On Tuesday, San Diego voters will head to the polls for the third time in eight months.

All the candidates and ballot propositions can be difficult to keep straight – especially with no particularly high-profile races drawing people in – so we’ve pulled together a handy guide.

You’ll see many of these races on the ballot again in November. Most of the candidates we’ll introduce here must win more than 50 percent of the vote to win outright.

52nd District Congressional Race

The race to represent the 52nd District, which covers a broad swath of San Diego that spans from Coronado to San Pasqual Valley, is one of the most closely watched – and highly contested – House races in the country this year. Incumbent Rep. Scott Peters, a Democrat who barely eked out a victory in 2012, faces former Republican mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio and longshot conservative challengers Kirk Jorgensen and Fred Simon in the primary. The top two vote-getters in Tuesday’s primary will face off in the November.

• Peters, a former environmental lawyer who served on the City Council at the height of the city’s pension crisis, carries hefty baggage based on his 2002 vote to spike worker benefits and underfund the pension system. Peters now says he learned from that experience and led efforts to solve the city’s pension problems. As a one-term congressman, Peters has championed regional innovation and emphasized his moderate chops.

• DeMaio, another former City Councilman, lost the 2012 mayor’s race that coincided with a presidential election but is expected to collect far more votes in a lower-turnout cycle that favors Republicans. He’s best known for his relentless work on pension and fiscal reforms, and battles with other local leaders. He’s tried to rebrand himself this year as a new generation Republican. DeMaio, who is gay, also drew headlines when he featured his partner in a campaign ad earlier this year.

• Jorgensen is a former Marine and Central Intelligence Agency officer. He’s considered a dark horse but Jorgensen has won endorsements from a few high-profile Republicans, including former U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter and Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. Jorgensen supporters tout him as a social conservative who opposes same-sex marriage and abortion and champions gun rights.

• Simon is a trauma surgeon who’s made the Affordable Care Act and health care reform the central focus of his campaign. The Republican wants to repeal Obamacare and has offered his own overhaul approach. Simon, who manages a group of surgeons and owns a consulting firm, has also said legislators should ensure more federal money flows to local communities “where it is most effective and properly used.”

District Attorney

Longtime District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis faces her most heated political challenge yet. Defense attorney Bob Brewer and retired prosecutor Terri Wyatt hope to keep her from winning the election outright this week. Many voters skip this race each year, but it’s one of the most powerful elected posts in the region.

• Dumanis has served as the county’s top prosecutor for nearly 12 years. Dumanis has long gotten broad support from other local leaders but her fourth-place finish in the 2012 mayor’s race and a campaign-finance scandal that involved but didn’t implicate her leave questions about her political viability.

• Brewer is a white-collar defense attorney and former federal prosecutor who says Dumanis has politicized her office in recent years. His current practice focuses primarily on civil cases but he pledges to focus on crime and law enforcement concerns if he’s elected. Brewer, a Vietnam War veteran, has received endorsements from a bevy of law enforcement groups.

• Wyatt, a former deputy district attorney for 26 years, retired last year to run against her former boss but has struggled to gain much traction. The California native has said she’s running in hopes of removing politics from the district attorney’s office. She claims her experience prosecuting dozens of criminals makes her most qualified for the post.

Board of Supervisors

Voters in the northern reaches of the county have a particularly difficult decision Tuesday. Longtime District 5 County Supervisor Bill Horn faces Oceanside Mayor Jim Wood.

Both Republican candidates have some baggage.

• Horn has spent 20 years on the Board of Supervisors and he’s now vying for his sixth term. The retired businessman often plays up his experience as a Marine but he’s best known for his blunt personality. He doesn’t shy away from a fight or a bold claim, an approach that once earned him Voice of San Diego‘s Whopper of the Year designation for a wholly inaccurate claim about his role in the civil rights movement. An inewsource probe recently raised questions about Horn’s use of a charity to support real estate transactions, a tack several experts said violated state and federal laws.

• Wood, a former police officer, has served as Oceanside’s mayor for a decade but he’s largely an unknown to most county residents. More recently, he’s been propped up as the anti-Horn and has promised to heed his constituents’ wishes. But a recent VOSD investigation found Wood has some problems of his own, namely allegations of inappropriate interactions and comments about women and a former campaign manager who uses a wheelchair.


Incumbent clerk Ernie Dronenburg’s decision to push to halt marriage license issuances for gay couples last year cast a harsh spotlight on a postition that usually gets none.

Three challengers emerged to try to oust Dronenburg. They are financial analyst Jonathan A. Gordon, property rights advocate George W. Mantor and attorney Susan Guinn, who is considered Dronenburg’s most serious challenger.

