Morning Report: Dems Take County Control

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Morning Report: Dems Take County Control

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A person votes at the San Diego Convention Center polling location. / Photo by Brittany Cruz-Fejeran

The future of the country and the presidency may be dangerously unclear but dozens of races that will determine the future of the San Diego region seem to have been determined. 

And while the country is divided on President Donald Trump, the San Diego region is not. Antipathy toward him has swallowed Republican candidates. As of midnight, San Diego County had supported former Vice President Joe Biden at 63 percent compared to 35 percent for the incumbent president. 

If results hold, the San Diego City Council may be left with only one Republican out of nine members. The Board of Supervisors will, for the first time, switch to a majority Democratic leadership.

And we know the next mayor of San Diego will be a Democrat, too. Early Wednesday morning, Assemblyman Todd Gloria led Councilwoman Barbara Bry 56 percent to 44 percent. Gloria all but declared victory in a speech Tuesday night. Bry would have to close a sizable gap to overtake Gloria, but she did make a comeback in the primary race when, after days of vote-counting, she overtook Republican Councilman Scott Sherman to win a spot in the runoff.

A Democratic Board of Supervisors

Terra Lawson-Remer, a candidate for San Diego County Supervisor District 3, speaks at a San Diego Labor Council rally. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Early Wednesday morning, Terra Lawson-Remer had a commanding lead over incumbent Supervisor Kristin Gaspar. If that holds, Democrats will take a 3-2 majority on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors for the first time.

With a victory, Lawson-Remer would join current Supervisor Nathan Fletcher and whichever Democrat pulls through in the South Bay. At last count, college trustee Nora Vargas had a 9-point lead over state Sen. Ben Hueso.

In recent months, the Democrats have laid out a vision for the region that is considerably more liberal and that involved considerably more spending. More importantly, they’ve talked about a major cultural shift.

But making that change, Jesse Marx and Maya Srikrishnan write, is much easier said than done. Some advocates are managing their expectations, especially on criminal justice reform, because the sheriff remains an elected position.

There will be pressure to move quickly on a more progressive agenda, but moving any new dollars outside the traditional budget process — in June — will require the support of at least one Republican. And the Democrats may also encounter resistance from within the county government, which for decades has reflected the more conservative board.

Fletcher, for one, said he welcomes the upcoming debates with his peers and was confident the county’s managers would abide by the new direction and new tone of the board.

Now’s a good time to revisit a pair of pieces Marx wrote earlier this year about what exactly Democrats are proposing to do with their newfound power and what a Democrat-majority board would mean for regional transportation policy

Jacobs Will Replace Davis in Congress

Sara Jacobs pulled off a decisive victory over Georgette Gómez in the 53rd Congressional District, the seat Susan Davis is retiring from. As of early Wednesday, Jacobs was up 59 percent to 41 percent. Gómez conceded the race.

“I have called Sara Jacobs to congratulate her and I stand ready to work with her to advance just policies that will benefit working families and ensure that our recovery from this pandemic leaves no one behind,” Gómez wrote, in a press release.

A roller coaster: Gómez was elected to City Council four years ago in a race where she was the underdog. But within months she had climbed to City Council president and she maneuvered into the role of chairperson of the Metropolitan Transit System. She was on top of city politics. When the congressional seat opened up, though, she decided to go for it and now she’ll be out of elected office in just over a month.

These Races Are Close

CA-50

The race to replace disgraced Rep. Duncan Hunter in the 50th Congressional District was one of the night’s biggest nail-biters. Republican Darrell Issa led Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar by about 3 percentage points early Wednesday. The district includes portions of both San Diego and Riverside counties so check the Secretary of State’s site to follow this one. 

County Board of Supervisors, District 2

We know that the successor to outgoing Supervisor Dianne Jacob will be a Republican man. But which one it will be isn’t totally clear: Poway Mayor Steve Vaus was leading former state Sen. Joel Anderson by about 1 percentage point early Wednesday.

Prop. 15

The statewide ballot measure to change how property taxes are assessed for large businesses tied some local Democrats up in knots. The measure was losing by a slim margin early Wednesday morning.

Blue Wave Crashes on City Council

Raul Campillo, a candidate for San Diego City Council District 7, speaks at a San Diego Labor Council rally. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Councilman Chris Cate once had three other Republicans with him on the San Diego City Council. Then he had two. Then one of them left the Republican Party, so he was left with one.

Now, he may be alone. Three of the five City Council races decided in this election had only Democrats running. The two others had competitive, well-funded Republican candidates.

