In La Jolla, San Diego’s mayoral race seems to have taken a backseat to the all-consuming presidential election, even in Barbara Bry’s backyard.
At the Torrey Pines Elementary School polling location on Monday, there was a steady stream of in-person voters and ballot drop-offs.
For 37-year-old Matt Claborn, getting President Donald Trump out of office was what drove him to the polls. When I asked him about his vote for mayor, he said he voted for “the gay guy,” meaning Todd Gloria.
“Barbara Bry seems like a Republican. And she’s from La Jolla,” said Claborn, who also lives in the La Jolla area. “We don’t need more rich people in power.”
Chelsea Wilkinson was driven to the polling station by her mother — who voted the day before at the same site — to drop off her ballot. Like Claborn, Wilkinson was also focused on the presidential race, but with a different goal in mind.
She said she voted for Trump, but admitted that she doesn’t like him as a human being. “I’m very pro-military,” said Wilkinson, 26. “Trump has done more for our service workers.”
Across the street, San Diegans came to drop off their ballots among the gym-goers entering and exiting the Dan McKinney Family YMCA.
For married couple Mary Tregoning and Heather Lang, the school board race was one of the most important issues as they began researching their ballots.
“We have an elementary school-aged child with special needs,” Lang said. “We realize how hard virtual learning is, but we need to make sure that anything that happens with reopening is informed by science.”
Tregoning and Lang were also driven to the polls by their passion for social equality, which seeps into many of their voting choices. They said they voted no on Measure E, which, if passed, would lift the 30-foot-height limit in the Midway District. They doubt that it would give way to more affordable housing, and said taller buildings create micro-climates that would contribute negatively to climate change and carbon emissions.
And when it came to the mayoral race, the couple’s votes went to Gloria, they said, because his values aligned with their own on homelessness.
Both Tregoning and Lang are voting for Joe Biden for president. “We are two white women, the system is built for us,” Tregoning said. “It’s our job to make sure the system is changed for everyone else.”
But they are also worried about their own rights if Trump remains in office another four years. As married women, they’re already concerned about their future under a conservative Supreme Court. But Tregoning is also blind, and she expressed her fears about how disabled people’s rights might change in the years to come.
At Muirlands Middle School in La Jolla, Richard and Geraldine Walker had a different point of view. For them, Bry was the obvious choice for mayor.
Richard Walker, who said he’s known Bry since graduate school, said bluntly that people “would be idiots if they didn’t vote for her.” They referred to her crackdown on short-term rentals and efforts to control the sea lion population on La Jolla beaches as further reasons why Bry was their clear choice. The Walkers are both open-water swimmers.
The couple also voted a resounding yes on Measure E.
“That area is a slum,” Geraldine Walker said of the Midway District. But their desire to lift the height limit extends only to the Midway District. “We will shed blood if anybody tries to enlarge that choice beyond that area,” Walker said.
The Walkers voted for Trump, and said while they believe he has severe limitations, they can’t ignore the president’s contributions to the economy and foreign affairs. Although the Walkers identify as seniors themselves, they said that Biden just doesn’t seem capable. “He doesn’t seem all there,” Richard Walker said. “And we now know the level of corruption that has run through his family.”
Back at Torrey Pines Elementary, Bry also got a vote from Ana Contreras. For her, there wasn’t any specific reason, other than that Bry seemed more relatable. Contreras said her major concern as she came to the polls was helping people suffering physically and financially as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
When I asked Contreras which candidate got her vote for president, she first responded with “Harris.” She cast a vote for Biden, she said, but emphasized that her support was mostly for the VP. “She has a similar background as me,” Contreras said.
And to her, that made a world of difference.