Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2008 | The three-way primary battle for the District 1 City Council seat was decided in June largely by three things: location, location, location. Democrat Sherri Lightner, and Republicans Phil Thalheimer and Marshall Merrifield all won handily in and around their home bases.
Lightner, who won the primary with 36.5 percent of the vote, dominated in La Jolla. Second-place finisher Phil Thalheimer won a large portion of his 33.8 percent of the vote in Rancho Peñasquitos, where he lived for more than a decade. And Merrifield’s 29.5 percent came mostly from his home area of Carmel Valley.
Now, with Merrifield out of the running, the battle is on between Lightner and Thalheimer for the more than 10,000 votes he left on the table. To win that battle they will have to deal with a species of voter known as the “coastal Republican.”
For all of the homogeneity in Carmel Valley and neighboring Del Mar Heights — white, affluent families are the norm — its residents don’t vote along easily identifiable partisan or ideological lines. Indeed, registration as a whole in District 1 is just about equally divided among Democrats, Republicans and decline-to-state voters.
Election Day in November will be far different than it was in June. Turnout will likely more than double that of the primary given that it is a presidential election year. And campus turnout at University of California, San Diego was suppressed in the June primary because it was finals week.
Elections with high turnouts and a large number of young voters generally benefit Democrats. But Thalheimer also has an edge because together he and fellow Republican Merrifield garnered nearly two-thirds of the district-wide vote in the primary.