File photos by Sam Hodgson
Sherri Lightner and Ray Ellis
Four months ago, I sat down with Dennis Ridz at a Denny’s near Torrey Pines and asked why he was campaigning to unseat City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner. He said she steers away from controversy and doesn’t talk enough with her constituents.
“I want somebody who’s going to stand next to me as a bulldozer runs us over,” Ridz told me. “I need somebody out there. We never had a feeling that she fully supported us.”
That week, I also met attorney Bryan Pease at a University City strip mall and learned he wasn’t happy with Lightner either. She is a registered Democrat but Pease said it didn’t show in her voting record. Lightner had sided against animal, environmental and labor advocates.
Ridz and Pease were outside shots to unseat Lightner. They had little campaign cash, name recognition or institutional support. The local Democratic Party backed Lightner and the local Republican Party backed Ray Ellis, former head of the city’s retirement system.
Neither Ridz nor Pease advanced past the June primary, but on Tuesday, they tried to influence the outcome of the November runoff. Despite their prior grievances, the pair threw their support behind Lightner.
“Sherri has proven to be an independent leader on the council,” Ridz said in a prepared statement.
Pease added, “Sherri has a long history of fighting for District 1 neighborhoods.”
Lightner’s campaign promoted the endorsements as evidence of bipartisan support for her agenda. Ridz is a registered Republican and Pease is a registered Democrat.
Ellis dismissed the endorsements. Through a campaign spokesman, he said, “No endorsement is going to be able to cover up Sherri Lightner’s failure to tackle the issues facing San Diego.”
If you’re just catching up on this election …
Lightner and Ellis are campaigning to represent City Council District 1, which includes La Jolla, University City and Carmel Valley. For more on the candidates, I recommend reading the profiles I wrote about Lightner and Ellis before the June primary.
KPBS also recently examined the election’s relevance to citywide politics and some of the issues in District 1. The outcome will swing the partisan balance of the City Council to a Democratic or Republican majority.
The District 1 battle has also gained attention because Ellis accomplished a feat in the June primary that few candidates have in the city’s history. He pushed an incumbent City Council member into a runoff and finished first. That hasn’t happened since 1991.
Lightner and Ellis have raised similar amounts of campaign cash since January last year, according to the most recent fundraising report by the city’s Ethics Commission. Lightner reported collecting $248,000 in contributions through June this year while Ellis reported about $295,000.
For more depth on District 1 issues, check out this video below that we produced in partnership with NBC 7 before the primary. Residents’ concerns — such as adding fire stations, repairing potholes or constructing a bridge over Rose Canyon — remain common themes of the campaigns today.
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