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Summer’s Over, Time To Gear Up For San Diego Elections Again

Labor Day marks the unofficial start of November races

Photo caption:

Photo by Nancee Lewis

San Diego city attorney candidate Robert Hickey addresses the crowd at the U.S. Grant, June 7, 2016. Hickey is advancing to a November runoff against Mara Elliott.

With the San Diego mayor's race resolved — Kevin Faulconer won re-election outright in June — focus will turn to the race for city attorney and two ballot measures that will shape future San Diego elections.

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While the presidential race has roared all summer, most local races have been quiet.

That ends now. Political analysts say Labor Day marks the unofficial start of November races, and there are several in San Diego that will be getting a lot of attention.

With the San Diego mayor's race resolved — Kevin Faulconer won re-election outright in June — focus will turn to the race for city attorney and two ballot measures that will shape future San Diego elections, said Laura Fink, a political strategist and president of Fink & Hernandez Consulting. She is not working on any local campaigns right now.

In the city attorney's race, Democrat Mara Elliot will face Republican Robert Hickey. It's the only city-wide race remaining.

While the race is nonpartisan, Fink said she expects "to see the money falling in partisan terms."

Fink, who's a Democrat, said political groups will also focus on Measures K and L, which would require November runoff elections for city offices and place citizens initiatives and referendums on general election ballots only, unless the City Council chose to place them before voters earlier.

"It will fundamentally restructure the way elections are held in San Diego," Fink said. "It's a charter reform measure, which means it will amend our city's constitution. It will ultimately make running for office very different, make getting reelected for incumbents very different, and I think it's something the city will definitely care about."

Lower turnout June elections typically favor Republicans, while general elections in San Diego typically favor Democrats, and both the local Republican and Democratic parties have said they plan to spend heavily on the measures.

But Jason Roe, founding partner of political consulting firm Revolvis, said he doesn't think the Measure K and L races will be big.

"I don't think those are going to be very interesting for the electorate. They're more insider issues," he said. "Their impact will be significant, but I don't know that average voters are going to be particularly interested in charter reform."

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Instead, Roe said he thinks the biggest races will be for city attorney, San Diego County Supervisors District 3, the 52nd Congressional District and City Council District 9. Roe is running campaigns for county supervisor candidate Kristin Gaspar and congressional candidate Denise Gitsham, both Republicans. He's also running an independent expenditure committee in the city attorney's race.

Gaspar is running against incumbent Dave Roberts, a Democrat, in what's expected to be a tight race. While Gaspar said she voted for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in the June primary, Roe said Gaspar no longer supports Trump, and that he doesn't think her past support for him will hurt her candidacy.

"I don't think support for or opposition to Trump is transferrable enough to voters that it matters," he said. However, he said Trump could impact voter turnout, both by keeping home Republican voters on Election Day and encouraging Democrats to come out to vote against him.

He also pointed out that Gaspar's opponent, Roberts, received 39 percent of the vote in his district in June, while the two Democrat presidential candidates got a combined 70 percent of the vote.

Another race that's getting unexpected attention is Republican Congressman Darrell Issa's re-election bid in the 49th district. Fink said she believes Issa's support of Trump is hurting him.

RELATED: Issa Says He’s Not Worried About Trump Factor In Re-Election Bid

She said the "specter of Donald Trump" will impact many local races.

"That's going to have an effect both on turnout and on the positions many local electeds will be taking," she said.

Roe, however, said he thinks Issa's race against Democrat Doug Applegate won't be as exciting as many seem to think.

"A lot of the speculation of his vulnerability is driven by people who hope he's vulnerable," he said. "The sober reality for Republicans in California is if you have survived at the congressional level, you're probably pretty well entrenched in your district."

Because the mayor's race is resolved and the race for City Council District 1 is all but settled, Roe said this year's local November election will be less exciting than in the past.

"People in San Diego County have been through a lot of elections, seen a lot of ballot measures, and this is going to be one of sleepier November elections we've seen in some time," he said. "There are a couple of races to pay attention to, but compared with what we're used to, there's not as much happening."

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Claire Trageser
Investigative Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksAs a member of the KPBS investigative team, my job is to hold the powerful in San Diego County accountable. I've done in-depth investigations on political campaigns, police officer misconduct and neighborhood quality of life issues.

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