The winner of the District 1 City Council race will represent San Diego’s northwestern neighborhoods, but who that person is will affect the entire council and the decisions it makes for the city as a whole.

Our Scott Lewis recently moderated a debate between the two candidates. I’ve been covering the election this year and gave a short presentation about my reporting beforehand.

Here’s a quick recap if you missed the presentation and links to more information.

Where Is District 1?

Residents in San Diego’s northwestern neighborhoods will help decide most of the region’s biggest election battles, including the only City Council seat still up for grabs.

Ray Ellis, a Republican businessman and former head of the city’s pension board, is campaigning to unseat Democratic Councilwoman Sherri Lightner. Whoever wins the race will represent a slightly smaller District 1.

Last year, the city adjusted the boundaries of District 1 and other council districts to account for population growth. District 1 lost Rancho Peñasquitos and Black Mountain Ranch, and gained a small area south of La Jolla.

The largest neighborhoods in the new district include La Jolla, University City and Carmel Valley.

The Issues

Issues that dominate the area include traffic congestion, cracked streets, preserving parkland and adding more fire stations. The video below, produced in partnership with NBC before the June primary, takes a closer look at issues in the different neighborhoods.

Crime, education and poverty are less common concerns here than in other areas. Police typically report few crimes there. The schools are some of San Diego’s best. And its residents are generally more affluent.

The Candidates

Lightner and Ellis are the remaining candidates from a four-candidate primary election. Lightner got about 42 percent of the vote, Ellis got about 46 percent and the two other candidates — Dennis Ridz and Bryan Pease — split the rest.

The primary results split geographically. Lightner got the most votes in central areas like University City; Ellis got the most votes in northern areas like Carmel Valley and southern areas like La Jolla.

The geographic divide followed voter registration patterns. The district is evenly split between registered Democrats, Republicans and other voters.

How the candidates try connecting with voters hasn’t changed substantially since the primary election. Here’s how I described Lightner’s pitch to voters in April:

She helped the city’s financial health get better. She has the experience to make sure it continues to improve and bring back some of the services we’ve lost.

And Ellis’ pitch to voters:

I’m a successful businessman and an expert on the city’s pension system. I know how to cut costs better than Lightner, and then we’ll talk about which neighborhood services get those savings.

Why This Election Matters Citywide

Apart from deciding District 1’s next council member, the Nov. 6 election will determine partisan control of the City Council. Four Democrats and four Republicans are set to take office in December. Lightner or Ellis will fill the ninth slot.

The election is especially important in the context of the mayor’s race between Republican Carl DeMaio and Democrat Bob Filner. The City Council acts as a power check to the mayor, and the District 1 race could dramatically impact the relationship between the two.

It’s possible that San Diego could have a Democrat mayor and a Democrat-majority council, a Republican mayor and Republican-majority council or some kind of mix.

Recommended Reading

The Dem with an ‘F’ from Labor: A Reader’s Guide to Sherri Lightner

Not In the GOP Mold: A Reader’s Guide to Ray Ellis

Seven Jabs from the Lone Council Race

For Ellis, It’s Pensions or Bust

Keegan Kyle is a news reporter for Voice of San Diego. He writes about the District 1 City Council election, local government and creates infographics. What should he write about next?

Please contact him directly at or 619.550.5668. You can also find him on Twitter (@keegankyle) and Facebook.

Disclosure: Voice of San Diego members and supporters may be mentioned or have a stake in the stories we cover. For a complete list of our contributors, click here.

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