On San Diego’s City Council, incumbent Democrats Todd Gloria and Marti Emerald are definitely back. At least one newcomer, Republican businessman Mark Kersey, ran unopposed and is certainly in.

So may be another newcomer: Scott Sherman, a Republican businessman, who was winning a requisite majority of votes late Tuesday night. Sherman emerged Tuesday atop the four-man race to replace Emerald, who moved and will represent San Diego’s newly created ninth council district.

But the new nine-member council’s partisan majority won’t be decided until November, and it appears to come down to the race to represent La Jolla.

If results hold, the November race will pit Republican Ray Ellis (on top late Tuesday with 45 percent with 48% of precincts reporting) against incumbent Democrat Sherri Lightner (42 percent), an engineer who won four years ago with the strong financial backing of organized labor. Since then, Lightner has alienated labor and some other allies. While the other sitting council members cruised to victory Tuesday, Lightner didn’t. She now faces a battle to retain her job in November.

The race between Lightner and Ellis will give the Republican Party its first opportunity in years to control the City Council. But Lightner’s interests haven’t always been aligned with the Democratic Party’s, particularly on key issues like managed competition — the competitive bidding of city services. Labor gave Lightner a failing grade in a recent report card and actively campaigned against her, a sign of just how strained that relationship is.

Lightner and Emerald were the only sitting council members to face challengers. Emerald, who used to represent District 7, was winning late Tuesday over activist Mateo Camarillo with 73 percent of the vote. She’ll now represent the council’s new ninth district, which covers neighborhoods such as City Heights, Kensington/Talmadge and parts of southeastern San Diego.

The Biggest Surprise: Sherman’s outright win (if Tuesday’s late-night figures hold). He emerged from a four-man race, faced stiff competition from Democrat Mat Kostrinsky, and still managed to capture more than 50 percent of votes. The businessman made a strong push and had the endorsement of prominent Republicans, including Mayor Jerry Sanders and Councilman Carl DeMaio.

The Second Biggest Surprise: The hundreds of votes captured by Nathan Johnson in the race Sherman won. Why so surprising? Because Johnson was the only council candidate in all of the races that we couldn’t actually find. Our Will Carless spent a week canvassing the neighborhoods in District 7 and even made a televised plea for Johnson to get in touch. Despite it, we never heard a word from him. (Nathan, if you’re reading this, send an email!)

Rob Davis is a senior reporter at Voice of San Diego. You can contact him directly at rob.davis@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0529.

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Rob Davis

Rob Davis was formerly a senior reporter for Voice of San Diego.

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