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Who's The Establishment Candidate In San Diego Council District 9?

This map shows the location of the San Diego City Council's District 9. It includes Southcrest, Mountain View, Mount Hope, City Heights, El Cerrito, Talmadge, Kensington, College View Estates, Alvarado Estates, Rolando and the College Area.
Susana Tsutsumi
This map shows the location of the San Diego City Council's District 9. It includes Southcrest, Mountain View, Mount Hope, City Heights, El Cerrito, Talmadge, Kensington, College View Estates, Alvarado Estates, Rolando and the College Area.
Who’s The Establishment Candidate In San Diego Council District 9?
Who’s The Establishment Candidate In San Diego Council District 9?
The neighborhoods that make up San Diego's City Council District 9 have stark differences, but the four Democrats running in June to represent the area aren't as distinctive.
Who’s The Establishment Candidate In San Diego Council District 9?
Who's The Establishment Candidate In San Diego Council District 9? GUEST: Megan Burks, reporter, KPBS

We continue our focus on the San Diego city Council races in the June primary with a look at District 9 the . The neighbor hoods have stark differences. Low income residents and city Heights and Southcrest share the city Council member with upper-middle-class residents in Kensington and the college area. Therefore Democrats running in June 7. I asked Ricardo Florez to take spark he chose Park delete part dashing Park de la Cruz. Is a proud moment to be able to say that you're going to put your infrastructure in their community. Florez helped to make the skate park a reality. Emeralds retiring. Florez previously worked for us congressman Susan Davis. His opponents used his resume to call him the Establishment Candidate candidate. Out the best. The labor Council dinner with made. The Democratic Party even though I've been up member of the party for my entire life. They did not go with me. If you're talking about the men and women who work for the city I don't think their establishment. Florez has the backing of the city employees agency and the firefighters Association. The big ticket went to Sarah Sias. Florez says it's his track record that will win him the seat and help them accomplish bigger things in the office. Passing a property tax. It for me it's about showing results in the community for us. If we can build your parks and a sure you're safe dig. I don't think people have felt that way. We can build parks but if you have 2 to 3 job Surrey Gardens to enjoy this parks. Tran 15 is in the heart of San Diego's antiestablishment tax This is the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council labor building. So much organ's eyes had bash somewhat organizing has had -- local the Opel -- immigrant cabdrivers. Florez helped his boss Emerald translate into policy. In courting the need for development to fix the districts housing problems. Sigh is also sees the solution for a wider lens spirits Things are connected. If people start making 15 If people start making $15 an hour they are going to be able to buy more. It will boost our local economy. Our sales tax revenue will be up that is one of the ways we pay for these things. Sias supports a higher minimum wage and rent control. Though it didn't make it into her platform statement, candidate Georgette Gomez also sees rent control as he potential solution. For me all the tools that are available should be looked at. We need to look beyond which we are currently using. We start initial. That includes land banking. Amassing parcels of land surveyor shovel ready for developers to build affordable homes. Don't Gomez sessions worked for developers. A nonprofit helped residents to shape in. Gomez says she wants to do the same for District 9. She is standing in front of the many vacant lots in District 9 that is right for development. People are tired of seeing just liquor stores coming in here. Or smoke shops. There was a something different. Thomas also was to see city leadership priorities. The continue to be responsive to the steady measure. They continue to be responsive to things that are not listing people's quality of life. My entire life is about that. It is trying to shift the focus to these communities. Family law attorney says that sets her apart from the establishment. That line the candidates have been drawn between the establishment and antiestablishment, is easy shorthand and debates but when District 9 voters head to the ballot but, their decision is this. The candidate who can get results within a system that has a serve them or a candidate who wants to change that system altogether. Joining me with more better district port is Megan Burke spirits All the district 9 candidates that you spoke with our Democrats. Why didn't the Democratic Party endorsed anyone in this race question mark To get an endorsement you need 60% of the club's boats and none of the candidates reach that threshold. Not be endorsed is not necessarily a bad thing. All of the candidates have been rated acceptable for a Democrat to vote for. Basically if you are using the Democratic voters guide. You have over your time here spent a lot of time reporting about the neighborhoods in district 9 which is now represented by Marti Emerald. What do people think about the way she has represented the district? You can gain some insight into that by rate looking into Ricardo Florez's website. In it there are pictures of him with residents who have been really visible in city Heights. Linda Pennington who is a resident spent a lot of time working to clean up canyons. Maria Cortez has been spent a lot of time improving transit and trying to fight for the bus line center line that was promised to these neighborhood with the 15 was built. I think that Marti Emerald was able to move the needle on some of those issues and start to make good on promises that had been made to this community. So I think that longtime residents are responding to that and therefore will also respond to Ricardo Florez. I've been talking to other people in the district to are not involved. 18-year-old Mohamed Osman. I estimate he like Marti Emerald and his first blush was no. I think she could've done better but I did explain to him how she approached police racial profiling. How she tried to deal with concerns in the community about that and he said I guess I would've done it too. But there is still among a lot of people this feeling that they want somebody who's more like them. We would not have to speak in a way because we know we come from low income. How it feels to be in a struggle for a while. And there he is saying that to have somebody who is more representative of his socioeconomic statics or his skin color. He would be able to get to work with them right away as opposed to having meetings to talk about how is where is coming from. Were you able to determine any real policy difference between these candidates in District 9 question mark The biggest that I could discern was Sarah Saez is bigger better support for rent control. Georgette Gomez is also a if you start to ask her about how are going to fix the affordable housing, she comes from a place of let's try all the tools and tool bags. She also supports it. And then Sarah Saez in her platform on a website says that she was support extending local city votes to individuals who may be don't have legal status in the United States but can prove residency in these local districts. That is different. You made a very insightful observation, Megan, that these candidates fall into the categories or of working for change in the system or trying to change a system. Do you get any real idea of how the antiestablishment candidates would or could change that system? I think right off the bat all of them would say we have to shift priorities completely. No more spending on environmental up these for stadiums. No more of that. Let's focus on spending and neighborhoods. Which I think a lot of candidates have said before. They are saying they are going to get in there and stared stick to the word. Interesting though is that Ricardo Florez, the so-called Establishment Candidate is also against public funding for the Chargers Stadium. He was to shift priorities. If you dig a little deeper, Sias once clean elections. She wants to try to push San Diego toward a place where candidates who do not accept private donations for campaigns would get a federal grant. That might change the system a little bit. Then Georgette Gomez, I know she has done a lot of work in bringing participatory budgeting into the city. That was kind of a novel thing in the past two years where community members got to really be involved and set priorities for the budget process during the budget season. Which was new. I think maybe she could push other initiatives like that. Once again, our primary is June 7. I've been speaking with Megan Burks. Thank you so much. Thank you.

