Council President Myrtle Cole / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

In San Diego, the City Council president is one of the most powerful positions in the region — of course, power is relative to what people are willing to do with it.

Whatever power and prestige it has did not help current City Council President Myrtle Cole.

She got only 39.5 percent of the vote in the primary for her re-election.

Her former employee, Monica Montgomery, received 37.8 percent. The Democratic Party spent nearly $40,000 in the final weeks trying to spare Cole the humiliation.

Montgomery was thrilled.

“A real grassroots effort where we didn’t get distracted and we put community first,” she wrote on Twitter. We foreshadowed the results in our Voices of the Voters piece from Election Day. Our Maya Srikrishnan returned from meeting with people in southeastern San Diego and said it sure seemed like something was up.

JoAnn Fields, who serves on parent groups and the Diamond Business Association, could feel it before results came out.

“I think there’s going to be a surprise in the Council race,” she told Srikrishnan. “It might not be the landslide you’d expect for an incumbent.”

Carol Kim, the political director of the Building Trades Council, supported David Alvarez for City Council president last year but now says Cole has been doing a great job. The results don’t foreshadow a bad November, Kim said on the VOSD podcast.

“She has basically, overseen, as Council president, the most, the strongest Democratic Council we’ve ever seen in San Diego in recent recent decades. Right? Passing some of the most progressive policies that we’ve ever seen passed,” Kim said.

Clearly the Building Trades has gotten over its frustration with Cole. Will all her allies, old and new, come through in November?

The Only Elections Reflections You Need

Kim made the comments about Cole on this week’s podcast. We hosted her and Ryan Clumpner, who had some perspective from the right of center.

We did several true/false statements and had them respond. For example:

True or False: Council President Cole is in trouble. (Clumpner: True. Kim: False, mostly.)

True or False: Councilwoman Lorie Zapf is in trouble.  (Clumpner: “She’s certainly going to have a competitive race on her hands.” Kim: “So true. So true.”)

Bonnie Dumanis appears at the US Grant hotel on the night of the primary election. / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

You’ll have to wait, or skip forward, to the end for the intriguing discussion about the District 4 county supervisor race. It ended with Nathan Fletcher unexpectedly in first place and headed to a runoff with Bonnie Dumanis, the former district attorney.

But here’s a tease: We asked Clumpner if the resources would be there for Dumanis to overcome what we’ve already seen labor and Democrats are willing to put into Fletcher’s campaign in ads and work.

“I think that’s going to have a lot to do with Bonnie Dumanis. She’s been gradual getting into the race. She’s not been shy about the fact that that’s been her approach to this,” he said.

He emphasized candidates can’t rely on independent groups and positioning to put them over the top, and said Dumanis’ potential supporters were waiting to see her really get into the campaign.

“If Bonnie puts together an aggressive campaign, lays out a really clear vision, draws a clear distinction between her and Nathan and a way that resonates with voters like I have no doubt that there will be backing for that,” he said.

Election Night Scene

Jason Roe and his son at the Lincoln Club’s election night gathering at the US Grant Hotel / Photo by Scott Lewis
Jason Roe and his son at the Lincoln Club’s election night gathering at the US Grant Hotel / Photo by Scott Lewis

Scott Lewis: Is this your son?

Jason Roe, political consultant: Yes. Hey, watch this. What’s Nathan Fletcher?

Son: Douche.

Roe: Hahaha. He’s been saying that since he was 3.

SANDAG Board Furious About VOSD Story, Calls for Hunt for Leaker

SANDAG board and Poway Mayor Steve Vaus. / Photo by Vito Di Stefano

SANDAG started its meeting Friday by outlining the potential punishments elected officials face for disclosing conversations from closed session.

It was in response to an article we published this week revealing that, in a closed session last month, Mayor Kevin Faulconer and others blocked the board’s attempt to fill its vacant executive director position with an internal candidate, Kim Kawada.

Poway Mayor Steve Vaus kicked off Friday’s meeting by confirming what took place, after SANDAG board chair and Del Mar Mayor Terry Sinnott referred to the article.

“We have talked at this board several times about the sanctity of closed session,” Vaus said. “The article that Terry referenced makes very clear that at least four people in this room – or staffers for those people – have violated the sanctity of closed session. That is unacceptable. One, you put people’s lives and careers at risk. No. 2, you’re breaking the law.”

SANDAG’s legal counsel, John Kirk, then outlined the potential punishments under state law for disclosing information from closed session. It could result in removal from office for up to six years after the disclosure.

Escondido Mayor Sam Abed said he hoped the agency would investigate who leaked the information. In the process, he ended up spilling a bit of new information, too.

“This has happened several times. The labor union called one of the (executive director) finalists, and this is unacceptable, because you’re putting – as Mayor Vaus said – people’s careers at risk. That’s serious business. I would like to see what is the process to pursue this, or investigate this … What is the process at SANDAG, and I’d like to see us pursue that, and find out who is doing this.”

