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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,...

Photo by KPBS Staff

Above: San Diego City Council District 9 candidates Georgette Gomez, Ricardo Flores, Araceli Martinez and Sarah Saez are pictured in this undated photo.

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

Transcript

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.

Special Feature View all Election Results →

Election Results

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.

Photo by 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.

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