The neighborhoods that make up San Diego's City Council District 9 have stark differences. Low-income residents in City Heights and Southcrest share their council member with upper-middle class residents in Kensington and the College Area.

The four Democrats running in the June 7 election to represent those communities aren't as distinctive, yet they're working hard to set themselves apart from one another — and the establishment.

It's unlikely any of the four will win the election outright in June by getting more than 50 percent of the vote, so the top two vote-getters will go on to the November general election.

City Council races are nonpartisan, and no Republicans are running to replace the incumbent, Democratic Councilwoman Marti Emerald, who is retiring at the end of her term.

Asked to pick a meaningful spot to meet to discuss his platform, Ricardo Flores chose Park de la Cruz in City Heights. A grassy stretch there will soon become a concrete skate park.

"It's a proud moment to be able to say that you're going to put a piece of infrastructure in their community," Flores said.

Flores helped to make the skate park a reality for neighborhood youth while working as Emerald’s chief of staff.

Before he joined Emerald's staff, he worked for Congresswoman Susan Davis, D-San Diego.

Ricardo Flores is a candidate for San Diego City Council District 9.
Courtesy Photo
Ricardo Flores is a candidate for San Diego City Council District 9.

Ricardo Flores

Age: 39

Family: Wife Deanneka

Hometown: Lived briefly in City Heights as a child before moving with his family to Jamul; moved to Kensington last year

Education: Bachelor's degree in film and television from UCLA

Career: Chief of staff for District 9 Councilwoman Marti Emerald; senior aide to Congresswoman Susan Davis, D-San Diego

Other Interests: Renting movies from Ken Video, reading

Flores' opponents have used his résumé to call him the establishment candidate. With few ideological differences, the Democrats vying for Emerald's seat have had to look for other ways to distinguish themselves.

"I'll say this: The labor council didn't go with me. That's the political establishment. The Democratic Party, even though I've been a member of the Democratic Party my whole life, they didn't go with me," Flores said. "If they're talking about the men and women who work at the city, I don't think they’re establishment. I think they're workers."

The San Diego County Democratic Party chose to not endorse any of the District 9 candidates. Flores has the backing of the city employees union and police and firefighter associations, in addition to his former bosses and several of their colleagues.

The big-ticket labor endorsement from the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council went to candidate Sarah Saez.

Flores said it's his track record that will win him the seat. And he said the years he's spent finding money for streetlights and parks in the district are part of a bigger plan.

"We've prioritized what their interests are because, ultimately, this is about building trust with them so that we can do bigger things in the future," Flores said.

RELATED: San Diego Neighborhoods Close In Distance, Miles Apart In Voter Turnout

Amenities like the skate park? He said those are carrots. A modest property tax increase and denser development are the sticks he believes are necessary to pay for infrastructure such as fire stations and to drive down housing costs.

Sarah Saez is a candidate for San Diego City Council District 9.
Courtesy Photo
Sarah Saez is a candidate for San Diego City Council District 9.

Sarah Saez

Age: 35

Family: Partner Oliver James

Hometown: Grew up in Boston, lived briefly in the Dominican Republic with her grandmother before moving to Florida for school, moved to City Heights four years ago

Education: Master's degree in nonprofit leadership and management from University of San Diego; bachelor's degree in critical criminology from Barry University in Florida

Career: Policy and program director for United Taxi Workers of San Diego; lead organizer for the Employee Right Center

Other Interests: Reading about criminal justice reform

"It's about showing results in the community first," Flores said. "If we can build your parks, if we can ensure you're safe in your neighborhoods, if we can ensure that your roads are accounted for in terms of the growth that we're projecting, I think that's the most important piece. I don't think people have felt that way."

