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Like others before him, the next District 3 city councilman will be gay and possess strong progressive bona fides.
Chris Ward, now chief of staff to state Sen. Marty Block, appeared poised for victory Tuesday night from the moment initial results rolled out.
“We have a great term ahead of us and I am so thankful and honored by the voters of the 3rd Council District,” Ward said just after 10 p.m. Tuesday amid cheers and sign-waving at the County Democratic Party’s celebration at a hotel in the Gaslamp District.
With 30.9 percent of the vote counted early Wednesday morning, the Registrar of Voters reported Ward had a more than a 5,200 -vote lead over fellow Democrat Anthony Bernal, who shared virtually all the same positions as Ward but who found more success and donors among the center-right establishment – a fact that angered progressives in the district.
Here’s a look at the three reasons Ward had a decisive victory on Tuesday.
Ward pulled in a slew of left-leaning endorsements early on, essentially flooding the zone. He nabbed support from key groups including the San Diego County Democratic Party, the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council and former District 3 representatives Toni Atkins and Christine Kehoe, who went onto serve as state lawmakers.
That left Bernal to look beyond the traditional progressive standbys for support.
Bernal, who works for current District 3 Councilman Todd Gloria, ended up with endorsements from business groups and Republicans including Mayor Kevin Faulconer.
Then there were the donations from Republicans, which Democrats highlighted – a lot.
Those supporters said they backed Bernal simply because he had a proven track record with them.
Voters may not have been so convinced.
Hotel magnate and former Union-Tribune owner Doug Manchester is seen as a boogeyman to many San Diego Dems.
Manchester is a proud supporter of divisive presidential candidate Donald Trump, and helped bankroll the campaign to ban gay marriage in California in 2008.
So when word got out that Manchester and his wife had donated a combined maximum contribution of $1,100 to Bernal, it didn’t go over well.
Here’s a sample response from Will Rodriguez-Kennedy, president of San Diego Democrats for Equality, which endorsed Ward: “This is the district of Christine Kehoe, and Toni Atkins, and Todd Gloria, and now (Bernal) is taking money from someone who did everything he could to make sure those people could not marry someone they love. To take that money is a betrayal to the district and the people he’s seeking to represent.”
Bernal’s campaign defended the donation, saying it was more about the fact that Bernal’s work for Gloria involved downtown business issues that matter to Manchester.
Bernal disagrees with Manchester’s position on gay marriage, his team emphasized.
But the damage was done. District 3 is home to a large LGBT community and that donation got lots of play in multiple venues.
Bernal could’ve avoided some headaches if he’d simply rejected the Manchester donation. Certainly, $1,100 didn’t seem worth the grief it caused.
That wasn’t Bernal’s only misstep.
He took hits for reporting some lesser-known local leaders had endorsed him when they said they didn’t.
He also seemed to change positions once political realities set in rather than assess those realities upfront.
For instance, Bernal initially was supportive of the mayoral task force’s financing plan for a new, multi-purpose Chargers stadium. After knocking on more than 20,000 doors, Bernal decided District 3 voters wouldn’t stomach any public financing for a stadium.
Ward, on the other hand, opposed taxpayer funding of a stadium from the start.
Then there was Bernal’s initial suggestion of a tax increase to support Balboa Park’s infrastructure needs, a measure that would require a politically challenging two-thirds vote.
Ward said early on he wasn’t convinced such a measure could pass.
In later campaign appearances, Bernal broadened that pitch to include other parks, a measure that’d likely be more politically palatable citywide.