Crunch time has finally arrived.

If you’re one of these very-busy-and-very-important voters still making city of San Diego ballot decisions, never fear: We’re here.

Here’s a Reader’s Guide to the city election with an eye toward providing the information you need to figure out whom (and what) to vote for … and against.

The Main Event: The Mayor’s Race

Who’s Who: Mayor Jerry Sanders is stepping down, and four major candidates are hoping to fill the former police chief’s shoes at City Hall.

Let’s look at the corners of the rivals for the title of Hizzoner (or, um, Herroner?):

• City Councilman Carl DeMaio, aka The Plan Man.

He’s the man with the thick, detailed plans to keep the tamping down of pensions and employee pay at the top of City Hall’s to-do list. DeMaio’s also a sound bite king: pensions, potholes and prosperity. He pushes for a smaller, leaner government boosted by privatization and volunteerism. His personality has made him plenty of enemies and led people to question his motivations, while recent stances — like his support for a publicly funded Convention Center expansion — dampen the sheen of his anti-tax credentials.

• Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, aka The Rogue Agent.

He’d already built his persona around being willing to cross the aisle to get things done, making his switch from Republican to independent natural, if not a total surprise. Fletcher touts his background as a Marine and has pushed for the city to be more innovative and friendlier to biking and public transit. Still, a late-night redevelopment deal that froze the public out continues to haunt him. Combine that with the fact that he pushed hard for the GOP endorsement right before ditching the party, and Fletcher continues to deal with charges of being simply opportunistic.

• District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, aka The Big Boss.

She simply says her executive experience sets her apart. She has the most wide-ranging plan to improve local education of any of the major candidates, pushing for significantly more mayoral control, and says she’s got the know-how to manage and reform government. Dumanis struggled to shed the law-enforcement façade, not attending debates or answering many questions in the early stages of the race, and not offering a bigger-picture vision of what San Diego becomes under her management.

• Rep. Bob Filner, aka The Crusher.

Filner, the only major Democrat in the mayoral race, says he’ll turn back the city’s tradition of Republican leadership and vanquish the highest hopes of the downtown establishment. He opposes the pension reform initiative and emphasizes local neighborhoods and the port; he’s got grand visions about issues like the homeless, mass transit and alternative energy. He was organizationally unprepared for the campaign and has been unable to rally the full weight of the local Democratic community behind him, with even avid liberals worried about what kind of shop he’d run.

Want to Know More?

• Check our handy mayoral scorecard on the big issues.

• Listen to our Andrew Donohue and Liam Dillon as they rundown the best and worst case scenarios for the city under each of the candidates.

• We’ve put together simple guides to each candidate, synthesizing what we’ve learned about them over the year-long campaign and their strengths and weaknesses:

        » Bob Filner

        » Bonnie Dumanis

        » Nathan Fletcher

        » Carl DeMaio.


The Undercard: The City Council Races

Who’s Who: The Republicans have an eye toward remaking the City Council this year by holding one seat and taking two.

Five of the nine City Council seats are up during this June’s election. (One seat was added to the council this year.)

The top vote-getters in each race will be elected if they get more than half the vote. Otherwise they’ll head to a run-off in November with the second-place finisher.

You can figure out which district you live in by checking this map, which shows the previous and current boundaries.

The biggest battlegrounds are the districts that cover the Tierrasanta/Mission Valley/Linda Vista area (District 7) and La Jolla/University City/Carmel Valley (District 1).

In District 1, the big issue is one person: Councilwoman Sherri Lightner. She’s a Democrat with an independent streak who hasn’t been afraid to tick off labor (they’ve even actually campaigned against her). She even supports outsourcing city services and the Proposition B pension reforms.

Three candidates are vying to replace her.

They are:

• Ray Ellis, a Republican who’s with the party on big issues but has been reaching out to labor and likes both DeMaio and Fletcher.

• Dennis Ridz, also a Republican, who’s touting his detailed strategies and rock-solid knowledge to tackle the city’s issues.

• Bryan Pease, the sole Democrat rival to Lightner, says he’s disappointed by the incumbent and says he’s essentially against anything that Councilman DeMaio is for. He’s best known as an animal rights activist.

