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‘We Need Some People Who See the Other Side’: Voices of the Voters in City Heights and Southeastern San Diego

Voters in City Heights and southeastern San Diego said their community is under-served and over-policed, and they voted for candidates who could better address their concerns.

Veronica Dominguez, who voted in City Heights, said the race for county supervisor was especially important to her. / Photo by Maya Srikrishnan

For voters in City Heights and southeastern San Diego, this primary election is a chance to elevate their voices.

With a governor’s race, a county supervisor seat, a City Council seat, a district attorney race and a sheriff’s election, voters who see themselves as long underserved said they see opportunities in this election to make choices that better represent them.

For Juan Manuel Chagollan, a City Heights resident, that meant voting for all the Latinos on the ballot, including Antonio Villaraigosa for governor and Lori Saldaña for county supervisor.

“I always vote for the Latinos, so that we have more voice,” Chagollan said in Spanish.

Marie and Rene Falcon also said they wanted more Latinos, more women and fewer prosecutors on the ballot to better represent them and their community.

Marie and Rene Falcon also said they wanted to help elect more Latinos, more women and fewer prosecutors. / Photo by Maya Srikrishnan

That’s why they voted for Geneviéve Jones-Wright for district attorney and against San Diego Superior Court Judge Gary Kreep.

“The judges and everyone, they’re all former prosecutors,” Rene Falcon said. “We need some people who see the other side, who have some empathy.”

For the races they were less familiar with, Marie Falcon said, they tried to vote for the Latinos and women to better represent them – they’re Latino.

But Marie Falcon especially likes John Chiang for governor, because of his fiscal prowess. She used to work as a nurse for the state, she said, and when they had financial issues, he managed to make cutbacks without laying off anyone through furlough days and other measures. She appreciated that.

The Falcons came with a group of voters who went to the City Heights Library a couple of blocks away; they’d been told incorrectly they could vote there. A homeless man on the steps pointed them in the direction of the proper polling place, the City Heights Recreation Center.

Another City Heights voter, Veronica Dominguez, said she didn’t want to share who she voted for, but her concerns were community-centric. She works with students and worries about the number of them who end up getting into trouble because of issues in school and in the neighborhood.

The race for county supervisor was particularly important to Dominguez.

“In this community, there’s a lot of need,” Dominguez said in Spanish. “And we don’t get much help, unlike other communities, like La Jolla.”

Rents are going up, there’s a lot of homelessness and the Hepatitis A outbreak impacted her community more than others in the county – and she wants the leaders elected to represent City Heights to stand up for its residents, she said.

In southeastern San Diego, voters said the races for City Council, district attorney and county supervisor were what brought them out.

Lisa Gillespie, who manages the Tubman-Chavez Recreation Center – one of the polling places in the neighborhood – said the district attorney’s race was really important to the community. Gillespie doesn’t live in the area, but said her work there has informed her voting decisions.

Lisa Gillespie, who manages the Tubman-Chavez Recreation Center, said the district attorney’s race was very important to the community. / Photo by Maya Srikrishnan

“We need to make sure the district attorney is someone who can be representative of this community,” Gillespie said, though she also declined to share who she voted for.

Lynn Sharp said he’s voting for Jones-Wright in that race.

“The woman running against Geneviéve, she said she’s been around for a while, but there’s been no change,” Sharp said. “We need somebody new.”

JoAnn Fields said races like the district attorney and sheriff are particularly important in her neighborhood, an over-policed community.

JoAnn Fields said the races for district attorney and sheriff are especially important to voters in southeastern San Diego. / Photo by Maya Srikrishnan

Fields said episodes like former District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis’ decision to charge 33 young men with serious crimes based on gang ties – some of which were tossed by a judge – were proof that the community needs a change.

“You don’t see that happening in every other part of the county,” she said.

Fields, who serves on school parent groups and the local Diamond Business Association, said that with the cluster of races crucial to the neighborhood and the shock of President Donald Trump being elected in 2016, she expects a higher turnout than normal for a non-presidential primary election.

“Your voice is your vote,” she said. “In this community, we often talk amongst each other until we’re blue in the face, but it hasn’t meant anything has gotten done.”

The races for county supervisor and City Council also hit home for this community, Fields said.

Fields pointed to a lot behind the Tubman-Chavez Recreation Center, where the county is proposing a live well center – a hub of social services. The first one was built in North County.

“No matter what side of the issue you’re on in that matter, having a voice in the county matters,” Field said.

She said she’ll be keeping an eye on the race for City Council, in which Council President Myrtle Cole is running for re-election.

“I think there’s going to be a surprise in the Council race,” she said. “It might not be the landslide you’d expect for an incumbent.”

Eric Wiggin, another southeastern resident, said he voted for Monica Montgomery, a former Cole staffer who’s now challenging the councilwoman, for City Council.

“There’s just nothing being done,” Wiggin said. “Bigger things for the community haven’t gotten done.

Wiggin also voted for Omar Passons for county supervisor, Chiang for governor, Jones-Wright for DA and Dave Myers for sheriff.

“I just want to get more progressive people in,” he said.

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