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Voting In 79th Assembly District Special Election Ending

At Viejas Arena, a last-minute change moved the polling site for the 79th Ass...

Photo by Matthew Bowler

Above: At Viejas Arena, a last-minute change moved the polling site for the 79th Assembly District special election into a storage closet, filled with the arena’s basketball hoops, April 6, 2021.

Tuesday is the last day to cast a ballot in the 79th Assembly District special election, with both the San Diego County Registrar of Voters office and each voter's assigned polling place open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The special election was necessitated to fill the seat vacated by Shirley Weber's appointment as California's secretary of state.

More than 50,000 voters cast ballots by mail before election day, after 300,000 were sent out to every registered voter in the 79th District. The state is still operating under special COVID-19 election rules, which mandates a ballot be sent to every voter.

At 51 polling sites on Tuesday, in-person voting was a rare sight. By 1 p.m., only 300 people had chosen to vote in person. Some polling locations were changed because of new uses for spaces, as compared to the November general election.

At Viejas Arena on the SDSU campus, for instance, a last-minute change moved the polling site into a storage closet, filled with the arena’s basketball hoops. The floor of the arena itself is currently being used as a vaccination site.

Reported by Max Rivlin-Nadler , Video by Matthew Bowler

Interim Registrar of Voters Cynthia Paes said the number of votes already received before election day has set a record for voters in an assembly district special election.

"We had the 80th Assembly District special election in 2013, which was a 15% turnout. So coming into election day we were already at 17%, so we passed that up," she told KPSBS.

A field of four Democrats, including Weber's daughter, La Mesa City Councilwoman Dr. Akilah Weber, and one Republican are seeking to represent the district, which consists of southeastern San Diego, La Mesa, Lemon Grove and parts of Chula Vista, Bonita and National City.

The younger Weber has pledged to advocate for:

— high-impact grants designed to help old businesses stay open and new businesses start up;

— streamlined permitting to enable small-business owners to reopen and expand quickly to meet new demand;

— increased direct payments to support struggling families and workers looking for new employment; and

— more spending on infrastructure to rebuild aging roads and utilities.

RELATED: Experience Matters To Crowded Field In 79th Assembly District Special Election

In health care, Weber, an obstetrician/gynecologist who leads the Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology Division at Rady Children's Hospital-San Diego, supports more funding for primary care clinics and services, improved equity in health care and increasing health care coverage in underserved areas.

Weber has also called for making public colleges and universities tuition-free, increasing teacher salaries and spending on science, technology, engineering and math education, and expanding early childhood education, including making preschool universal.

Leticia Munguia, the business representative for the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, District 36, which represents government employees across Southern California, said if elected, "no one will work harder than I will for our working families, young people and seniors."

" I will always listen to the people I represent and fight for our communities, from building stronger schools to ensuring affordable college, access to health care, high-wage jobs and equity in our society," Munguia told City News Service.

Shane Suzanne Parmely, a teacher at Bell Middle School, said she is running "to continue my advocacy for our students, their families, and our communities by writing and supporting legislation that supports housing, food, and health/dental care as basic human rights, criminal justice reform, environmental justice, living wages, LGBTQ+ fam, immigrants and asylum seekers, and of course, fully funded truly public education from preschool through college."

Aeiramique Glass-Blake, a restorative justice consultant, activist and preacher who works in the juvenile justice field, had sought to run against Rep. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, in the 51st Congressional District in 2020, but failed to gather enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.

"After becoming ill I never thought I would run for office again," said Glass-Blake, who said she had been diagnosed with cancer and endometriosis, a disorder in which tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside the uterus.

"Of course I would continue my work towards justice, equity and unity as a diplomat, but one of my mentors reminded me, I am the people's choice for this assignment, for this seat, for such a time as this."

The lone Republican, Marco Contreras, pledged if elected to "be a voice in our government that stands for safely opening our schools immediately according to the science, a voice that stands for re-opening our businesses safely immediately hence creating more jobs and a voice that stands to support our law enforcement. "

Contreras is the owner of Rancho Customs Brokers, which provides custom compliance and consulting services.

If no candidate receives a majority in the overwhelmingly Democratic district, a runoff between the top two finishers will be held June 8.

Polling locations can be found at rov.sandiegocounty.gov/rov/Eng/polling.asp.

Interim Registrar of Voters Cynthia Paes has asked those voting in person to wear a face mask and maintain social distance.

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