In District 7, three newcomers are vying for the seat:

• Mat Kostrinsky, who’s worked in the union world but says he’s not a tool for labor. He promises to focus on pragmatic solutions, control of spending and neighborhood revitalization.

• Scott Sherman, a business-focused Republican who got into politics at least partly as a result of encouragement from DeMaio but says he’s not a tool of the councilman. Sherman’s big issues are fiscal responsibility, fixing potholes through outsourcing and responsible development of Grantville’s Mission Gorge Corridor.

• Rik Hauptfeld, an immigrant and the least experienced politically of the rivals for the district seat. His focuses are fire protection, education and fiscal responsibility.

The race in District 9, which covers a diverse swath of the city from the College Area to City Heights and Kensington, has been low-profile and features Councilwoman Marti Emerald, who promises to focus on voter registration, public safety and urban renewal, and challenger Mateo Camarillo, who promises to represent immigrants and Latinos.

There’s no competition for the council seats in two of the districts: District 3, which now covers downtown, Hillcrest and several surrounding communities, and North County’s District 5, which encompasses Rancho Bernardo and nearby communities. District 3 will stay in Democratic hands (Todd Gloria is the incumbent) and District 5 will continue to be represented by a Republican (the sole candidate is Mark Kersey.)

What to Watch for: The races have the potential to realign the Democrat-dominated council.

Can an independent voice like Lightner survive or will she get replaced by a councilmember who leans further to the right or left? Will candidates from the right or left win in District 7?

Read More:

• District 1: Check out San Diego Explained video and Reader’s Guides to candidates Sherri Lightner, Ray Ellis, Bryan Pease and Dennis Ridz.

• District 3: Take a look at our Reader’s Guide to Todd Gloria (he’s the only candidate and will be reelected) and a summary of the issues in the district.

• District 5: Mark Kersey, a Rancho Bernardo resident, is running unopposed. We’ve posted a Reader’s Guide to him plus stories about why Rancho Bernardo is so interesting, the troubles facing Scripps Ranch and the forgotten rural stretch of the San Pasqual Valley.

• District 7: We’ve got Reader’s Guides to candidates Mat Kostrinsky, Scott Sherman and Rik Hauptfeld.

• District 9: Check our San Diego Explained video, our rundown of the issues in the district and our Reader’s Guides to candidates Marti Emerald and Mateo Camarillo.


The Undercard: The Ballot Measures

What’s What: Quiz time! How do you feel about labor unions?

Prop. A would ban union-friendly “project labor agreements” for city construction projects unless they’re required by law.

There are some complications. The city has never actually signed one of these agreements, governments rarely use them and there’s concern passing Prop. A will cut the city off from hundreds of millions of dollars in state funding. But the city still could make them a big deal in the future.

Prop. B converts most new city employees to 401(k) plans instead of guaranteed pensions upon retirement. It is, quite literally, an iffy proposition: it could save the city $950 million, or it could save it nothing or even cost the city money.

The big issues for voters: What kinds of retirement benefits do new city employees deserve? Do you want the risk to be on taxpayers or workers in the future?

Read More:

• To catch up on Prop. A., check our Reader’s Guide.

• Here’s our Reader’s Guide to Prop. B, and check our story that explains why it could save $950 million or nada.


The Undercard: The School Board

Who’s Who: Six candidates are running in the primary’s elections. Voters in the full San Diego school district will then vote for trustees in the fall, choosing them from the top two vote-getters in each sub-district race.

School board member Richard Barrera is unopposed. Two candidates are opposing school board president John Lee Evans, and two are running in the district that’s being vacated by school board member Shelia Jackson.

What to Watch for: Are voters concerned enough by the city’s troubled schools that they’ll fire incumbent Evans? Bill Ponder and Marne Foster are facing each other for the right to take over Shelia Jackson’s seat. They’re both guaranteed to advance to the general election, but who’s the early favorite?

Read More:

• We complied a scoreboard listening the positions of the candidates.

Our scoreboard post also serves as a Reader’s Guide to the races and the issues.

• We’ve profiled candidates Marne Foster, Jared Hamilton, Bill Ponder, and Mark Powell.

• We spoke to Barrera about the district’s challenges on the latest episode of VOSD Radio.

Please contact Randy Dotinga directly at and follow him on Twitter:

Randy Dotinga

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at

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