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A boisterous crowd greeted health care union coordinator Myrtle Cole Tuesday night at her campaign headquarters in Encanto when initial returns showed her far ahead in San Diego’s 4th District City Council election.

“I will hug each and every one of you,” Cole said to cheers.

Cole, who was endorsed by the local Democratic Party and the region’s largest labor group, received nearly 33 percent of the vote, according to the County Registrar of Voters. She will face San Diego LGBT Pride Executive Director Dwayne Crenshaw in a runoff. Crenshaw received 15.3 percent of the vote, holding off businessman Barry Pollard for second place. Pollard conceded late Tuesday night.

Crenshaw told supporters gathered at Felix’s BBQ With Soul at Market Creek Plaza that he could coalesce the 65 percent of voters who didn’t choose Cole behind him.

“We know there are deep-pocketed special interests who want to buy this seat,” Crenshaw told the crowd, referring to the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council and the more than $80,000 he said it spent backing Cole.

Cole also invoked the union: She credited labor and her other endorsements for her strong showing. She said that she had little name identification in the district when the race began in January, but the backing of the Democratic Party and a host of elected officials pushed her forward.

“Labor, my family, came on board and walked and phoned and walked and phoned,” Cole said. “They got my name out there.”

Voters in District 4, made up of Encanto, Valencia Park, Paradise Hills and other neighborhoods in southeastern San Diego, are choosing a new council member to replace Tony Young, who resigned Jan. 1 to head the local chapter of the Red Cross. Nine candidates ran, but no one other than Cole, Crenshaw and Pollard received more than 9 percent of the vote.

Voter turnout was just above 17 percent, not counting about 1,880 provisional ballots left uncounted, a city elections official said.

Residents are hoping a new representative can help bring the district jobs, healthy food and local restaurants, speed updates to neighborhood development blueprints, address gang problems and change perceptions about the community.

The runoff election has not yet been scheduled, but will happen no later than mid-May, per city laws.

Cole and Crenshaw are both Democrats, which means the City Council will return to a 5-4 split in favor of that party once the new council member takes office.

Update: On Wednesday afternoon, Crenshaw sent an email to labor leaders clarifying his Election Night comments about the labor council. He wrote that they represented “Not my most clear and articulate comment in the moment” but lamented that they were portrayed “in a different and much more negative context than intended.” We’ve uploaded the full audio of the speech Crenshaw gave to supporters around 10 p.m. Tuesday. His comments about the $85,000 a labor council PAC spent to support Cole come at the 3:20, 4:20 and 4:40 marks.

Liam Dillon is a news reporter for Voice of San Diego. He covers how regular people interact with local government. What should he write about next?

Please contact him directly at or 619.550.5663.

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Liam Dillon

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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