San Diego County’s Democratic coalition could not have hoped for a better Election Day. 

After 18 months of campaigning, the mayor’s race was too close to call late last night. But as of 2:24 a.m., with thousands of provisional votes still to be counted, U.S. Rep. Bob Filner held a lead over Carl DeMaio at 9,816 votes. The trend headed in his direction all night long as mail-in ballot results were diluted by those who voted on Election Day.

Port Commissioner Scott Peters has a razor-thin lead on incumbent U.S. Rep. Brian Bilbray. 

And the county may see its first Democratic supervisor in 17 years, as Dave Roberts maintained a small lead on Steve Danon

Those are just the close races. Everywhere else, whatever Democrats seemed to want, they got. 

• Councilwoman Sherri Lightner, the Democratic party’s firewall against GOP control of the City Council, cruised to victory in a race that wasn’t as close as some observers expected. 

• It looked like the San Diego school board isn’t in for big changes: incumbent John Lee Evans won, as did newcomer Marne Foster. Evans compared his opponent, Mark Powell, to an angry parent who comes to school board meetings with a lot of complaints but not solutions. 

• Prop. 30, the tax for schools proposition, was headed for victory — sorry kids, you won’t lose three weeks of school — but education officials tell us that it’s no cure-all. And even with the new money, San Diego Unified officials are still projecting big deficits next year. 

• Voters in the San Diego school district agreed to boost their property tax bills to allow officials to raise up to $2.8 billion for upgrades, repairs and technology. Our story has the details on Prop. Z’s big win.

• George Plescia, a Republican, was not able to keep his Democratic rival Marty Block from helping his party secure a super-majority in the State Senate. Here’s a roundup from the North County Times

• Robert Amador won a judge’s race that got plenty of attention.

• The county went for President Obama.

• Measures supporting medical marijuana failed in Imperial Beach, Lemon Grove, Del Mar and Solana Beach. (KPBS)

• Here’s the U-T on Peters’ small lead potential victory over incumbent Rep. Brian Bilbray (Rep.) in a congressional district that became friendlier to Democrats when it was remapped. This one may be headed to a recount, or could switch when absentee and provisional ballots are counted. 

• And the U-T on the new Democrat knocking on the county’s door.

• Check our story for quotes from the mayoral candidates’ speeches late Tuesday night; Filner’s was more rousing, perhaps because he gained as the vote count went on. Andrew Keatts at the Daily Transcript had an early update Wednesday. 

• The firefighters union president taunted rivals on Twitter. His colleague, the head of the Labor Council, was more reserved

The Scene

County Supervisor Greg Cox opened up to our reporter Kelly Bennett. She compiled his thoughts and other details from the scene downtown as San Diegans absorbed the result. 

• Photographer Sam Hodgson traveled the city in search of the most revealing pictures of Election Day, and ended the evening in and around downtown’s Golden Hall.

Click here to see his photos in living color: polling places, candidates on the prowl in front of the media and a person in a rooster costume trying to rustle up some votes at UCSD. A dumb cluck? Nope: the chicken’s candidate won.  

Voters Spill the Beans on Their Choices  

Our reporters fanned out around the city early on Tuesday to capture the pulse of San Diego. Here’s a roundup of our dispatches.

• La Jolla and Carmel Valley:

Many voters said they don’t follow local politics closely or, if they did, weren’t terribly passionate about the mayor’s race. “In most cases, you’re asked to go with the lesser of two evils,” said a 73-year-old man from Carmel Valley who went for DeMaio. He voted for Mitt Romney too, but didn’t take a stab at the sole City Council race.

• Barrio Logan:

In this diverse neighborhood, translators were on hand to speak to voters in Spanish, Vietnamese, Filipino, Mandarin and Cantonese. English-speaking voters who talked to our reporter tended to focus on the presidential election and education issues.

One man, a 56-year-old Army veteran who grew up in the Civil Rights Era, said he voted for Filner because he was active in the movement.

• University City:

A fortysomething woman found it easy to vote for incumbent Councilwoman Lightner, a Democrat, but found it harder to get behind Filner: “I think, sadly, he’ll be very combative.” A 36-year-old woman wasn’t so negative about him: “I really bought into the Filner ‘neighborhoods first’ thing.”

A 57-year-old man, a Romney and DeMaio voter, went for Ellis instead in what he called a “very ugly” council race: “Not happy with the way the city is run.”

• City Heights:

If you take a look at the lead photo on this dispatch, of a young woman with not one but two little oval red-white-and-blue stickers, don’t start worrying about voter fraud. She didn’t vote twice. Instead, she picked up “I Voted” stickers in English and Spanish (“Yo Voté”).

Did she feel a “rush of democracy”? Maybe: that’s what community volunteers in City Heights promise when they encourage residents to stand up and be heard.

Our reporter ran into the father of a candidate — Howard Foster, whose daughter Marne is running for school board. Yup, she got his vote, and so did the president plus Filner, because he’s “he’s more accessible” to constituents.

But Foster voted against the property tax increases in Proposition Z. 

More Winners, Losers and the TBAs

The incumbent local House representatives all won their races, as did former San Diego Councilman and state Senator Juan Vargas, who ran to replace Filner.

New assemblymembers on the Dem side include former Councilman Brian Maienschein and Shirley Weber, a former San Diego school board member. Jess Durfee, the chair of the county Democratic Party, said via Twiter that she is the first African-American ever elected to the state legislature south of Los Angeles.

Newly elected local GOP members of the Assembly include former Oceanside Councilman Rocky Chavez and Escondido Councilwoman Marie Waldron. Also elected: incumbents Toni Atkins (Dem.), Brian Jones (Rep.) and Ben Hueso (Dem.)

Pride and a bit of uncertainty, at the least, about the available choices. Those marked the emotions of many of us yesterday, including a Carmel Valley woman we met at her polling place.

Culture Report: Signs of the (Old) Times

As you may have heard the Morning Report’s pesky younger sister — the weekly Arts Report — has a new name. It’s now known as the Culture Report. But it’s still annoying the heck out of the Morning Report. (“Mommmm! The Culture Report is looking at me! While performing an operetta!”)

Anyway! If you’ve driven by Balboa Park and Zoo within the past few decades, you’ve probably noticed the odd little street signs on Park Boulevard. They’re a little beat up, two are missing, and it’s hard to figure out what the rest are there for.

Turns out they’re public art sculptures, circa 1989, and a city official thinks their time is done. She wants them to be de-installed.

Our story about the fate of the signs — which leads this week’s Culture Report — spawned pro- and con- comments from readers.

“They lack meaningful curation or clear connection to their context,” writes Peter Schrock. But Amy Morris says “they’re great fun, and the joke still works.”

The Culture Report also includes links to a long list of stories about the local arts and culture world. My favorite: KPBS’s look at the “ghost light,” traditionally left on at theaters — going back to Shakespeare’s day — even after everybody has left.  

Maybe each polling place should have one too, as just a little reminder of how — even if we hold our noses — we vote to keep our futures bright.

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

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

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