The election is over and several hundred thousand votes have been counted in San Diego County. But in key contests that will shape San Diego’s future in distinct ways, the outcomes were uncertain.
Nationally, Republicans seemed like favorites to secure control of the U.S. House of Representatives and many of them were looking to flip the 49th Congressional District in North County and Orange County as part of a nationwide wave of conservatives winning close races. So far, the vote from San Diego has come in strong for Rep. Mike Levin, a Democrat, and he had a large margin over Brian Maryott, a Republican. But the district stretches past San Diego County. As votes from Orange County, where Maryott had been a mayor, started coming in, the margin shrunk significantly.
As of 1:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, Levin had just a 3 percentage-point lead over Maryott in the vote counting and it was shrinking.
The same thing happened in the heated state Senate District 38 represented until now by Pat Bates, a Republican. Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear picked up a majority of the votes in San Diego County. But as of early Wednesday, Orange County has come in much stronger for Matt Gunderson, a Republican. Blakespear was up just 2 percentage points.
In Chula Vista, National City, Escondido and San Diego, several races had observers and insiders chattering all night. We’ll go through them below.
For All The Pod Heads: Our editors held off as long as they could on Election Night to review the results. Check the podcast feed to hear Voice of San Diego’s recap and insights. We put a stamp on the most definitive wins — and discussed what the close contests mean for San Diego’s vibe. Hear it here or wherever you pod.
San Diego Ballot Measures: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
The two ballot measures that would have significant impact on San Diego’s landscape and city services, Measures B and C, were way too close to call early Wednesday morning. And yet voters easily approved the measure that few people understood and that attracted the most spending, by far, on both sides: Measure D.
Measure B – Trash Fee, People’s Ordinance: As of early Wednesday, “No” was ahead in the count by a 1.5 percentage-point margin, fewer than 3,000 votes above “Yes” out of almost 200,000 votes counted. The count may have to be monitored for days or even weeks.
Measure C – Height Limit Removal, Midway Area: As of early Wednesday, “Yes” had a lead of less than 1 percentage point. And the margin was shrinking with every update.
Measure D – Project Labor Agreement Ban Removal: Ten years ago, voters passed an initiative prohibiting the city of San Diego from requiring contractors to sign project labor agreements with construction unions. Now, 10 years later, voters have thrown that measure out. Trade unions spent heavily to make sure it passed but contractors who feel left out of the chance to compete fairly for major projects also spent heavily. As of early Wednesday, “Yes” on Measure D was up 14 percentage points.
Yes He McCann
Councilman John McCann took an early lead in the vote count against Ammar Campa-Najjar in the Chula Vista mayor’s race. The candidates fought a heated battle for the seat with accusations flying in both directions since the beginning of the race. McCann, a Republican, ran a campaign that focused on his experience on the council. He told Voice back in May that Chula Vista was in need of common sense leadership.
National City: Late Tuesday night, Ron Morrison held a lead over opponents for mayor in National City. Morrison is a councilman and former mayor of the city. If the lead holds as remaining votes are counted, he will beat the sitting mayor, Alejandra Sotelo-Solis, and fellow councilman Jose Rodriguez. Sotelo-Solis lost the support of labor unions and the Democratic Party and her colleague, Councilman Marcus Bush. But the battle that ensued between Rodriguez and Sotelo-Solis, two Democrats, allowed Morrison to likely prevail.
In Imperial Beach: Paloma Aguirre had a less than 4 percentage-point lead over Shirley Nakawatase in the race for mayor in Imperial Beach.
San Diego City Council: All Dems
In the race to replace Chris Cate — the City Council’s lone Republican — Kent Lee appears to have won. Lee is a Democrat and so is his opponent, Tommy Hough. Hough ran on a “neighborhoods first” campaign while Lee argued that it was no longer possible, in the midst of a severe shortage of affordable housing, to defend single-family zoning.
Introducing Lee at the Democrats’ election party downtown, Gloria said District 6 had delivered as an Asian empowerment district by electing Lee. The district is home to more people of Asian descent than any other district in the city. Lee, like Cate, is Asian American.
Lee thanked both his supporters as well as Hough’s, and identified housing, homeless and infrastructure as some of the major challenges ahead.
“I’m here to serve every resident within District 6, every community … to ensure that your voice has a place in our city moving forward,” he said to applause.
District 2: Councilwoman Jen Campbell appears to have held onto her seat, representing much of San Diego’s coastal area. Campbell’s district favors Democrats 2-1, the U-T reported. But Campbell’s lead over Republican Linda Lukacs did not represent nearly such a wide margin. Many were unsatisfied with Campbell’s handling of vacation rentals — one of the most controversial issues in coastal politics — and she was also unseated from the council presidency after just one year holding the post.
Incumbents Monica Montgomery-Steppe and Vivian Moreno cruised easily to re-election.
