A voter casts his vote at the Mid-City Gym polling place in City Heights on Sept. 14, 2021. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

The question with primary elections is not who wins the most votes. It’s which two candidates win the most votes. And that question was not answered across the board, Tuesday night.

In District 2 of the city of San Diego, for example, Councilwoman Jen Campbell easily advanced to a November runoff for a second term but it wasn’t certain yet who would go with her.

Same for Undersheriff Kelly Martinez, who clearly outpaced a crowded sheriff’s field and will be in the general election, but it’s unclear whom she’ll face.

Plenty of races on Tuesday’s ballot that are still too close to call.

Former Councilman David Alvarez had an early lead over former Councilwoman Georgette Gómez in the special election to represent the 80th Assembly District for the rest of the year. His lead – 56.06 to 43.94 as of 11:30 pm Tuesday – gave him the confidence to essentially declared victory Tuesday night.

This is the seat Lorena Gonzalez represented for many years and if the results hold, they are a rejection of Gonzalez’s preferred candidate, Gómez. However, Gómez did still advance in the primary election for the next term for the seat. A big question will be how hard she fights for it.

In the race for Chula Vista mayor, Republican John McCann will reach the runoff, but Ammar Campa-Najjar and Councilwoman Jill Galvez, are neck-and-neck to join him.

Likewise, in the San Diego County sheriff race, a slim margin separates John Hemmerling and Dave Myers to see who joins Martinez.

Here’s a rundown of what happened in the biggest races Tuesday night, and what we’re keeping our eyes on as more results come in:

In the sheriff’s race: Martinez, a Democrat, advanced easily to the runoff. She had 39 percent of the vote, more than the total of the next two candidates combined.

The second-place spot is still up for grabs. Republican John Hemmerling and Dave Myers, who had the Democratic Party’s official endorsement, were within a couple percentage points of one another. Hemmerling with a slim lead over Myers of just about 8,000 votes out of more than 370,000 cast.

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department Administration Center / Photo by Megan Wood

Regardless of who makes it through, the fact a Democrat — Martinez — was leading the pack on primary night is historic. Republicans have dominated the sheriff’s office in San Diego County for half a century, if not more, in races that were rarely competitive. On occasion, the incumbent ran unopposed. Just a few years ago it would have been difficult to imagine two Democrats facing each other in a countywide runoff. Now, that could happen.

Martinez benefited from her current position as undersheriff and the decades she’s spent in the department, which convinced at least a few Republicans to cross the partisan line.

Jesse Marx talked to several of them at polling sites in Lemon Grove and Spring Valley on Tuesday morning and they cited the San Diego County Gun Owners endorsement of Martinez. They said they worried that a progressive like Myers might take funds away from the Sheriff’s Department. At the same time, they faulted Hemmerling, who actually got the GOP’s support, for his work enforcing gun violence restraining orders as a prosecutor. 

Dozens of residents walked into the voting center at the Chula Vista City Hall to vote in the Primary Election on June 7, 2022. / Photo by Andrea Lopez-Villafaña

In Chula Vista: Republican Councilman John McCann held a lead in the race to become the city’s next Mayor — with nearly 31 percent of the vote. 

It’s too soon to know who will advance with him to the runoff. Campa-Najjar had a slim lead over Galvez as of Tuesday night. Both are Democrats. 

McCann has served on the City Council since 2014. He secured the police union endorsement and ran a campaign focused on addressing the basic needs of residents: roads, police and fire. He told Voice last month that he was proud of his accomplishments on the council and believed that would translate to voter support. 

“We are just very thankful to the voters of Chula Vista,” McCann said late at night. “I’ve dedicated over four years of being engaged and providing services for our citizens and we’ve been able to accomplish great things.” 

That resonated with voters. Andrea Lopez-Villafaña spoke to South Bay voters at the polls who mentioned that they were eager for change in city hall. 

Other races of note in Chula Vista include the council and city attorney races. Democrat Carolina Chavez had a lead over Republican Marco Contreras for the City Council District 1 seat. That seat is currently held by McCann. Steve Stenberg and Jose Preciado were neck-and-neck for District 2, which Galvez currently represents. 

