A new day appears to have dawned in San Diego’s two contested City Council races, District 6 and District 8

State senate staffer David Alvarez defeated attorney Felipe Hueso in the race to replace Felipe’s younger brother Ben in District 8, the city’s southernmost neighborhoods. Alvarez led 60 percent to 40 percent with 42 percent of the precincts reporting at 12:45 a.m.

“People were ready to go in a different direction in this district,” Alvarez said.

In the meantime, in one of the evening’s most competitive races, Republican businesswoman and political newcomer Lorie Zapf is leading attorney and former Democratic Assemblyman Howard Wayne 53 percent to 47 percent in the District 6 race with 88 percent of the vote counted.

Zapf’s lead widened as the night grew. Should she hold on, the victory would flip the script for city Republicans, who had suffered two close losses in the 2008 council races.

This time, they might have taken a seat that has been Democratic for more than 20 years. Zapf would replace termed-out Democratic Councilwoman Donna Frye.

A Zapf win would be critical to the balance of political power in the city. Republican Party Chairman Tony Krvaric has said a Zapf victory would be the first step toward Republicans taking control of city government two years from now as numerous contested races then could swing the balance rightward.

Zapf said she wasn’t surprised about the results.

“We knew for weeks it was going to be really close,” Zapf said.

Despite universal backing from the city’s labor organizations and local Democrats, Wayne took more conservative positions than many Democrats on the council. Most notably, Wayne opposed Proposition D, the sales tax and financial reform ballot measure that failed Tuesday. During the campaign, Wayne denied he was running to the right, instead stating that he took positions based on independent analysis.

In District 8, though, both candidates were Democratic, prominent interest groups split on the race. The city’s white-collar and fire unions endorsed Alvarez, but the local labor council and city police union had picked Hueso.

The division in organized labor also helped fuel the campaign’s bitter personal tone. Alvarez had detailed Hueso’s past bankruptcy, tax troubles and California bar probation. Hueso had accused Alvarez’s family of gang ties.

Even Hueso’s supposed biggest strength, his relationship to his younger brother, turned against him in the campaign’s last week. A labor-backed committee supporting Felipe returned a $25,000 donation from Ben’s state assembly campaign, after the Union-Tribune raised questions about its legality. (Ben Hueso, also a Democrat, was victorious in his election Tuesday.)

Voters in a district that traditionally has one of the lowest turnouts in the city, stuck with a fresh face it had supported over better-known candidates in the June primary. Alvarez finished 6 percentage points ahead of Hueso in June.

The money race was nearly even between the two candidates. Counting outside expenditures, $423,000 was split between the candidates.

District 8 includes the neighborhoods of Logan Heights and Barrio Logan and runs south to San Ysidro and the Tijuana River Valley.

Money spent in District 6 showed the race’s significance. Counting outside expenditures, nearly $1 million was split between the candidates with Wayne holding a slight advantage. Republican and Democratic street teams and interest groups, such as the conservative Lincoln Club and organized labor, spent much of their Election Day in the district.

District 6 includes the city’s Mission Valley, Clairemont, Kearny Mesa, Serra Mesa and Linda Vista neighborhoods.

Please contact Liam Dillon directly at liam.dillon@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5663 and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/dillonliam.

Liam Dillon was formerly a senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He led VOSD’s investigations and wrote about how regular people...

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