’s 49th congressional district — currently held by retiring Congressman Darrell Issa — which extends from Del Mar, Solana Beach and Carmel Valley in the south to San Juan Capistrano in the north.
After graduating from TPHS, Jacobs attended Columbia University and earned a B.A. in Political Science and International Relations, and later a Masters of International Affairs. She spent the following years at the U.N. where she developed a strategy for dealing with large amounts of data related to humanitarian crises; her strategy was later implemented in the U.N. response to the Zika virus.
She also served in the U.S. State Department under then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and later as a foreign policy adviser for Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. A self-described policy-wonk who prefers “to be behind the scenes,” Jacobs never thought she would run for Congress.
However, Jacobs felt concerned about rising income inequality and the “unfair” economic state of the country.
“I didn’t feel like there was anyone in office who was working on fixing that problem,” Jacobs said.
According to the Gini Index, San Diego County ranks 25th for U.S. counties with the highest income inequality. Business Insider’s list of the most expensive zip codes in the United States includes Rancho Santa Fe and Del Mar, which are both in the 49th district and serve as feeder neighborhoods to SDUHSD.
“Congressman Issa has put in policies that only benefit the wealthy,” Jacobs said. “My focus in office will be working to close that opportunity gap in the economic sense and making sure everyone has access to affordable housing and health care and college.”
Jacobs’ economic platform attracted the endorsement of E.M.I.L.Y’s List, a group that funds female candidates.
“Sara will deliver a fresh, new approach to government that creates economic opportunity and works for Southern California families,” the Democratic-affiliated super PAC noted in its endorsement of Jacobs.
E.M.I.L.Y’s List also took aim at Congressman Issa, claiming he has “failed to stand up” for his constituents, instead voting for “President Donald Trump’s agenda.”
According to political analysis site FiveThirtyEight, Issa’s voting record aligns with Trump’s 92.2 percent of the time.
Issa’s press release regarding his retirement did not cite a reason for stepping down, stating only that the decision was made with “the support of [his] family,” but, as with other retiring Republicans, there has been speculation that the reason may be to avoid a difficult re-election campaign. Clinton won Issa’s district by over 7 percentage points during the presidential election, and Issa won re-election in 2016 with less than a percent point advantage.
Thirty-eight House Republicans have so far announced they will not run for re-election, a number of retirement notices that, according to CNN, is larger than and accumulated faster than previous years, which has led to speculation that Trump’s record low popularity has triggered a mass exodus of Republican lawmakers before the 2018 midterm elections.
Issa’s office did not reply to multiple requests for comment.
“Issa’s retirement reflects what we have been saying this whole time, which is that he no longer represented the interest or values of this district,” Jacobs said. “We have been talking to voters up and down the district and what they are looking for is change.”
If elected, Jacobs is unsure of the amount of work she could accomplish with the Trump administration.
“In general it seems that they are entirely intransigent and do not share any of my values,” Jacobs said. “I would be hard-pressed to find an area where we could collaborate, but I wouldn’t foreclose upon that idea if it was for the benefit of my constituents.”
One of Jacobs’ biggest concerns with the current administration is its foreign policy.
“The Trump administration has done a detriment to U.S. leadership in the world,” Jacobs said. “We are no longer respected by our allies. People don’t believe the word of the United States when they sign onto a deal or when they commit to something with their allies. We have emboldened our enemies and created some vacuums of leadership that will not be good for U.S. national security.”
Eleven months after the election, there are dozens of vacant positions in the State Department, including key ambassadorships to important allies like South Korea and Saudi Arabia. Jacobs would not confirm whether or not her contacts in the State Department agreed with the numerous leaks reporting mismanagement and frustration under Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
“I will say that the very few of my friends who are still there are not very happy,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs’ knowledge of American foreign policy stems from her career experience on the East Coast. While a lack of local credentials may limit her name recognition, her billionaire grandfather Irwin Jacobs’ company, Qualcomm, is the 6th largest employer in San Diego, according to the City of San Diego’s 2017 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. Although a massive economic generator of tax revenue and jobs, Bloomberg News reports Qualcomm has the 10th largest stockpile of offshore cash for a U.S. company, with an estimated 92.9 percent of its cash, or $26.8 billion, outside of the reach of the Internal Revenue Service.
Jacobs, who has never worked for Qualcomm nor ever been involved in “their decision making processes,” supports closing tax loopholes that allow U.S. companies to hoard cash overseas, and, if elected, would support legislation that “makes sure that we are adequately taxing corporate dollars and incentivising them to be investing it in the U.S. for the benefit of the U.S. economy and U.S. workers.”
Irwin Jacobs is also a frequent and generous donor, having donated millions to Democratic candidates, and, according to CampaignMoney.com, donated $481,800 during the 2016 election cycle. Despite her family connections, Sara refutes the characterization that she is tied to the Democrats’ establishment donor class.
“I will admit that I have a very different upbringing than most people, and I have been very fortunate,” Jacobs said. “I believe it is my responsibility to use those advantages to make things fair and better, and just like we need men to be part of solving the issues around sexual harassment, we need the wealthy class to be part of solving income inequality so that we can actually have a sustainable solution.”
Jacobs’ interest in public policy and sense of civic duty first appeared in high school.
“Torrey Pines was actually where I first started paying attention to the U.S. government, and U.S. politics,” Jacobs said. “Mr. Trupe was a big influence on me, and [so was] Mr. Harvie’s physics class.”
History teacher Lars Trupe remembers Jacobs’ presence in class.
“She is very ambitious, hardworking, always looking for alternative ideas … she was an outstanding student,” Trupe said.
Trupe remembers that Jacobs was always polite during political discussion in class.
“She always had her political beliefs, and she wasn’t afraid to express them, but she always did it, even for a high school kid, in a very mature way,” Trupe said. “She didn’t demean people that had different perspectives, but instead [looked] to educate and persuade them.”
While Trupe will not disclose how he will vote, only saying he was interested in “change,” he is still “very excited for her.”
“When I was [at TPHS], it was a huge class, I think something like 1,200 students, and learning how to interact with different people who had so many different experiences and things to bring to the table really helped me throughout my life,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs’ advice to current TPHS students: get work experience.
“Internships are really good opportunities to expand your network and have people know you so when you graduate they can advocate for you, and help you get the job that you want,” Jacobs said.
The primary is on June 5. The top two candidates, regardless of party affiliation, will advance to the general election on Nov. 6.