For Saez, focusing on amenities is missing the point.

"We can build parks, but if you have two to three jobs, if you're working all day and you can't even help your kids with homework, how are you supposed to enjoy those parks?" she said.

Saez's campaign office is in the old labor council building in City Heights — to Saez, the heart of San Diego's anti-establishment.

"Labor is not a monolith," she said. "It's working people. It's anti-status quo."

Down the hall from her office is United Taxi Workers of San Diego. Saez led the campaign to open the local taxi market and pave economic inroads for immigrant cabdrivers. Flores helped his boss, Emerald, translate the cause into policy.

Saez and Flores agree on other things, too, including the need for denser development to fix the district's housing problems. But Saez also sees the solution through a wider lens.

"Things are connected," she said. "If people start making $15 an hour, people can raise themselves out of poverty. They're going to be able to buy more. It's going to boost our local economy. Our sales tax revenue is going to be going up. Sales tax revenue is one of the ways that we pay for these things."

Saez, who said members of United Taxi Workers asked her to run, isn't shy about her support for controversial policies, including raising the minimum wage and passing rent control.

"The platform didn't come from me," she said. "I've been a community organizer for a decade and these are things I'm hearing from people."

Georgette Gomez is a candidate for San Diego City Council District 9.
Courtesy Photo
Georgette Gomez is a candidate for San Diego City Council District 9.

Georgette Gomez

Age: 40

Family: Partner Xochitl

Hometown: Grew up in Barrio Logan, moved to Azalea Park about nine years ago

Education: Bachelor's degree in environmental and natural resource geography from San Diego State University

Career: Associate director of the Environmental Health Coalition; domestic violence counselor at the Center for Community Solutions

Other Interests: Hiking

Though it didn't make it into her platform statement, candidate Georgette Gomez also sees rent control as a potential solution to the city's housing affordability crisis.

"For me, all the tools that are available should be looked at for San Diego," Gomez said. "And we need to look beyond what we are currently using because we still have an issue."

That includes land banking — identifying and amassing parcels of land so they're shovel-ready for developers willing to build affordable homes. Saez also includes land banking in her platform.

Gomez said she's worked with developers as associate director of the Environmental Health Coalition, a nonprofit that advocates for communities adversely affected by vehicle and industrial pollution. The nonprofit helped residents shape the Mercado mixed-use development in Barrio Logan.

Another solution for Gomez is shifting priorities at City Hall. She points to the City Council's approval of a $2.1 million environmental review for the mayor's Mission Valley stadium proposal to the NFL.

"They continue to be responsive to the things that aren't lifting people's quality of life," Gomez said. "My entire life is about that, about trying to shift the focus to these communities."

Gomez has also served on the redevelopment and planning committees in District 9. She said serving on the City Council is the next step in making sure residents have a seat at the table.

"Our district is going to get improved. The question is: Who are these improvements going to be for?" Gomez said. "I want to make sure, and I want to dedicate my all to ensuring, that those improvements are for the residents of this community."

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Family law attorney Araceli Martinez also is seeking the seat. She's lived in the district for 18 years.

Araceli Martinez is a candidate for San Diego City Council District 9.
Courtesy Photo
Araceli Martinez is a candidate for San Diego City Council District 9.

Araceli Martinez

Age: 36

Family: Daughters Dorian, 17, and Adrienne, 4

Hometown: Grew up in Calexico, moved to District 9 18 years ago for school, currently lives in Kensington

Education: Law degree from California Western School of Law; bachelor's degree in political science and psychology from San Diego State University

Career: Self-employed as a family law and education rights attorney; instructional assistant at SDSU

Other Interests: Hiking with her daughters, running, surfing, yoga

"As an attorney I have to make sure I'm out there, I'm negotiating with people and trying to get the best possible results for the people I represent. So that would translate directly into representing the people of San Diego and the people of District 9," Martinez said.

She said her experience lobbying in Sacramento on behalf of consumers and the Autism Society San Diego —her 17-year-old daughter has autism — will help her advocate for more state and federal funds to bring housing and transit projects to the district. She said her experience helping other parents navigate San Diego Unified School District's special education program also qualifies her to advocate for young families.

"I represent children, I represent families, and that's the vision that I am bringing here," Martinez said. "We want to make sure that our kids have clean, safe parks to play in. We want to make sure that our canyons are clean so if families want to go explore those areas they can go do that. We want to make sure there's enough police officers that have good relations with the community so people can feel safe in their community and feel connected."

Martinez lacks high-profile endorsements and donations — something she said sets her apart from the so-called establishment.

That line the candidates have been drawing — between the establishment and anti-establishment — is easy shorthand in debates. But when District 9 voters head to the ballot box, their decision is this: the candidate who can get results within a system that hasn’t always served them, or a candidate who wants to change that system.