This post has been updated.
San Diego Republicans continued their dominance Tuesday night in elections that don’t have President Barack Obama’s name on the ballot.
Republican Councilwoman Lorie Zapf won a seat to represent District 2, which covers primarily the city’s beach neighborhoods. She was pushed out of District 6, which she currently represents and which includes Clairemont and surrounding areas, after redistricting shifted its borders. Republican Chris Cate, a vice president at the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, is ahead in that district.
Zapf defeated Democrat Sarah Boot, a former federal prosecutor, and two other candidates. Zapf had nearly 54 percent of the vote, according to the county registrar. Cate had 47 percent, leading Democrat and educator Carol Kim, who had 31 percent. Three other candidates were in the District 6 race.
The results mean Cate vs. Kim will be the only Council election on the November ballot. Because Zapf captured more than 50 percent of the vote, she won outright and doesn’t have to face voters in November. (Democratic incumbents Myrtle Cole and David Alvarez also were easily re-elected in District 4 and District 8, respectively.)
Zapf’s win and Cate’s good showing weren’t the only good news for city conservatives. Barrio Logan’s community plan, which was opposed by business and shipbuilding interests, went down hard. Republican District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, who faced a stiff challenge from independent white-collar attorney Bob Brewer, looks to have secured her re-election, too.
Low turnout drove the GOP’s success. Republican pollster John Nienstedt, who worked for Zapf and Cate, said last week turnout could be so low that it would “damage the city’s psyche.” The numbers appeared to end up as low or worse than other recent non-presidential general elections. Republicans have done well in these elections despite Democrats’ registration edge in the city.
Still, conservatives were hoping that Cate would be able to win outright on Tuesday. Kim’s finish gives the city’s progressives some hope.
“Democrats just need to survive,” said Michael Zucchet, the city’s white-collar union head, and a backer of Kim. “They tend to thrive in November.”
Indeed, more voters are expected to show up to the polls in November. But just how much they might change things is unclear. No one is predicting a turnout like ones in presidential years. A snoozer of a governor’s race between incumbent Democrat Jerry Brown and Neel Kashkari won’t cause much excitement. Local Democrats have been talking up a proposal to dramatically boost the city’s minimum wage, something they hope might make progressives show up to vote for it – and for Kim.
“I do think it appreciably changes,” Nienstedt said of voter turnout in November. “Does it make it a forgone conclusion that [Kim] wins or even keeps it close? No.”
Expect to see a lot of money and energy in the Cate vs. Kim race because of what’s at stake. A Cate victory will put Republicans at a 5-4 minority on the City Council with a chance to flip the Council in their favor in two years. Should Kim win, Democrats would have a 6-3 majority that could override any veto by Republican Mayor Kevin Faulconer.