Residents gather around projector screens displaying election results at Golden Hall. / Photo by Sam Hodgson

Election Day can be frustrating for political junkies.

The day has finally arrived, yet there won’t be any news for many hours longer. And in all likelihood, the first set of results released Tuesday evening will leave plenty of races undecided.

In the meantime, here’s a primer on some things to keep in mind as we wait for some real results.

Early Vote

Around 8 p.m., the County’s Registrar of Voters will release the first batch of results, accounting for most ballots returned by mail. It’s a big haul, and will send reporters and campaigns into a frenzy. But that first batch is reliably more conservative than the final results. In races with many candidates – rather than simple, Democrat-versus-Republican bouts – it won’t be easy to tell how the results will shift as more votes come in. But keep in mind the unreleased vote is typically younger and more left-leaning than the first announcement. As of Monday afternoon, 77 percent of ballots returned in San Diego County were from voters over 50, according to Political Data Inc. Nearly 49 percent were from voters over 65. Likewise, 37 percent of returned mail ballots were from Republicans, compared with just 27 percent of ballots sent to voters.

Upset Watch

We’ve seen presumptive favorites lose local races in each of the last two cycles. It’s worth remembering that most people don’t pay especially close attention to local politics, so you can’t go wrong expecting some chaos. In District 1, state Sen. Ben Hueso is a presumptive favorite to make the general election against three primary rivals who’ve never been elected, but in a crowded field with little press coverage, maybe a lesser-known candidate sneaks by him. When Council President Georgette Gómez announced her run in the 53rd Congressional District, many penciled her into the November runoff. But she’s since been outspent many times over by Sara Jacobs, and the crowded ballot puts plenty of outcomes in play. If you’re judging the mayor’s race by press coverage, Councilwoman Barbara Bry would be the runaway winner, as she’s driven the narrative throughout her campaign. But she faces getting squeezed by Assemblyman Todd Gloria, endorsed by the Democratic Party, and Councilman Scott Sherman, the Republican Party’s choice.

The Democratic Party’s Pulse on Dem Voters

In 2018, the Democratic Party endorsed Antonio Martinez and Myrtle Cole in City Council races, only to see their opponents, Vivian Moreno and Monica Montgomery, both Democrats, win instead. In 2016, the party watched a hard-fought endorsement fight between Gil Cabrera and Rafael Castellanos for city attorney, only to see a different Dem, Mara Elliott, win the election. The party this cycle has thrown its weight behind one Democrat among many in the mayoral race, the 53rd Congressional District and Council districts 3, 5 and 7. We’ll see if the party (under new leadership this cycle) has a better sense of where its voters are – or a better ability to guide its voters where it wants.

Council Clarity

There are a lot of City Council candidates, and none of them can win outright in a primary. There are some front-runners based on fundraising, endorsements from parties, unions or business groups, or general name ID, but no outcome in low-info races like these should be too surprising. A Democrat will almost certainly retain control of districts 1, 3 and 9. Republicans, meanwhile, have already unified around one candidate in each of districts 7 and 5 in hopes of keeping Democrats from extending their Council majority. We’ll have a better sense of how realistic those pickup prospects are once we see who  proceeds to the runoff, especially in District 7.

Unqualified Judges?

Judicial races are woefully undercovered, and we’re as guilty (or more) than anyone. But the San Diego County Bar Association helpfully releases non-partisan evaluations of the professional qualifications of every would-be judge on the ballot. Two candidates for Superior Court Judge openings have been rated “lacking qualifications” by the County Bar Association. One of the first things we’ll look at on election night is whether one of them managed to do well with voters anyway.

The Pick-Your-Opponent Olympics

At least three local campaigns – or their supporters – have been working hard to pick their opponents in the runoff election, so confident they are of their own preferred candidate advancing.

This is not unheard of, obviously. In 2012, Republicans supporting Carl DeMaio famously ran the campaign Democrat Bob Filner was not capable of running to help him advance to the runoff. Unfortunately for them, and later everyone, Filner ended up winning before resigning only months later in disgrace.

53rd Congressional District: Sara Jacobs had a commanding lead in a recent Union-Tribune poll. While her fiercest competition comes from Council President Georgette Gómez, she and her supporters appear eager to help Republican Chris Stoddard make it to the runoff.

Social media has been hot with photos of mailers that have come out promoting or highlighting Stoddard’s Republican bona fides. This is odd, because he appears to have raised essentially no money and has no major supporters.

What’s even more odd is the mailers lack a disclosure about who is paying for them. That makes them campaign violations.

At the same time, Jacobs has been running her own ads online and in mailers juxtaposing her with Stoddard. This is the choice she wants voters to make.

San Diego City Council District 9: Supporters of Kelvin Barrios, a top aide to Gómez, have promoted conservative Andrew Gade, presumably to help Gade advance to the runoff over rival Democrat Sean Elo, who is a trustee at the Community College District. Barrios is something of a front-runner with the support of Gómez, and Elo would be a tougher opponent in the Dem-heavy district.

A mailer from supporters of Kelvin Barrios

This mailer was financed by Public Safety Advocates, which is funded by, among others, developer and property manager David Malcolm, the United Medical Marijuana Coalition and the Lucky Lady Card Room.

County Board of Supervisors, District 2: Republican Joel Anderson, who was endorsed by the party, is in a fierce contest with Republican Steve Vaus, the mayor of Poway, for the East County seat on the Board of Supervisors. But there are Democrats in the district, and Kenya Taylor has some appeal to them. Anderson has been pumping Taylor’s name recognition among Democrats with mailers like this that cover all the bases.

Last-Minute Attacks

Rafael Castellanos, who is running for county supervisor in District 1, is getting hammered from a couple sides. When we ran for city attorney, we detailed everything we knew about a sexual harassment claim Castellanos had faced at a former law firm. He says the claims were completely discredited.

But the claim is now making an appearance in the race.

South Bay Young Democrats, which supports Nora Vargas for the seat, began running a brutal ad detailing the accusation on Instagram and Facebook starting Feb. 28. Andrea Cardenas, who is running for City Council, is an adviser to the Young Democrats. And the group has ties to her brother, Jesus Cardenas.

At about the same time, a bilingual mailer with the accusations went out. It was financed by Urban Associates Inc., a firm run by Pedro Carrillo. Carrillo did not return multiple messages seeking comment.

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...

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

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