Capitol Alert

Phil Graham, stepson of Pete Wilson, to run for Assembly

Phil Graham, stepson of former Gov. Pete Wilson, is seeking a San Diego County Assembly seat in 2016.
Phil Graham, stepson of former Gov. Pete Wilson, is seeking a San Diego County Assembly seat in 2016. Courtesy of Phil Graham for Assembly

Republican Phil Graham, a nonprofit executive and the son of former California first lady Gayle Wilson, is running for the state Assembly next year.

Graham is campaigning for the north coastal San Diego County seat currently held by Assemblyman Rocky Chávez, a candidate for the U.S. Senate. Oceanside Councilman Jerry Kern, a Republican, also is running for the 76th district seat.

Graham, 47 of Encinitas, has had a varied career, working as an international businessman in Singapore before focusing on the life sciences and philanthropy. He was a vice president at the La Jolla-based Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute before leaving to campaign full time. Graham said he’s observed “first-hand how complicated the tax and regulatory demands are on this growing industry.”

“We need someone in Sacramento who understands this economy and what it means for economic growth, as well as the life-saving breakthroughs occurring to improve the lives of people around the world,” he said.

A San Diego native, Graham’s early political experience includes a stint as a White House intern under President Ronald Reagan. He later spent time working at California Strategies, the public affairs and lobbying firm founded by longtime Pete Wilson aide Bob White.

Graham is one of Gayle Wilson’s two sons from a previous marriage. She married Pete in 1983. Before becoming a mayor, U.S. senator and governor, Wilson represented a swath of San Diego in the state Assembly.

The 76th district sought by Graham stretches across Vista, Oceanside, Carlsbad, Encinitas and takes in Camp Pendleton. It is so reliably Republican that the last competitive general election there was an intraparty showdown between Chávez and Sherry Hodges in 2012.

Editor’s note: This post was updated to reflect the district Graham is seeking.

Christopher Cadelago: (916) 326-5538, @ccadelago