More than two dozen politicians and community leaders have endorsed Guinn but U-T San Diego recently backed Dronenburg, saying he was most qualified for the post. But a VOSD fact check found one argument for Dronenburg in that piece – that he is the only candidate legally qualified for the job – was misleading.

Superior Court

San Diego voters will see dozens of candidates for Superior Court judge on their ballots but only five county races are contested.

We recently provided a rundown of the 11 candidates hoping to win one of those seats. Contenders include an attorney who defends white supremacist clients pro bono and who once argued a judge should be disqualified because she was “prejudice(d) in favor of negroes and against whites,” and another who’s been admonished for a drunk-driving conviction.

City Council District 2

The City Council seat long held by now-Mayor Kevin Faulconer needs a new representative, and four candidates are vying for the seat.

• Republican Councilwoman Lorie Zapf, who represents District 6 but is running for re-election in District 2 thanks to new boundaries, claims she’s the best fit and has the right experience to represent coastal communities. She’s pointed to her work on city pension reform, at least once misleading voters about its current impact. She’s also said her attention to neighborhood concerns, including potholes, public safety and permits, while representing District 6 are proof she’ll work collaboratively to ensure the city is efficient and business-friendly.

• Democrat and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Boot is a political newcomer who’s railed against a proposal to raise the 30-foot coastal height limit next to a planned trolley station in Clairemont and promised to prioritize neighborhood needs over perks for city employees. She’s emphasized the latter by pointing out her opponent’s decision to collect a car allowance. Boot has also pledged to advocate for the Climate Action Plan, a city proposal to lessen greenhouse gas emissions but she has taken pains to avoid addressing its most controversial element.

• Two lesser-known candidates are also seeking the seat. Property manager Jim Morrison, a Democrat, wants to bolster San Diego’s economy by building more border crossings and increasing cargo ship. Libertarian Mark Schwartz, who markets organic fertilizer, said he will try to reduce city tax and permitting costs, and cut his City Council salary of $75,000 in half if he’s elected.

 City Council District 6

Five candidates hope to fill Zapf’s seat in District 6, which now includes Clairemont, Mira Mesa and Rancho Peñasquitos.

• Chris Cate is a Republican who serves as vice president of the San Diego County Taxpayer’s Association and once worked in Faulconer’s City Council office. He says his experience will allow him to immediately make an impact on key city issues. For now, he’s most interested in hiring more police officers and fostering a “culture of economic growth.”

• Education consultant and political newcomer Carol Kim wants to focus on infrastructure upgrades and small business needs. Kim, a Democrat who’s also said she’d like to assist military families, told attendees at a recent forum that she’s running to set an example for women, particularly those with Asian-American backgrounds.

• Former San Diego Unified school board member Mitz Lee is an independent who says she’d use her experience to help build consensus on the City Council and advocate for business development. She’s also emphasized a need to prioritize neighborhood services over downtown development.

• Special education assistant Jane Glasson and security guard De Le are also running. Glasson promises to prioritize public safety and assistance for homeless San Diegans and ensure the city’s open spaces are well-maintained. Lee, who emigrated from Vietnam at age 12, served in the U.S. military for more than a decade and says he now wants to serve his City Council district.

Proposition A

This measure is simple and non-controversial.

It aims to amend the city’s rulebook so there’s more space between an election and an inauguration – currently city officials could technically be sworn in before the county was even required to certify the votes that elected them – and extend deadlines associated with the city’s rapid-fire special election rules that conflict with a relatively new state election law.

Propositions B & C

Voters get to decide whether a long-term development blueprint for Barrio Logan will stand.

The goal of the new community plan was to separate homes from industrial businesses in a neighborhood that’s long been a mishmash of the two. Opposition to the plan comes down to a nine-block area where residents want to enact a buffer zone between homes and shipyards.

Shipbuilders aren’t cool with this plan. They say it’s a first step toward pushing out the industry.

Meanwhile, many Barrio Logan residents argue they spent years working on a community plan that will ensure industry eventually moves away from homes – something that will happen over decades, not overnight – only to have business interests spend big sums to throw it out.

City Council Democrats have aligned against the business-led effort to overturn the plan and warned that overturning the Barrio Logan plan could set a dangerous precedent and endanger future neighborhood development plans.

A yes vote on Props. B and C, two separate measures, translate into support for the Barrio Logan plan. A no vote means you’d throw the plan out. The first proposition covers the community plan itself and the second focuses on zoning restrictions.

Lisa Halverstadt

Lisa is a senior investigative reporter who digs into some of San Diego's biggest challenges including homelessness, city real estate debacles, the region's...

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