Update November 8, 2012, 5 p.m.: McClellan's lead has grown to over 600 votes, making it appear likely that he has secured reelection.
November 8, 2012 (El Cajon) – Councilmen Tony Ambrose and Bill Wells appear to have won reelection to the El Cajon City Council, while Councilman Bob McClellan retains a slim 114-vote lead over challenger Ben Kalasho. The Registrar of Voters still has 475,000 absentee and provisional ballots left countywide to count. Asked how many are in El Cajon, the Registrar’s office declined to provide that information but said updates will be posted daily at http://www.sdcounty.ca.gov/voters/results/election.xml. The election must be certified by December 4, meaning close races could take weeks before a final outcome will be know.
Ambrose, who was appointed to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Jillian Hanson-Cox, is currently leading with 18.25% and a total of 7565 votes. Wells is in second place with a solid 16.26 of the vote and 6,740 votes.
Vying for the third seat are long-time incumbent McClelland with 14.95% and 6197 votes, trailed closely by Ben Kalasho, who has backing from many in El Cajon’s large Chaldean community as well as the Democratic Party. Kalasho currently has 13.95% and 5783 votes.
Other candidates are Lily Schorm with 10.95% and 4500 votes, Kathy Spacone with 10.34% and 4287 votes, Christopher Shamoon with 8.23% and 4287 votes, and Duane Swainston with 7.17% and 2972.
Issues in the campaign have ranged from taxes and redevelopment to the future of the East County Performance Arts Center. Two Chaldeans in the race, Kalasho and Shamoon, have sought to bring diversity to the Council. Spacone had Tea Party backing, while Schworm sought to legalize chicken ownership in the city.
Ambrose, who served for many years on the city’s planning commission, aims to attract new businesses to El Cajon, add flexibility to change the mix of businesses downtown, and help existing businesses thrive.
Wells has told ECM that he wants to rebrand El Cajon by utilizing the “Valley of Opportunity” slogan coined by the centennial committee to boost the city’s image. He also aspires to improve the economy and find creative ways to increase revenues without raising taxes, such as his recent initiative to forge a partnership with car dealers to attract more vehicle buyers to El Cajon.
Reducing pension liabilities and increasing condo conversions to change the city’s housing mix are priorities for McClellan, a former car dealership owner. Kalasho, a business owner, aims to make El Cajon more business-friendly while also providing a voice for the many immigrants and minorities in the community.
Collectively, the three incumbents have garnered just shy of a majority (49.46%) thus far-not a strong mandate but likely enough for the three fiscal conservatives to retain power in an election that elsewhere saw many upsets this election cycle in San Diego County and the nation.