A crowd watches results at Golden Hall on Election Night. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

There are three stages to an election: the run-up, the results and the aftermath – what does it all mean?

Sometimes, voters send a strong, clear message. But often, it’s more like 5,000 very different messages that vary according to the particulars of each race, the candidates, the region and all kinds of other differentiating factors.

In their desire for a coherent narrative to present to readers, reporters and hot-take-havers often dispense of any facts that don’t fit.

Here’s an example at the national level: Democrat Krysten Sinema still has a chance to pull out a win in the Arizona Senate race. That cuts against the narrative that the boldly progressive vision sold by the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortezes of the world is what most resonated with voters. Sinema ran a centrist campaign. And it might just have worked for the people of Arizona, who are different than the people of New York, who are different from the people of Georgia and so on.

Check out how hard it is to glean a resounding message from San Diego’s election results.

It was a blue wave! Dems took over lots of Republican-held seats, including Jen Campbell in City Council District 2 and Mike Levin in the 49th Congressional District.

Yes, but plenty of Republicans also held on to their seats despite aggressive spending and campaigning by Dems. The most notable example would be Rep. Duncan Hunter, who is about as handicapped as a candidate can be – he’s under federal indictment and had virtually no campaign money to spend. Assemblyman Brian Maienschein won comfortably despite the Democratic Party making it a priority to unseat him.

OK, so Republicans like Hunter who embraced Trump won. And Republicans like Bonnie Dumanis who denounced Trump lost. The lesson is: Embrace Trump!

Errrr … except Diane Harkey embraced Trump and lost. And Chris Cate denounced Trump and won.

Mike Levin won big in the San Diego portion of CA-49. North County sure is turning blue!

Eh. Carlsbad’s Republican Mayor Matt Hall ended up coasting to re-election. Sen. Pat Bates was re-elected as well. Though the 76th Assembly District flipped from Republican to Democrat, that race was unique in that a Republican contender for the seat, Phil Graham, was accused of assault just before the June primary – a charge that law enforcement officials now believe was false. It’s hard to make the case that that seat being flipped is representative of a changing region, given all the messiness of the primary.

If I see one coherent trend from this election, it might be that voters are willing to pony up for kids. Ten of 11 school bond measures passed in San Diego County, and the statewide Prop. 4, a children’s hospital bond, also passed.

What VOSD Learned This Week

Did it happen? Did San Diego finally put to rest the question of what to do with the former Chargers stadium? Voters passed Measure G, the vision for SDSU West. It’s a giant gift to the university, but it will also be a giant challenge to pull off the kind of negotiation spelled out in the measure. We’ll be keeping an eye on four major promises SDSU made now that voters have given its vision a green light.

Tuesday’s election also meant major shakeups to the City Council – two incumbents went down! – and to the County Board of Supervisors. The Council will now have a veto-proof majority; the Board of Supervisors will have … a single Democrat.

School districts across the county, meanwhile, will have billions more dollars at their disposal – but they can’t use any it to pay for teachers.

When our reporters spoke with voters across the city on Tuesday, they heard deeply personal accounts of what motivated their City Council picks, confusion about the competing Mission Valley plans, excitement to cast a ballot in a race being watched nationally and desire for a fresh perspective.

We talked about all the various outcomes and what it all means on this week’s podcast.


Next week, the City Council will consider a plan to help the homeless that doesn’t include any homes. The proposal for a one-stop services center to aid the homeless might sound familiar: San Diego just opened one a few years ago, but what the city initially proposed and what it ultimately got ended up being two different things.

What I’m Reading

Line of the Week

“In the case of a national blowout, no matter if Trump blamed others, the result would be like a baby with a paunch and comb-over: No way to deny paternity.” – Election analysis doesn’t always have to be Very Serious.

Correction: An earlier version of this post misidentified the state in which Krysten Sinema is running.

Sara Libby

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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