They appear to have lost, though the counting is not over.

District 1: Joe LaCava had a major advantage over Will Moore Tuesday night with 62 percent of the vote.

District 3: Stephen Whitburn, who ran for City Council and lost in 2008 to (maybe-now-mayor) Todd Gloria, won big over Toni Duran. He had 63 percent of the vote early Wednesday.

District 5: This was the Republicans’ best shot in the most conservative district in the county. But Democrat Marni Von Wilpert had a 55 percent to 45 percent lead over Republican Joe Leventhal early Wednesday. It’s probably premature to call it but it was a significant lead.

District 7: After two terms of Republican representation by Councilman Scott Sherman, the district will likely flip to Democrat Raul Campillo, who had 57 percent of the vote early Wednesday compared to 43 percent held by Republican Noli Zosa.

District 9: Sean Elo secured the seat. His rival, Kelvin Barrios had suspended his campaign but he was still on the ballot.

Marni von Wilpert, a candidate for San Diego City Council District 5, speaks at a San Diego Labor Council rally. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Mara Elliott Will Still Be City Attorney

She won decisively over attorney Cory Briggs. She was at 68 percent to his 32 percent early Wednesday.

A Measured Review

Voters in the city of San Diego appeared to like the ballot measures they encountered. But one of them needed them to really like it. Here’s a review:

Measure A: A solid majority of voters supported a special property tax to fund affordable housing construction. But it didn’t need just a solid majority. It needed two-thirds of voters, and it appears to be well short of that. Early Wednesday, it was at 57 percent. 

Measure B: The next mayor will have a big job ahead of him or her. They’ll have to implement a new Commission on Police Practices that will have new powers to subpoena officers and documents and hire its own lawyer. Voters overwhelmingly supported the measure. 

Measure C: Many San Diego voters struggled with deciding on three different school board races within San Diego Unified School District. In the future, they’ll only have to vote on the school board member in their surrounding neighborhoods. The reform to have candidates remain in their subdistricts for runoff elections has passed easily as well. 

Measure D: Four San Diego Unified School Board members called for the fifth, Kevin Beiser, to step down. But he refused and a recall effort was too difficult. Measure D gives them a new option: They can put their colleague on the ballot again to ask voters to remove him. Almost 87 percent of city voters supported this change.  

Measure E: It may be a bit early to call this one but more than 57 percent of voters as of early Wednesday supported giving landowners and builders in the Midway/Sports Arena area of San Diego an exemption to the coastal height limit. For more than 40 years, people have not been allowed to build higher than 30 feet west of I-5 within the city of San Diego. SeaWorld got an exception from voters in 1998 to build roller coasters. And now the Midway neighborhood, with a new community zoning plan as well, is set for a massive overhaul, if the results hold. 

What the Voters Told Us

Every year our Voices of the Voters posts produce some very memorable moments, and already this dispatch from La Jolla has joined the Hall of Fame. It has it all: A guy in a Berkshire Hathaway T-shirt lamenting, “We don’t need more rich people in power.” Multiple voters who said they hated President Donald Trump … but voted for him anyway. And a couple who said they supported Measure E, the effort to lift the height limit in the Midway District, but promised “we will shed blood” if any similar efforts were made in their neighborhood.

Elsewhere around the county, voters in the South Bay are electing a new county supervisor for the first time in decades, but that race took a backseat to the presidential contest and several of the statewide ballot measures.

It felt very fitting that the Convention Center-turned-homeless-shelter was also a polling place. Voters there and elsewhere in the Mid-City area expressed deep concerns about housing, homelessness and development.

And in Oceanside, where a whopping 12 people are running for mayor, voters unsurprisingly had a hard time keeping all the candidates straight.

A Snafu

At around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, well before polls were closed, some of the political professionals most eager to see results … saw them. Somehow the registrar of voters allowed a feed of results of ballots already calculated to go live on the internet. It was only up for a few minutes but the internet has a way of spreading things quickly. 

Registrar Michael Vu quickly appeared before cameras with a statement saying it was the result of human error. He promised he would look into it before saying he had to get back to oversee the ongoing count. 

How much is left: Unlike years past, Vu’s team did not post how many ballots were still left to count. But if his estimate earlier that 80 percent or more of registered voters in the county turned out, then there remains at least 300,000 votes left to count across the county, with a sizable number of them in the city of San Diego. 

You can see all the numbers here.

The Morning Report was written by Scott Lewis, Sara Libby and Jesse Marx.

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