San Diego City Councilwoman Monica Montgomery Steppe in El Cerrito on Aug. 15, 2023.
San Diego City Councilwoman Monica Montgomery Steppe in El Cerrito on Aug. 15, 2023. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

Months after County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher’s May resignation following allegations of sexual harassment and assault, one lingering question seems to have been answered: Who will replace him as District 4 supervisor? 

Early election results show Democratic San Diego Councilwoman Monica Montgomery Steppe holds a 23-point lead over Republican Amy Reichert. While Montgomery Steppe’s lead is commanding, final vote totals may not come for weeks.

The early results aren’t entirely surprising. The district, which stretches from Clairemont to Rancho San Diego, has trended overwhelmingly Democratic in recent years. Voters also rejected Reichert, who made her bones leading the anti-Covid lockdown organization Reopen San Diego, only a year ago when Fletcher defeated her by just shy of 30 points. 

In a statement posted to X, formerly known as Twitter, shortly after the first posting of early results, Montgomery Steppe declared victory. “As your Supervisor, I look forward to teaming up with you to tackle homelessness, promote holistic public safety and invest in our county,” she wrote.

Montgomery Steppe would be the first Black woman elected to the board in its over 150-year history, but this election also offered a clear partisan choice for voters. 

Signs for San Diego City Councilwoman Monica Montgomery Steppe in El Cerrito on Aug. 15, 2023.
Signs for San Diego City Councilwoman Monica Montgomery Steppe in El Cerrito on Aug. 15, 2023. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

Some history: Back in 2018, Fletcher’s victory brought a sole Democrat to the County’s Board of Supervisors. Just two years later, the election of Democratic Supervisors Nora Vargas and Terra Lawson Remer swung control of the board to Democrats for the first time in at least a generation. Fletcher’s resignation left a 2-2 deadlock on the board. Montgomery Steppe’s potential victory, however, would mean Democrats retain control.

Even more history: Montgomery Steppe’s potential election to the Board of Supes would be the latest step in a swift rise to power for Montgomery Steppe. She was first elected to City Council just five years ago.

One day after comments from former City Councilwoman Myrtle Cole justifying racial profiling of her District 4 constituents sparked calls for her resignation, Montgomery Steppe resigned from her job as a policy advisor to Cole. Montgomery Steppe mounted an insurgent and bare-bones campaign for the seat and squeaked out a six-vote win over Cole, then the council president, in the primary. The political establishment was shocked, but District 4 residents weren’t. By the general election, Montgomery Steppe had widened the gap and beat Cole by nine points

If the early results bear out, Montgomery Steppe is expected to be sworn in in early December. She will serve for the remainder of Fletcher’s term, which will end in January 2027.

What about her council seat? The city of San Diego will need to hold a special election next year to replace Montgomery Steppe on the City Council. She represents the city’s District 4, which includes the neighborhoods of Lincoln Park, Encanto, Paradise Hills and others in southeastern San Diego. 

Chula Vista City Attorney: Miesfeld, Verdugo Take Early Lead 

Early results showed Bart Miesfeld in first place in the race to become Chula Vista’s next city attorney. Marco Verdugo was in second place — behind by less than 300 votes. Dan Smith Diaz was in third place.

It’s too early to call, but this race will go to a runoff election between the top two vote getters. Candidate Smith Diaz told KPBS that he was disappointed in the results. 

Smith Diaz lost last year to Simon Silva, who died two months before the election.  

Ratepayers Approve Water Divorce 

Homes near the farming area of De Luz in Fallbrook on Feb. 1, 2022. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Two rural water districts asked voters Tuesday if they would like to get cheaper water bills. The answer was overwhelming: yes. The results aren’t official yet, but it’s clear what voters in those districts want. 

What happens now? Fallbrook Public Utility District and Rainbow Municipal Water District want to ditch the San Diego County Water Authority for the Eastern Municipal Water District in Riverside. Water district leaders believe such a move will result in cheaper water bills for residents and farming customers. But as KPBS reports, even with the vote, it’s not a done deal. 

What to watch: The Water Authority filed a lawsuit against the Local Agency Formation Commission, a quasi-legislative body, that gave the two water districts the greenlight to ditch San Diego. Also, the two water districts need to pay a big exit fee to leave. 

Downtown Is Not as Poppin’ 

View of downtown on May 12, 2023.
View of downtown on May 12, 2023. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

Last year, the city was buzzing with pride that, despite all the problems downtown, San Diego’s downtown had recovered much more quickly than other downtowns. The recognition had come from a unique study of cell phone usage and it gave Mayor Todd Gloria and others a skip in their step. He went on national TV and talked about how it was a result of our better blend of uses and design downtown.

Turns out, San Diego hasn’t actually bounced back from the pandemic as much as other large metro areas. Axios San Diego reports that a change to a study’s methodology has booted San Diego from the top (The city’s ranking went from eight to 20). 

What happened? The study from the University of Toronto’s School of Cities changed the boundaries of the downtown area. This change removed the San Diego International Airport. The research used cell phone data, so phone usage at the airport likely accounted for a “disproportionate share of the activity” researchers told Axios.  

It’s worth keeping in mind that other studies still rank San Diego’s downtown high for recovery after the pandemic. Earlier this year, national media came down to declare that as other downtown areas were suffering, ours was poppin. 

Our VOSD Podcasts hosts gave downtown their own grades in March. Listen to the episode here. 

Song of the Week 

Tijuana has long been one of our region’s musical bright spots. Our neighbors to the south just know how to write damn good tunes. But, like all good scenes, there’s a significant amount of diversity. One of my favorite pockets is (surprise, surprise) the sizable streak of dreamy rock and pop that’s bubbled up over the years. Memory Leak, who fuse shoegaze sensibilities with a satisfying crunch, is a perfect example of that trend.  

Memory Leak, “Planeta Distante: The liner notes describe “Planeta Distante,” or “Distant Planet” as having been inspired by “contemplating ruins of ancient civilizations, structures that were erased.” Simultaneously ethereal and elated, and anchored by Laura Gonzalez’s whispery vocals, the track is a call not to drown in the big wide world around us, but rather to bathe in the moment. After all, as Gonzalez sings, “everything passes and nothing is important.” 

Like what you hear? Catch Memory Leak at The Template on Friday

Do you have a “Song of the Week” suggestion? Shoot us an email and a sentence or two about why you’ve been bumping this song lately. Friendly reminder: all songs should be by local artists! 

In Other News 

  • San Diego is ready to shine. The Union-Tribune reports that our city is attracting more reality TV shows and commercial productions. City officials want to see what it would take to attract movies here, too. 
  • It’s going to be warm and dry this week. (Union-Tribune) 
  • A week after former Sheriff Bill Gore’s controversial nomination to the San Diego Ethics Commission was withdrawn, two new nominees were approved. Their approval means the commission is fully staffed for the first time since Kevin Faulconer was mayor. (Union-Tribune)
  • County Supervisors on Tuesday approved two homelessness related measures, including a proposal to house about 100 people currently on the streets while receiving substance abuse treatment. (Union-Tribune)
  • Community members pushed back against California Public Utilities Commission officials at a meeting to discuss possible changes to utility bills that include flat fees based on income level. (KPBS) 

The Morning Report was written by Jakob McWhinney and Andrea Lopez-Villafaña. It was edited by Scott Lewis. 

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