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Update Noveber 9, 2020:  Dustin Trotter has pulled ahead of Samm Hurst by a slim 14 vote margin, with more votes remaining to be tallied. See all current results at

Term limits win approval; Assemblyman Voepel is reelected

By Mike Allen

November 4, 2020 (Santee) -- With about 64 percent of the vote tallied as of early Nov. 4, Mayor John Minto was leading challenger Councilman Stephen Houlahan in the Santee mayoral race.

Minto, who was elected mayor in 2016, has 53 percent of the vote to Houlahan’s 47 percent. Minto was out campaigning late on Election Day, and said he felt confident about his prospects to retain the mayor’s job.

In District 4, Samm Hurst, a UCSD professor, held a 4 percentage lead over Dustin Trotter, a contractor. The vote separation as of the latest tally totaled only 246.

Houlahan and Hurst ran on a platform that included opposition to Fanita Ranch, the controversial housing project which Minto voted to approve just weeks before the election. The project has long divided the community in a battle that has spanned 20 years.

In District 3, incumbent Councilwoman Laura Koval, a manager at Santee Lakes, was unopposed and will take her first four-year term. She was elected in 2018 after former Councilman Brian Jones was elected to the California Senate, and beat two challengers in that race.

The biggest issue facing Santee, the Fanita Ranch residential project, had an impact on the race for Measure N, the initiative that calls for any project that doesn’t conform to the city’s General Plan to be put to a public vote.

The yes votes were in front, but only by 578 votes in the latest count. Initially, the yes side had about a 4 percent lead, but that shrank to about 2 percent in the latest count.

The No on N campaign flooded local voters’ mailboxes in recent weeks, saying the measure was the largest threat to Santee’s future, and said if passed, would deter any business expansion, and result in heavy losses in tax revenue. Fanita Ranch developer HomeFed Corp. contributed about $300,000 to the campaign.

Two other measures, Q and R, that would put term limits on elected officials were both passing handily by about a two-thirds majority. But Measure R was getting the biggest number of votes by a 67 to 33 percent margin as of the latest tally. If it is adopted, officials could serve three terms on the council, and two terms as mayor.

In the 71st Assembly District, incumbent Randy Voepel, the former longtime mayor of Santee, was easily cruising to his third term, with a 58 to 42 percent margin over Democratic challenger Liz Lavertu, a Spring Valley resident.





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