San Diego City Councilwoman Lorie Zapf said the same issue was taken seriously at the city of San Diego recently – referring to Councilman Chris Cate leaking a legal memo to representatives from SoccerCity, before the state attorney general opted not to pursue charges – and she’d like this to be taken just as seriously.

“I’m upset,” she said.

Chapter 4: SANDAG Housing Drama

housing development
Image via Shutterstock

This might be it.

In Chapter 1, the state told SANDAG how many homes the region would be expected to build in the coming years, and mayors from around the county kinda flipped out.

In Chapter 2, SANDAG’s board decided it would formally ask the state to slash that number, from 171,000 to 116,000. Oddly, board members who voted against that decision did not take advantage of newfound legal authority that would have let them block the move.

In Chapter 3, those SANDAG board members, who collectively represent more than half of the county’s population, used that very authority to force the agency to schedule a new hearing to reconsider the decision to lobby the state for a lower housing target.

And Friday, in what we think is the final chapter, the board did just that, and after a few board members flipped sides – Vaus, and Oceanside Deputy Mayor Chuck Lowery – and SANDAG decided to just accept the state’s expectation that the county build 171,000 homes between 2021 and 2028.

But there were still some pretty fiery takes on building housing in San Diego.

Vaus, for instance, said he was happy to send a message that San Diego intends to combat its housing crisis, but said he also wants to send a message to Sacramento that it is the biggest impediment to doing so.

That didn’t sit well with County Supervisor Ron Roberts.

“Everybody around here who thinks Sacramento is the sole problem here, you’ve got to look in the mirror, because you’re part of the problem,” he said. “Every part of every community has an excuse for why they’re going to turn down housing. It’s not about the state. The state is a contributor, but I can tell you – maybe Lemon Grove can stand up and say they’re doing their part – but damn few people around this table can say they’re doing their part. You may not want to hear that, but that’s what’s going on.”

Read his full remarks here.

San Marcos Mayor Jim Desmond – who you’ll recall, stormed out of the meeting in Chapter 3 – said he and others have approved lots of housing – and paid the price for it.

“In our city we’ve approved a lot of housing, and I’ve had my head handed to me, with 200 people screaming in the audience,” he said. “I’ve got a whole community in a potential future supervisor district that hates my guts because I supported a housing project. We’ve tried. I don’t agree with you, Mr. Roberts. We have tried, and we’re getting our heads handed to us by our own constituents saying they don’t want this housing near them. We’re doing the hard work, but you know what, folks? I think a lot of people here have approved a lot of housing. This number here today is nothing but political chest-thumping. Whatever it is, we’re not going to be able to achieve it.”

Read his full remarks here.

More Election Night Pics

Adriana Heldiz, Jesse Marx and our contributing photographer Jamie Scott Lytle had some good shots from Election Night. We’re big fans of Election Central downtown. Hope it can stay strong.

John Cox, candidate for Governor, talks at the US Grant / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle
Former Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña watches primary results. / Photo by Jesse Marx
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez and Nathan Fletcher, a candidate for San Diego County supervisor, embrace while waiting for election results. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz
Vivian Moreno is running for San Diego City Council District 8. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Election Contest Winners

We had 42 participants in this week’s Election’s Contest, and two of them picked every race correctly.

Our over/under lines were close on some of them and … not on others.

We had the over/under on Doug Applegate, in the 49th Congressional District at 13.5 percent. He’s at 13.1 percent right now. We had the over/under on Lorie Zapf, in the San Diego City Council District 2 race, at 46.5 percent. She was at 43.7 percent Thursday.

But we were pretty low on Summer Stephan for district attorney. We put the over/under at 53 percent, and nobody took the under. She is at 63 percent. We had Bill Gore at 55 percent and he’s around 56 percent.

In our office, Jesse Marx did the best, with only two wrong picks.

Barry Jantz / Photo courtesy of Barry Jantz

The two of you who got everything right: Barry Jantz and Will Rodriguez-Kennedy. Jantz, Grossmont Healthcare District CEO and former La Mesa City Council member, was closer on the tie-breaker. He had Rocky Chavez getting 10.75 percent of the vote in the 49th. Rodriguez, who is president of the San Diego Democrats for Equality and the California Young Democrats, had Chavez getting 13 percent. Chavez is at 7.7 percent now.

Will Rodriguez-Kennedy / Photo courtesy of Will Rodriguez-Kennedy

On account of them both being perfect, though, we’re going to take them both out. That should be an interesting lunch!

Thanks everyone for getting us through another election cycle with your tips and feedback. Send us more at or 

Andrew Keatts is a former managing editor for projects and investigations at Voice of San Diego.

Scott Lewis oversees Voice of San Diego’s operations, website and daily functions as Editor in Chief. He also writes about local politics, where he frequently...

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