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The top Election Day contests worth watching from a San Diego point of view.
In case you didn’t know how U-T San Diego stood on the mayoral race, it decided to remind us again, with yet another front page editorial.
Actually, as U-T opinion editor Bill Osborne taught me Sunday, these wrap arounds are called “spadeas.” But since spadeas are usually advertisements, I think that when the U-T deploys a spadea for an editorial, it deserves its own word.
Let’s do what Spanish speakers do to words when the word just isn’t enough and start calling these “editorialazos.”
The editorialazo is one of the many new characters we met in this long, strange campaign season. I’ve been through several election cycles and haven’t seen anything like this. The spending. The debating. The propositions. We could have employed an army of fact checkers and not done it justice.
But it’s finally over.
The campaigns have long since switched to mobilization mode. Nationwide, all eyes will be on the presidential contest. And yes, control of the U.S. Senate is at stake, which has enormous implications for the president’s health care law and other major issues.
Same-sex marriage rights and marijuana legalization in a few states look like they might pass.
There’s too much to watch (consider watching what you can with us!). To be frank, I’m overwhelmed with how much of our future we will determine on Election Day.
So, for San Diego, what are the most impactful contests to watch Tuesday? By impactful, I mean, what will actually be different in our lives based on Tuesday’s results? Here’s my ranking, with some background and scene setting.
1. Proposition Z
Prop. Z will have the most immediate impact on the most San Diegans. Or it won’t. Like all school construction bonds, it will need 55 percent of the vote to pass.
Should it pass, homeowners within the boundaries of San Diego Unified School District will see an increase to their property taxes. The county assesses your home every year and for every $100,000 of assessed value you have, you’ll have to pay $60 more per year. Here’s a Parent’s Guide to our coverage. We’ve explained the financing, done a couple fact checks and highlighted perhaps the least-talked-about reason why some important folks are supporting it.
Prop. Z would easily have the most impact on San Diegans’ wallets and schools. Again, a bare majority is not enough, so when the first results come out Tuesday night, it needs to be close to that magic 55 percent to have a shot.
2. Proposition 30
A close second on local impact (very close) is Prop. 30. For those of you still confused about the difference between this one and the other major state tax hike on the ballot, Proposition 38, check out the San Diego Explained short video we did with NBC 7 San Diego:
Prop. 30’s fate will arguably have more impact on local schools than Prop. Z because San Diego’s largest school district has already made a deal with its teachers about Prop. 30. Should it fail, the district has committed to cut the school year by nearly three weeks.
Now, opponents of the tax hike will say a couple of things. One, that the money gets lost in a state bureaucracy you can’t trust.
Secondly, that this is either a bluff or an attempt to avoid necessary but uncomfortable cost-cutting and reform. Their case is that neither the governor nor the local school district will tolerate such a brutal service cut and will either do necessary reforms to protect things or magically discover that things aren’t so bad.
Maybe. The fact is the school year cut is set in motion and something would have to change, quickly, after Prop. 30’s demise in order to avoid this cut.
Such a shortening of the school year would have effects not only on academic success but on families struggling to provide child care.
Prop. 30 has a much smaller impact on your wallet than Prop. Z. It’s a quarter-cent sales tax hike (unless you make more than $250,000 a year, in which the income tax hike will be significant).
It only needs a majority vote to pass.
If Filner wins, we’ll know DeMaio simply never had a chance. He simply could not have done more to try to win this race.
Filner is riding a demographic wave with an attitudinal preference toward Democrats. His challenge was to communicate that he was the Democrat, in a city with a solid Democratic majority. DeMaio took a left turn and tried to highlight his own Democratic support.
Did he do enough? We’ll see.
Though Filner and his supporters put together an excellent marketing campaign, Filner has been doing all he can to hurt his chances. His unforced errors, illogical digressions and random blowups with the media and debate moderators have made him seem incapable of picking his battles.
At the same time, DeMaio has run a well-organized, well-financed campaign.
If the two candidates are within 2 points of each other Tuesday night, and the gap shrinks after the second results come in, it might be weeks before we know who’s going to be mayor.
4. School Board
It’s scary to me how few people know anything about the school board candidates they vote on in the final election. The way San Diego Unified School District is set up, the primary election takes place in a limited district — a small group of neighborhoods — and the two finalists advance to a contest before the whole city for this November general election.
There are three races but Richard Barrera is running unopposed. Marne Foster beat Bill Ponder in the primary but the larger voter pool this time could change things. Mark Powell is trying to oust incumbent John Lee Evans.
Here’s our Parent’s Guide to the election.
5. Congress: Bilbray vs. Peters
A top national focus, the race will actually be the first one I look at when I examine results. Its impact locally, however, is not so apparent. Yeah, yeah, the party that controls Congress is something we should all care about. I get it.
