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Flores, Gomez Will Vie In November For City Council District 9 Seat

San Diego City Council District 9 candidates Georgette Gomez, Ricardo Flores, Araceli Martinez and Sarah Saez are pictured in this undated photo.
KPBS Staff
San Diego City Council District 9 candidates Georgette Gomez, Ricardo Flores, Araceli Martinez and Sarah Saez are pictured in this undated photo.
Flores, Gomez Will Vie In November For City Council District 9 Seat
Gomez Will Vie In November For City Council District 9 Seat GUESTS: Ricardo Flores, candidate district 9, San Diego City Council Georgette Gomez, candidate district 9, San Diego City Council

In San Diego the winning candidates for the San Diego district council 9 will face a runoff in November. Is represented by retiring city councilmember, Marty [ Indiscernible Last Name ]. This will be the first time this district will be represented by a Latino. Earlier today I spoke with one of the top vote getters, Florida's -- Florez. As emeralds Chief of Staff do you see maintaining her policies if elected. Yes, she has done a great job of listening to the community and doing what the community is interested in. We had a big victory with prop I which is something that came from our office. Absolutely, I see not only doing what is interesting to the community and advancing the community but also what's in the best interest of the citizens but most importantly for our working families. How do you see the race developing as we move forward to November? For instance, will you campaign for the County Democratic endorsement? Absolutely. I'm a lifelong Democrat. My father was a Democrat, my grandfather was a Democrat. I would be honored to have their endorsement. It is something that is important to me. In this race one the things we spoke about was I was the only lifelong Democrat that was actually running. I think absolutely I would like to have the support only because that is my belief system. How most you see yourself moving forward to November? I think were going to have to continue working hard, continue to make the case of the voters that it is important we look at the streets, sidewalks, the basic things and also making sure the voters understand very acutely that we are about the details in their government -- in their communities and not about the big picture things like a charter stadium or the citizens plant. Those things are a distraction. I think voters know that and I think we need to maintain that. That was Ricardo Florez who gained 36 percent of the vote in District 9 yesterday. I spoke with the person who will be his challenger in November Georgia Gomez. Out of this rather wide field of candidates, when you think you made the runoff? We started -- our campaign has always been one that has been very grounded in the community being that I have been a part of the district for over 15 years. I have been very involved in the community being a part of the planning groups of our neighborhoods. Also, when we still had redevelopment, I was a part of the committee. I have worked with many different groups within the district and I have a strong -- I have strong ties and people really encouraged me from the beginning to do this and people spoke very loudly yesterday that they want change. They want to see somebody that is from the community but also has understanding of policy and we saw that yesterday. Speaking specifically about district 9, there was a considerable amount of interest in the selection in District 9 -- election in District 9. Do you think that voter enthusiasm will continue until November? Most definitely. I think people came out yesterday and they came out because residents of the district -- I was walking the community and there was a strong sense of real change that only change -- positive change in the community, but actually change at the government level. They want to see somebody who is actually going to go beyond what is available for our community to bring resources, to lift up the quality of life. Georgia Gomez, thank you very much. Crawl, this election is seen as a chance for the new district 9 to assert itself on the city stage. How can they do that? The voter turnout in that district wasn't that high. You had something less than 30,000 votes cast. If you get a stronger turnout you get a good share of it, also as a new district this was Marti Emerald, Ricardo Florez with her former Chief of Staff, should he win or Georgia Gomez who was supported by Gloria, whoever win is that will set -- whoever wins that will set the tone.

UPDATE: 12:45 a.m. June 8, 2016

Four Democrats competed to replace San Diego Councilwoman Marti Emerald in District 9, which covers Kensington, Talmadge and City Heights, but it was Ricardo Flores and Georgette Gomez who captured the most votes.

Flores is as close to an incumbent as you can get in the race. He is Emerald's chief of staff, and he received 36 percent of the votes in Tuesday's election. He said earlier in the evening he didn't care who he faced in November.


"I just wanted to come out strong," said Flores. "And I just want to get as many votes as I can and I wanted to share my message, which is being from the community, the experience, and also making sure that voters know that I'm really interested in their neighborhoods."

He will face Gomez, who works for the nonprofit Environmental Health Coalition. She ran on spending more money on underserved neighborhoods.

UPDATE: 8:10 p.m. June 7, 2016

San Diego Councilwoman Marti Emerald's chief of staff has taken the lead in a four-way race to replace her. With 26 percent of the vote counted, Ricardo Flores had 41 percent of the votes. Georgette Gomez has 30 percent, Sarah Saez 20 percent and Araceli Martinez 10 percent.

All of the candidates are Democrats. The top two vote-getters will face off in the November election unless one of the candidates captures more than 50 percent of the vote on Tuesday. At this point, it doesn't appear that will happen.


Original post

With four Democrats competing to replace Councilwoman Marti Emerald as the District 9 representative, it's unlikely the race will end with Tuesday's election.

A candidate would need to get a majority of votes to avoid a November runoff. If that doesn't happen, the top two vote-getters will compete in the fall election.

