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By Miriam Raftery

August 2, 2016 (San Diego’s East County) – The deadline to file as a candidate to run for local offices is August 11. But so far, many East County races have no candidates declared or qualified for the ballot, according to the Registrar of Voters candidate list for the November election.  Most community planning groups have nobody running.  The same is true in some school, water and fire districts. Races with no candidates will be filled by appointment. In other districts, people are running unopposed—even incumbents on some of the most controversy-riddled boards.

No candidates are listed yet for the city councils in El Cajon, La Mesa, Lemon Grove or Santee, nor for the mayoral seats open in Lemon Grove and Santee, nor the La Mesa City Clerk or Treasurer seats.  Candidates have been actively campaigning in some of those races and some will likely file before deadline, but it’s also common for candidates to drop out before qualifying for the ballot.

In the Grossmont Union High School District, incumbent Jim Stieringer is thus far running unopposed in district two (La Mesa/Mt. Helix/Rancho San Diego); in district one (Lemon Grove/Spring Valley) which is an open seat, only one candidate has filed: Pastor Steve Babbitt from Spring Valley Community Church.

In the Helix Water District, where residents have sharply criticized the board majority for recent rate hikes, there are no competitive races yet. Incumbent John Linden is running unopposed so far in district 1.  In district 3, Mark Gracyk has pulled papers, but not yet qualified for the ballot.  That’s also the case with incumbent Joel Scalzitti in district 5.

By contrast, four candidates have pulled papers to run for the Grossmont Healthcare District: incumbents Bob Ayres and Michael Emerson, Rick Augustine, and former GUHSD board member Priscilla Schreiber. But only two, Ayres and Augustine, have qualified for the ballot so far.  Former La Mesa Mayor Art Madrid has said he planned to run, but has thus far not taken out candidacy papers.

More East County races:


Alpine Union School District has just one candidate running, Joseph Perricone, who has not yet qualified for the ballot.

Borrego Springs Unified School District has a competitive race, with Steve Riehle running against Valeen Szabo, both qualified for the ballot. 

Cajon Valley Union School District has three candidates declared, but none have yet qualified. They are Karen Clark-Mejia, James P. Miller Jr., and Stephen Nissou.

Dehesa School District has only one candidate running, Mark Zacovic, retired president of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District. He has not yet qualified for the ballot. 

Jamul-Dulzura Union School District has no candidates running.

Julian Union School District has two candidates declared, Mark Romero and Mildred Eileen Tellam, though only Tellam has qualified so far.

Julian Union High has no candidates declared.

La Mesa-Spring Valley School District has two candidates, James Long and incumbent Emma Turner, running but neither have yet qualified.

Lakeside Union School District has three candidates running.  Incumbent Twila Godley has qualified, so far Keith Hildreth and Brian Stearns have not.

Lemon Grove School District has no candidates yet.

Mountain Empire Unified School District has nobody running yet in area 6, just one candidate, Jeffrey Morrison, in area 2, and one candidate, Chris Anderson, in area 7.

Ramona Unified School District has two candidates declared, DrumDaryn and John Rajcic, though only Rajcic has qualified for the ballot to date.

Santee School District has incumbents Dianne El Hajj running for seat 2 and Elana Levens Craig running for seat 4, though only El Hajj has qualified to date.

Warner Unified School District has no candidates running as yet.

Vallecitos School District has two candidates, Paul Thomas Georgantas and appointed incumbent Rae Lynn Heilbronn, both qualified for the ballot.

Fire Districts

Alpine Fire Protection District has one candidate qualified for the ballot, Steve Taylor.

Borrego Springs has once candidate running but not yet qualified: Bradley Tidwell.

Julian-Cuyamaca Fire District has one candidate running but not yet qualified for the ballot, appointed incumbent Kirsten Starlin.

Lakeside Fire Protection District does not yet have anyone running.

San Miguel Consolidated Fire District, where controversies include a recent vote to return to stand-alone district status and end a contract with Cal Fire, the only candidate to pull papers is retired Fire Chief Kim Raddatz, who has not yet qualified for the ballot.

Pine Valley Fire Protection District has no candidate yet declared.

Community Planning Districts

Most of these have no candidates yet, yet these boards make important decisions on land use issues.

Thus far, there are no candidates running for the community planning groups in Campo/Lake Morena, Crest, Dehesa, Granite Hills, Harbison Canyon, Jacumba, Julian, Pine Valley/Guatay, Mt. Laguna, Pine Valley, Potrero, or Spring Valley.

Alpine Community Planning has one candidate, incumbent Leslie Perricone, running but not yet qualified for the ballot.

Descanso’s planning group has three candidates, all qualified for the ballot: appointed incumbents Terry Gibson and David Mellner, as well as Kerry Forrest.

Jamul/Dulzura has two candidates, appointed incumbent Richard Marzec and incumbent Joe Stuyvesant.  Stuyvesant has qualified; thus far, Marzec has not.

Julian’s planning group has two candidates qualified, incumbent Ray Redding and appointed incumbent Betty Birdsell.

Lakeside’s community planning group has one candidate, incumbent Karen Ensall.

Ramona Fire Protection District has incumbent Jim Cooper running against Robin Joy Maxson; so far Maxson has qualified for the ballot but Cooper has not.

Water Districts

Borrego Water District has incumbent Raymond Delahay qualified and thus far running unopposed.

Cuyamaca Water District hasGeorgeMerz, incumbent, qualified and running unopposed.

Descanso Community Water District has no candidates yet.

Lakeside Water District has incumbent Eileen Neumeister running but not yet qualified in division 1, nobody running yet in division 4 and Steven Johnson running in division 5.

Padre Dam Municipal Water District has no candidate yet in division 2 and incumbent Augie Caires running unopposed in division 4. 

Ramona Muni Water has no candidate yet for division 1.  Two candidates are running in division 3, Retired Chief Thomas Ace and Jim Piva. Piva has qualified, Ace hasn’t yet.  In division 5, Doug Kafka has pulled papers but has not yet qualified for the ballot.

Vallecitos Water District has one candidate running in each district:  Kelly Crew in division 1, board president Mike Sannella in division 4 (qualified for ballot), and Hal Martin in division 5.

Wynola Water District has no candidates running yet.

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County info not quite up-to-date for El Cajon City Council

Hi Miriam, as for my own candidacy for a seat on El Cajon's City Council, I filed the 501 - Candidate Intent statement in June, pulled nominating papers on 7/18/16, and received a letter from the registrar on 7/27/16 I had completed and submitted all required paperwork and have successfully qualified for the November ballot, the first to do so. I'm very excited to run for an open seat on El Cajon's council, and you can view more on my platform at

Great, Steve! Thanks for letting us know.

As of a couple of days ago,when we posted our story, lots of papers weren't shown. I'll check back Monday  or so and work to update on which races have candidate filings.