But the interest to me in this race is a character narrative. Scott Peters clearly wants to continue his political career. He tried in 2008 in an ill-fated run for city attorney.
Unlike that contest, this time around, he has more directly confronted his demon: the 2002 deal he supported at the San Diego City Council that both increased employee retirement benefits and underfunded the retirement system. It was the beginning of the great pension narrative that has dominated San Diego politics for a decade.
Now, unless he runs for president or something, he’s seen exactly what can happen when millions of dollars are spent trying to communicate just how bad of a decision that was.
If he still manages to succeed and oust incumbent Brian Bilbray from Congress, not only will it have national implications, it will mean that Peters did not ruin his long-term political career in 2002. If he loses, well, it’s a pretty solid case that he’ll simply never get over it.
6. City Council: District 1
There’s surprisingly few policy differences between Ray Ellis and incumbent Democrat Sherri Lightner. But there’s a world of difference between how they’d approach the job.
Ellis is a CEO, a leader who will push and frame things constantly. He’s the kind of guy looking for progress and results. He comes from a world and from volunteer experiences where it was his job to have vision, take input and pursue a goal.
Lightner is the definition of a representative. She wants neighborhood activists to know she’s listening and channeling their concerns. Rather than decide quickly and act, she’s likely to spend the bulk of her time listening, studying and then coming to a carefully crafted decision.
Should he win, Ellis will line up with a majority group of right-of-center City Council members. They’ll end up electing Kevin Faulconer as City Council president and, if combined with Carl DeMaio in the mayor’s office, they could get a lot of the results Ellis might be delighted to facilitate.
If Lightner retains her seat, she’ll line up with the left-of-center Council members. Tony Young will stay president or Todd Gloria will get a shot. Either way, this coalition will have much, much different priorities for the city.
And it all comes down to this race. Here’s our scorecard on the candidates and the main issues.
7. County Supervisor
County supervisors get paid twice as much as their counterparts at the city but face probably half as much scrutiny. The simple fact is that the state of California determines about 80 percent of what the county does. But that other 20 percent is not just paperwork. It mostly has to do with land-use, but also just how this massive agency is run, whether it’s the state’s agenda or not.
Whoever wins this race, a new face will grace the county board for the first time in a long, long time.
Both Steve Danon and Dave Roberts say they’ll shake things up. I don’t doubt it. While Danon says he’ll make the same pension reforms to the county that the city’s gone through, the county has still so far escaped anything close to the scandal the city faced. So how will it ever make the progress the city did?
Local Republicans, while ferocious about the city, have left the all-Republican county supervisors alone about their pensions. Danon would need a big coalition to provoke the same change, and the tracks haven’t been laid. (Here’s my county pension explainer in 350 words.)
Danon is also threatening nonprofit funding that’s been at the center of controversy for years.
Roberts, the Democrat, on the other hand, might provoke a more social-welfare and land-use-oriented shake-up. He likely won’t have a laser focus on the county’s lucrative pension benefits but he will provide a new perspective on major housing developments and social benefits like health care and food stamps.
8. State Senate District 39
State Sen. Christine Kehoe is out and two veterans of the California Legislature want her seat — badly.
This is another race that didn’t get the attention it deserved. Even the U-T, in endorsing Republican George Plescia, noted that before it got into the merits of its choice.
As the Sacramento Bee’s Dan Walters noted, Plescia vs. Marty Block is one of three Senate races statewide with major implications for the balance of power in that body. Democrats currently have 25 seats in the Senate. If they get two more, they’ll have a supermajority and can pass tough legislation, including tax increases.
Now, the governor pledged when he got elected that he wouldn’t sign a tax increase without a vote of the people, but this worry still fuels folks like those at the U-T and it’s been the predominate message Plescia sent in last-minute campaign mailers.
The redesigned district gives Plescia a chance. Will he make it?
9. VOSD Election Party
San Diego is special in how it gathers downtown at Golden Hall every Election Night. Going there is one of the best parts of my job.
But in June, we experimented with a new idea: All of the candidates and parties usually have their own events around Golden Hall, with food and drinks and sometimes a speech or two. Sure, you can crash these things but we decided regular people needed a place to go, even if they weren’t tied to a campaign or a particular issue.
So once again, we’ll be at Co-Merge at 330 A Street from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Not only will there be food and drink but we’re going to have interviews with interesting people both from the state and national perspective. In person, we’ll bring up some of San Diego’s most dynamic folks to comment on what the results mean for our future.
The best part: the roof. Co-Merge has a great roof. Go up there and cry your eyes out or debate the future with a new friend.
I can’t wait. See you then.
I’m Scott Lewis, the CEO of Voice of San Diego. Please contact me if you’d like at email@example.com or 619.325.0527 and follow me on Twitter (it’s a blast!):
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Disclosure: Voice of San Diego members and supporters may be mentioned or have a stake in the stories we cover. For a complete list of our contributors, click here.