Deputy City Attorney Simon Silva had a significant lead over his opponents for the city attorney race. He will square off with criminal defense lawyer Dan Smith in November. 

FYI our editors will break down the Chula Vista races at our live podcast event on Thursday, June 9, at Novo Brazil Brewing. Get your tickets here.

In the 80th Assembly District: Alvarez had a strong lead over Gómez Tuesday, with 55.74 percent of the vote. He issued a series of Tweets shortly after the results were posted, essentially declaring victory. If the results hold, Alvarez would finish the remainder of the term vacated by former Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez when she resigned earlier this year.

“The voters spoke loud and clear: they want to see real change in California and that is what I will fight for in the Assembly,” he wrote.

He touted a broad coalition of support that put him in office, across ethnicities, political parties and special interest groups.

David Alvarez had a strong lead over Georgette Gómez Tuesday, with 55.74 percent of the vote.

“I am proud that I ran a positive, unifying campaign,” Alvarez wrote. That campaign, largely through outside groups, got nasty enough in the closing weeks that Gómez told our Andrew Keatts that it had ended her friendship with Alvarez.

In November, Alvarez and Gómez will face off again for a new two-year term in the redistricted 80th Assembly district. The primary for that race shared the ballot Tuesday with the special election to fill the vacated seat, and Gómez is in first place in that contest. Her lead, though, with 35.89 percent of the vote, came with two Republicans on the ballot, who collectively won 31.6 percent of the vote. Alvarez’s campaign has to this point targeted moderate and conservative voters more than Gómez’s.

In District 2: The city of San Diego had a quiet ballot, but the closest-watched race might have been in District 2, where Campbell faced a crowded ballot in her re-election bid. 

It’s a good-news, bad-news situation for Campbell. She took first place easily, with a nearly 10 point gap over the closest challenger. But as of midnight, the former Council president had just 31 percent of the votes of the constituents she has represented for the last four years, which could indicate vulnerability in November.

Facing her is likely to be Linda Lukacs, a dentist and the lone Republican on the ballot, who has 25.06percent of the vote as of 10 pm Tuesday. Former Assemblywoman Lori Saldana could still catch her, but she’ll need to make up a 6.8-percentage-point gap as the Registrar continues counting votes in the days ahead.

Allies of Campbell had spent in support of Lukacs because they believe she’ll be easier to beat. (That sort of bank shot doesn’t always work.)

Our Lisa Halverstadt talked to voters in D2 earlier in the day to hear what was on their mind when they filled out their ballots. They had different ideas about whether the district or city were headed in the right direction, but homelessness stood out as a major concern in the coastal district.

How about that turnout? County Registrar of Voters Cynthia Paes told KPBS her office predicted a 30-40 percent turnout on a day where polling places appeared less bustling than usual. 

More Races

State Senate District 38: Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespeare and businessman Matt Gunderson will advance to a runoff to represent the north coastal district in the assembly.

San Diego Unified, District B: Shana Hazan easily advanced to the runoff in the district Kevin Beiser is vacating. But it’s still unclear who will advance with her, either Godwin Higa or Jose Velazquez.

San Diego Unified, District C: Cody Petterson and Becca Williams will advance to the runoff. Both of these seats will see their first ever runoff contained to their district. In years past, they would have had to move to a runoff all across the boundaries of San Diego Unified, which overlap most of the city of San Diego.

In Other News

  • A deposition obtained by the Union-Tribune reveals that a board member of the association overseeing the Del Mar Fairgrounds learned in December that scoring of pitches from two companies seeking to run the 2021 fair were improperly changed.
  • An NBC 7 San Diego analysis reveals ambulances are sometimes waiting hours for patients to be moved into local hospital emergency rooms.
  • The La Jolla Light reports that advocates are concerned about a potential flood of vendors to the area due to the delayed implementation of city street vending rules that will go into effect on June 22 outside coastal areas. The state Coastal Commission has to sign off on the city ordinance before it can move forward in coastal areas.
  • A new San Diego Gas & Electric microgrid set to be unveiled next month is expected to help Campo residents cope with power outages that are common during fire season, the Union-Tribune reports.

The Morning Report was written by Andrew Keatts, Lisa Halverstadt, Jesse Marx and Andrea Lopez-Villafaña. It was edited by Scott Lewis. 

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