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Voice Political Writer
Tuesday, July 26, 2005 | With almost all of the city’s precincts and absentee ballots counted, Councilwoman Donna Frye will win San Diego’s special mayoral election but will meet former police Chief Jerry Sanders in a runoff later this year.
“A few short months ago nobody gave us a chance at all,” she said. “To the extent that we don’t have a mayor yet, I do think that it is detrimental.”
Frye, the frontrunner since former Mayor Dick Murphy announced his resignation in April, received 43.3 percent of the votes counted so far. About 97 percent of the precincts have reported.
Former Police Chief Jerry Sanders declared himself the runner-up after holding that spot all evening. He leads in the much-anticipated battle for second place, grabbing 27 percent of the votes, compared to businessman Steve Francis’ 23.5 percent.
“Based on the latest numbers, we’re confident that we’ll be in the runoff in November,” Sanders said. “The issue in the runoff will be who has the experience to fix these problems. I’ve done that three times.”
Sanders touted his experiences turning around the San Diego Police Department and local chapters of the Red Cross and United Way.
Sanders’ lead over Francis stayed steady between 3 percent and 4 percent all night. Francis conceded the election just before midnight.
“At this point, the numbers too hard to overcome,” Francis told reporters after calling Sanders to congratulate him. Francis said he had “no regrets about spending the money I have” after doling out millions of his own fortune on campaign advertisements and prestigious consultants.
When asked about the prospect of facing either Sanders or Francis in a runoff election later this year, Frye said, “It would be business as usual versus a government that is open and accessible.”
Supporters of Proposition A, a measure that would transfer the Mount Soledad Veteran’s War Memorial from city to federal property, declared victory around 11 p.m. Tuesday. Currently, 76 percent of voters supported the transfer, whereas 24 percent voted against the proposition.
The measure needs the support of two-thirds of the electorate to pass. Courts have previously ruled that the memorial, which includes a 43-foot white cross, must be taken off of public land because it violates laws governing the separation of church and state.
Many of the 84,600-plus absentee ballots already counted were cast before Francis launched a blitz of ads branding Frye and Sanders as being in favor of raising taxes. The ads led to some contention between Sanders and Francis, both Republicans. Frye is the only Democrat in the nonpartisan race. Observers said the attack ads could impact voters who were undecided heading into the last two weeks of the campaign.
Pollster John Nienstedt said that there are probably another 30,000 absentee ballots that will be counted in the days ahead.
“There were about 140,000 absentee ballots requested, and the return rate should be about 80 percent,” said Nienstedt, president of Competitive Edge Research & Communication. “There will be more counted.”
Attorney Pat Shea has garnered 2.4 percent, taxpayer advocate Richard Rider has 1.6 percent and motorcycle dealer Myke Shelby has 1.5 percent of the votes counted. Attorney Shawn McMillan, environmentalist Jim Bell, mediator Ed Kolker, businessman Jeremy Ledford and McDonald’s supervisor Thomas Knapp all trail the field, respectively, with less than 1 percent each.
If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote-getters will square off in a Nov. 8 election. A statewide special election is also planned for that date, and it is likely that special elections to replace resigned Councilmen Michael Zucchet and Ralph Inzunza will be on the ballot as well.
The councilmen, from Districts 2 and 8, respectively, were found guilty on federal corruption charges last week and relinquished their seats. They will be sentenced Nov. 9 and experts say they face between two and five years in federal prison.
Updated results from the county Registrar of Voters are expected to be released continuously throughout the night.
– Voice Contributing Writer IAN PORT contributed to this report.
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