By Jonathan Goetz
Photo: Mara Elliott, City Attorney candidate
June 9,2016 (San Diego) --San Diego Mayor Kevin Falconer, a Republican, won re-election handily Tuesday with 58% of the vote, avoiding a run-off with independent Lori Saldana, a former Assembly member who received 22%, and Democrat Ed Harris with 19%.
Republican Council members Mark Kersey and Scott Sherman also secured their seats with over 50% of the vote, as did Senate Chief of Staff Chris Ward in the race to succeed fellow Democrat Todd Gloria in District 3.The San Diego City Council Seats that continue into a November run-off are Districts 1 and 9. San Diego may also break one more glass ceiling in November, if Mara Elliott is elected as the first woman City Attorney.
San Diego has a history of electing Republican mayors, despite its Democratic registration advantage. As of 15 days before the election, there were 276,146 registered Democratic voters versus 168,182 registered Republicans. However, with 185,050 decline to state voters, and the Republican Mayor’s more liberal views on environmental policy, he has a history of winning his elections outright in June elections prior to facing higher democratic turnout in November.
Council District 1 is being closely watched because it has the power to re-shape the power structure at City Hall. Democrats currently hold a 5-4 majority and District 1 is part of this majority, currently held by Democratic Council President Sherri Lightner. Democrats ran several candidates in order to prevent Republican Candidate Ray Ellis from winning outright in a low turn-out Primary. Democratic Candidate Barbara Bry finished much stronger in District 1 than anticipated, coming within 1 point of avoiding a run-off in November (with provisional ballots remaining to be counted). With Barbara Bry winning 49% of the vote in a Primary to Ellis’ 33% she is in formidable shape for November.
Only Democratic candidates ran in District 9, which holds a heavy Democratic registration advantage. Marti Emerald’s Chief of Staff Ricardo Flores received 36% and will face a run-off with Non-Profit Executive and Health Advocate Georgette Gomez who placed second with 30%. Labor Policy & Program Director Sarah Saez finished third with 22%, followed by Attorney Araceli Martinez who finished fourth with 11%. Flores was expected to finish first, given his strong fundraising advantage and connections within Councilmember Emerald’s office with a closely watched contest for second place between Georgette Gomez and Sarah Saez, which Gomez won by approximately a thousand votes.
The main surprise in San Diego was in the race for City Attorney. With four democrats running and one Republican, Republican Robert Hickey was assured a spot in the run-off, and secured it with 29.5%. Most pundits thought it was a race for number two between two well-financed and well-backed candidates, Rafael Castellanos and Attorney/Small Business Owner Gil Cabrera, who received 19% and 16.5% respectively. However, that honor went to Chief Deputy City Attorney Mara Elliott, the only woman on the ballot, who received 24% of votes cast in the race. She also may have benefited by being on the compare/contrast piece sent out by the Lincoln Club to San Diego voters. She was introduced at the Westin Hotel later that evening by San Diego County Democratic Chairwoman Francine Busby as “the next City Attorney, the first Democratic woman to be San Diego City Attorney.” Consumer attorney Bryan Pease finished last in that race, but first out of fourteen candidates in his race for Democratic Central Committee in the 78th Assembly District.