Candidates for the 79th Assembly District
Clockwise from top left: Akilah Weber, Leticia Munguia, Shane Parmely, Marco Contreras and Aeiramique Glass-Blake / Photos courtesy of the candidates

La Mesa Councilwoman Akilah Weber is on track to win the special election for the 79th Assembly District, a seat vacated earlier this year when her mother, Secretary of State Shirley Weber, was appointed to the statewide office.

Weber, who had about 52 percent of the vote late Tuesday night, was on pace to win because state law allows candidates to win special elections in primaries if they take more than 50 percent of the vote. If she comes in below that margin – which could still happen, as more votes are counted – the second-place candidate will advance to a June runoff against her.

That would almost certainly be Republican Marco Contreras, a businessman, who had a commanding hold on second place in the early vote totals. Leticia Munguia, a Democrat and labor organizer, was in a distant third, despite her campaign garnering healthy financial support. Democrats Shane Parmely and Aeiramique Glass Blake had significantly lower vote totals than Munguia as of late Tuesday night.

In the closing days of the race, Weber was the subject of a barrage of racist campaign mail that attempted to tie her to civil unrest in La Mesa last summer. The local chair of the Democratic Party decried the ads – sent by independent committees supporting Munguia – and called on Munguia to denounce them.

Weber, who is also an obstetrician/gynecologist, was elected to La Mesa’s City Council in 2018.

Council: Actually, Measure C Passed

The City Council voted 6-3 on Tuesday to declare that hotel-tax hike Measure C passed with a simple majority and ask a court sign off.

Last March, 65 percent of city voters approved the citizens initiative to increase taxes on tourists to fund a Convention Center expansion, homeless initiatives and road repairs, shy of the two-thirds required for taxes for a specific purpose. Since then, a few appellate court rulings have emerged declaring that citizens initiatives only require a simple majority to pass, not a two-thirds majority.

City Council members Monica Montgomery-Steppe, Vivian Moreno and Sean Elo-Rivera on Tuesday voted against taking the issue to court, arguing that the city shouldn’t get involved after voters had their say.

Elo-Rivera said that Measure C proponents – not the city – should have pursued the challenge.

“As case law demonstrates, the citizen proponents of Measure C could have availed themselves of the courts and received a decision clarifying what threshold should have been applied to the measure,” Elo-Rivera wrote in a statement after the vote. “The courts could have declared Measure C passed and our City Council could have fully maintained our commitment to the democratic process. I regret that the Council chose to sacrifice the latter.”

Mayor Todd Gloria, tourism and labor leaders rallied before and after the Tuesday vote, arguing that it could bolster the local economy by supplying jobs and deliver dedicated cash for homelessness.

“Today’s affirmative vote by the City Council to validate Measure C is a necessary step to finally put to bed the long-awaited and much-discussed expansion of our Convention Center in addition to addressing two of our city’s most significant challenges: combatting homelessness and getting San Diegans back to work,” Gloria wrote in a statement. “The people of San Diego asked us to take up this measure and an overwhelming majority voted to support it. It’s time we implement the will of the voters.”

Gloria’s office has said the city won’t implement the tax hike unless a court rules that Measure C passed. 

Hilary Nemchik, a spokeswoman for City Attorney Mara Elliott, said Elliott’s office expects to file a legal validation suit in San Diego Superior Court “shortly.”

A court ruling will likely come months after city attorneys file suit.

The Reopening Marches on

On the same day county officials announced San Diego was moving into the more open orange tier of pandemic restrictions, Gov. Gavin Newsom set a date to do away with pandemic restrictions altogether.

If all goes well – there are no major vaccine problems that disrupt the ongoing inoculation program, and hospitalizations remain low and steady – the system will disappear on June 15, effectively reopening the state’s economy.

As long as those two conditions are meant, state officials “can confidently say by June 15 that we can start to open up as business as usual — subject to ongoing mask wearing and ongoing vigilance,” Newsom said, according to the L.A. Times.

In the meantime, San Diego businesses can now increase their capacity as well, because the state crossed its threshold of innocculating some 4 million people from low-income communities hardest hit by the pandemic, City News Service reported.

Restaurants can now operate indoors at up to 50 percent capacity, and the county will lift the 10 p.m. curfew that’s been in place on businesses since last year. Gyms, bowling alleys, museums, zoos, movie theaters and places of worship can all increase their capacity as well.

As of Tuesday, 39 percent of county residents have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, and 22.9 percent of residents are fully inoculated.

News Nuggets

  • The City Council on Tuesday again approved a vacation rental regulatory compromise pushed by City Council President Jen Campbell when the ordinance returned for a required second reading vote, The Union-Tribune reports. City staff are expected to return to the City Council by this fall to lay out proposed fees and a lottery process for those seeking rental licenses.
  • Leaders of a recall campaign against City Council President Jennifer Campbell told the Union-Tribune that the group has gathered more than 5,000 of the required 14,421 signatures they must submit by early June to pave the way for a recall election.
  • Jewish Family Service announced Tuesday it will test guaranteed income in the region, targeting low-income families with young children living in parts of San Diego and National City particularly impacted by the pandemic. A guaranteed income program in Stockton busted some long-standing assumptions about the poor. (Times of San Diego, The Atlantic)
  • A veteran Black prosecutor this week became the No.2 in the county district attorney’s office, NBC 7 San Diego reports.
  • The Union-Tribune follows up on an ESPN column that has spurred more chatter about whether a Major League Soccer team might play at Aztec Stadium.
  • County supervisors on Tuesday voted to create a county department focused on addressing homelessness. (NBC 7)

The Morning Report was written by Lisa Halverstadt and Andrew Keatts, and edited by Sara Libby.

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