Sheriff Will Be a Democrat: Department’s No. 2 Gets Promoted
Kelly Martinez had a comfortable lead over John Hemmerling, meaning San Diego County is likely to get its first Democratic sheriff. Only four people have served in that role since the 1970s, all Republicans.
One of the most important offices in San Diego County, the sheriff oversees thousands of employees who patrol streets, carry out evictions and run the jails — which has the highest mortality rate among California’s largest counties. How to prevent deaths was a dominant topic of debate throughout the election cycle.
Martinez, who has served as undersheriff, has identified fentanyl as the driving force behind deaths and pointed to a medical assistant treatment program that monitors people going through withdrawal.
“There’s more that we can do,” she said in October. “There’s more that we’re going to do.”
Thanks to a recent change in state law, sheriffs and district attorneys across California will serve a six-term rather than four-year term to realign elections going forward with presidential years.
Top prosecutor: District Attorney Summer Stephan gets six years too after running unopposed. She won, considering there was no opposition.
Teachers’ Preferred Candidates Win SD School Board Spots
Even given recent changes to how board members are elected, both teachers union endorsed candidates took early leads in the San Diego Unified school board race. Shana Hazan, a former nonprofit executive, opened a 20 point lead over former educator and principal Godwin Higa in District B. Despite agreeing on quite a lot, Hazan’s polished, well funded campaign stood in stark contrast to Higa’s more grassroots approach.
District C, however, was a tale of opposites that gradually got more politically charged in the final month, as money poured in on both sides. Still, liberal educator and political advisor Cody Petterson holds a significant lead over conservative charter school founder Becca Williams. Mailers from the teachers union portrayed Williams as a MAGA extremist, and COVID conspiracist, while mailers from a super PAC supporting Williams depicted Petterson as a political activist who would continue to lead the district down a path to failing schools and struggling students.
Neither candidate was surprised by the political turn the race took. Petterson embraced it given District C’s Democratic majority, Williams viewed a partisan slug fest as damaging to her chances.
“I’m glad, frankly, that both the voters and the media … were able to clearly see this was always political,” Petterson said.
The candidates’ expectations of how the final numbers would shake out also diverged, with Petterson forecasting a widening gap, and Williams projecting the divide would tighten. But regardless of the outcome, Williams didn’t regret the controversial positions she took, like opposing masking and district vaccine mandates, and was proud of the race she ran, which she felt pitted her against the district, the teachers union and board members like Richard Barrera.
“I feel really good about everything we did. Look, we ran in a district that Cody should have won by 20 points,” Williams said. “It’s pretty amazing the kind of things that went on in this race in terms of (the teachers union and Barrera) beating the shit out of me, in terms of partisan politics and stuff like that. And we really held our own.”
Another bond approved: Measure U, the district’s fourth bond measure in fourteen years is poised to pass with room to spare. Unlike past bond proposals, not much of an opposition mobilized to oppose Measure U, which the district has pitched as being necessary to improve school safety and fix old, worn down schools.
School board member Richard Barrera said the support of the latest bond proposal is consistent with San Diego voters’ historic support of investment in district schools. “People in our community support our kids, support our schools and are willing to make sacrifices to support our schools even in this election when people are anxious about the economy,” Barrera said.
Voices of the Voters
Going into Tuesday, politicos were on pins and needles over San Diego’s District 2 and 6 City Council races. Lisa Halverstadt spoke to voters in three neighborhoods in those districts about how they were voting and why. Here’s what they shared.
In North County, the 49th Congressional District race, the 38th State Senate District race and the Escondido mayoral race were a few of the races residents were watching. These are races that could result in a political shift for their respective districts and offices.
Tigist Layne spoke to voters in Oceanside, Carlsbad and Escondido about the issues and candidates they were supporting.
In South County, Gabriel Schneider visited Chula Vista and National City and found that housing and homelessness were the dominant issues. But in deciding who to vote for, most said they were simply choosing candidates along party lines, often in reaction to state and federal politics.
In Other News
- Times of San Diego reports that two attorneys are challenging a San Diego City Council “prohibiting public comment at council and committee meetings that the meeting chair believes are for the promotion of any political candidacy or for the promotion of any ballot measure.”
- Halverstadt learned that Tuesday rains led to leaks at the city and county-backed Rosecrans homeless shelter in the Midway District. Early Tuesday evening, a spokesman for Gloria said water had stopped seeping into the shelter and a spokesman for Board of Supervisors Chair Nathan Fletcher said county staff were working on fixes. But when the rain returned later in the evening, Alpha Project reported that more water was leaking in and Gloria’s office said city crews were responding again.
The Morning Report was written by Will Huntsberry, Jesse Marx, Andrea Lopez-Villafaña, Jakob McWhinney, Andrew Keatts, Lisa Halverstadt and Tigist Layne. It was edited by Scott Lewis.