But whatever the outcome Tuesday, the district will elect its first Latino to the City Council this year. All of the candidates are Latinos.

The district — which includes Kensington, Talmadge, the College Area, City Heights, Mount Hope, Mountain View and Southcrest — was redrawn in 2011 to better represent Latinos on the City Council. With a slight Latino majority, the district was expected to elect a Latino candidate.

Instead, in 2012, it elected Democrat Emerald, who is white and had previously represented the College Area on the council.

Emerald is retiring following a fight with breast cancer. She endorsed her chief of staff, Ricardo Flores, for the seat.

Georgette Gomez and Sarah Saez have their own high-profile endorsements. Araceli Martinez rounds out this all-Democratic slate.

Who's running?

Flores, 39, moved to Kensington in 2015 with his wife, Deanneka. He lived briefly in City Heights as a child before his family moved to Jamul in eastern San Diego County. Flores attended Valhalla High School and went to film school at UCLA. Before joining Emerald's team, he worked for San Diego Democratic Congresswoman Susan Davis, first in her district office, then as her senior aid.

As Emerald's chief of staff, Flores said he helped bring parks and infrastructure upgrades to the district. He also helped steer an effort to lift the cap on the number of taxis allowed to operate in the city, benefitting immigrant cabdrivers.

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.

Gomez, 40, moved to City Heights' Azalea Park neighborhood nine years ago with her partner, Xochitl. She grew up in a working-class household in Barrio Logan and went to San Diego State University to study geography. Gomez has served on the City Heights Area Planning Committee and the committee that oversaw redevelopment projects in the neighborhood.

Gomez is best known as an environmentalist. She's associate director of the Environmental Health Coalition and has worked for many years to organize community members and influence policy around reducing pollution from commercial businesses and cars in low-income neighborhoods.

Martinez, 36, lives in Kensington with her daughters Dorian, 17, and Adrienne, 4. She grew up in Calexico and moved to the district 18 years ago to attend San Diego State University, where she earned degrees in political science and psychology. She later earned a law degree from California Western School of Law and now works as a family law and education rights attorney.

Martinez's oldest daughter has autism. She said her experience advocating for other parents of children with special needs, lobbying in Sacramento on behalf of the Autism Society and living in District 9 for close to two decades qualify her to advocate for her neighbors as a councilwoman.

Saez, 35, moved to City Heights four years ago. She came to San Diego — by way of Boston, the Dominican Republic and Florida — to study law. Instead, she became a labor organizer for the Employee Rights Center and later, United Taxi Workers of San Diego. Saez has a bachelor's degree in critical criminology from Barry University in Florida and a master's degree in nonprofit management and leadership from the University of San Diego.

Saez said immigrant cabdrivers asked her to run for office after she organized them under United Taxi Workers of San Diego and led the fight to reform the taxi industry. She helped drivers make the case to policymakers like Emerald that they needed relief from low wages and poor working conditions.

Who's supporting whom?

None of the candidates received the San Diego County Democratic Party's endorsement, though Flores, Gomez and Saez were given favorable ratings.

Flores has the backing of his former bosses, Emerald and Davis, as well as San Diego Congressman Juan Vargas, state Sens. Ben Hueso and Marty Block, Councilwomen Sherri Lightner and Myrtle Cole, and mayoral candidate Ed Harris. He also has the support of the San Diego Police Officers Association, the firefighters union, state and municipal employees unions and, according to his website, "Somali elders." City Heights is home to thousands of East African refugees.

According to a mailer and robocall, Flores also has the backing of Mayor Kevin Faulconer, though he was quick to distance himself from the mayor.

Flores' campaign has raised $152,128 from a variety of contributors, including conservative developer Thomas Sudberry; high-ranking employees at USA Cab, Yellow Cab and Lyft; community leader Linda Pennington; and Robert Price, the president of Price Philanthropies, which has invested millions into City Heights.

Gomez has endorsements from Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, Councilmen David Alvarez and Todd Gloria, the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters.

She's raised $83,515, including contributions from San Diego Port Director Joel Valenzuela; affordable and market-rate housing developers; and Mark Kassab, a longtime grocer and philanthropist in City Heights.

Martinez is endorsed by the San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association and received a favorable rating from the Martin Luther King Jr. Democratic Club. She's raised $1,968 from her associates.

Saez is endorsed by the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council; United Food and Commercial Workers Local 135; United Taxi Workers of San Diego; American Federation of Teachers Guild Local 1931; the Progressive Democratic Club of San Diego; and The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Her campaign has raised $36,453, largely from taxi drivers, labor organizers and leaders, and individuals associated with community nonprofit Mid-City CAN and The California Endowment, which has invested millions into the City Heights community. Saez also received a large contribution from the head of Gafcon, a major construction management firm in Southern California that often has union-represented tradespeople on the job due to project labor agreements.

What are the issues?

Affordable housing, transit, public safety and a fair share of taxpayer dollars are all at the top of the candidates' platforms. All said they would not support a publicly funded Chargers stadium because there are unfunded infrastructure needs in their district.

KPBS asked them all to answer questionnaires on where they stand on issues. You can check out their responses by clicking here.