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By Miriam Raftery

Photo: El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells and La Mesa Mayor Mark Araposthis are winning their reelection bids

November 8, 2022 (San Diego’s East County) – Early results after polls closed tonight indicate incumbents heading for reelection in La Mesa, El Cajon and Lemon Grove.

The power of incumbency proved stronger than partisan politics. Though city races are nonpartisan, political parties endorsed candidates and expended resources walking precincts to campaign for their parties' choices. But incumbents in both parties hold solid leads, though Democrats appear likely to pick up a seat in both the La Mesa and Lemon Grove Council races, following the retirement of Republican incumbents.

El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells, a Republican, has a solid 71.25% of the votes tallied so far; his opponent, realtor Arnie Levine, a Democrat, has 28.75%. The Mayor ran on a track record of boosting revenues through bringing in new hotels and reopening the performing arts center, while Levine criticized Mayor Wells’ defiance of public health business shutdown mandates duringthe pandemic. El Cajon Councilman Gary Kendrick ran unopposed, drawing 100% of the votes.  But El Cajon’s Measure P which the Mayor supports, to increase the city sales tax to a penny per dollar, is losing 58% to 42%.

La Mesa Mayor Mark Arapostathis, a Democrat, also appears poised to win reelection with 55.08% of the vote. His opponent, former Councilmember Kristine Alessio, a Republican, has 44.92%. Some analysts had viewed Arapostathis as vulnerable due to the May 2020 riot that happened on his watch, when multiple buildings burned to the ground.  But his opponent also drew criticism for her support of vigilante groups in the wake of the riot. The two also differed on development issues, with Alessio calling for design guidelines and a moratorium on highrises in the downtown village.

In the La Mesa City Council race, there are two seats on the ballot. Laura Lothian is seeking reelection, while the second seat is open due to the retirement of Bill Baber. Lothian, a Republican, narrowly leads with 24.7% of the vote, followed by Patricia Dillard and Mejgan Afshan, both Democrats, with 24.43% and 21.53%  respectively.  Tony Orlando, a conservative Pastor, has 18.34%.  Kathleen Brand, who dropped out of the race, currently has 11% of the vote.

In Lemon Grove, Counclimember Jennifer Mendoza, a Democrat, appears poised to win reelection with 28.26% of the vote. A second seat on the Council is open due to the retirement of Jerry Jones.  Alysson Snow and Stephanie Klein, both Democrats, are currently at 26.06% and 16.37%, followed by Blanca Lopez Brown, a Lemon Grove School Board member and Republican, with 15.2% and activist Jessica Heredia at 14.11%.

Mendoza told ECM, "It’s looking good for Alysson and myself. We spent a lot of time actually talking to voters, phone calling and walking door to door. I think that’s what set us apart."

In Santee, incumbents Ronn Hall and Rob McNelis ran unopposed, so the City Council opted to appointed them and save on the cost of an election.

San Diego County has 1,925,738 registered voters, of whom 487,952 have cast ballots thus far; nearly all (468,632) were mail-in ballots tallied so far, along with 19,325 ballots cast at vote centers. Mail-in ballots postmarked by today will be counted as they arrive in the coming days. 



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