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Montgomery Steppe takes early lead in District 4 supervisor election

Voting for who will fill the vacancy in San Diego’s Fourth Supervisorial District has closed, but KPBS Reporter Melissa Mae tells us that the position may be heading to a runoff vote in November.

The first set of unofficial election night results to fill the District 4 Supervisor vacancy came in shortly after 8 p.m. Tuesday night.

San Diego County Registrar of Voters Cynthia Paes says, “This particular special vacancy election, we didn't have anything to compare it to. We haven't had a special vacancy in a Board of Supervisors office.”  

There are about 394,000 registered voters in District 4 and currently about 20% of them voted.


“When all of the vote centers reported and we tabulated all of those votes, we were estimating 20,000 outstanding ballots. And so that is an estimate,” Paes said.

San Diego City Council member Monica Montgomery Steppe has taken an early lead in the special election to fill the vacant seat in San Diego County's 4th Supervisorial District, but did not immediately appear to have enough support to avoid a runoff.

Montgomery Steppe, a Democrat, attorney and San Diego City Council president pro tem, held 40.63% of the vote Wednesday morning. She was heavily backed by labor organizations in the campaign for the officially nonpartisan position.

Polls have closed for the District 4 County Supervisor special election to fill the seat left vacant by Nathan Fletcher, who resigned in May.

Republican Amy Reichert, founder of Reopen San Diego, was in second place with 29% of the vote.

If no candidate receives a majority vote in this special election, the top two vote getters will square off in a special general election on Nov. 7 to fill the seat vacated by former Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, who stepped down following what he describes as an "inappropriate relationship" with a subordinate. The woman has alleged sexual assault and harassment, but Fletcher has denied those claims.


"So in this special primary if a candidate received 50% plus one vote. That majority, then there would not be a runoff, and we would have a winner. If that does not happen, then we go to a special runoff election,” Paes said.

"We are waiting for all the votes to be tallied, but I feel very good about our position and confident I will be on the ballot for the Nov. 7 runoff," Reichert posted Tuesday night on X, formerly called Twitter.

The successful candidate will fill the seat for the remainder of the current term, which ends in January 2027.

Democrat Janessa Goldbeck, a Marine veteran and nonprofit organizer, followed Reichert with 25.38% of the vote, while Republican, Marine veteran and U.S. Census Bureau employee Paul McQuigg had slightly more than 5%.

Voter turnout was 20%, according to the San Diego County Registrar's Office, with 79,289 ballots cast out of the district's 394,373 registered voters.

Mail ballots were still coming in. Those sent right before or on Aug. 15 have seven days to arrive if postmarked by Election Day. Additionally, there are provisional ballots. People who missed the July 31 registration deadline could have conditionally registered and voted provisionally in person up to and on Election Day.

The next release of results is scheduled for Thursday at 5 p.m. The results must be certified by Sept. 14.

If the results hold, it presents an interesting scenario for the November election. While both Montgomery Steppe and Goldbeck are Democrats, they represent different ends of the party, with the former considered more progressive and the latter more moderate.

Voters who might otherwise go for a moderate Democrat could teeter into the Republican camp to turn the tide for Reichert, or Dem voters — who represented more than 66% of the vote Tuesday night — could toe the party line for a convincing victory.

Currently on the County Board of Supervisors, Democrats Nora Vargas and Terra Lawson-Remer and Republicans Joel Anderson and Jim Desmond often deadlock on politicized issues. The new supervisor could tip the board either more progressive or more conservative, depending on the results.

Fletcher, who sought treatment out of state for alcohol abuse and post- traumatic stress disorder, resigned from his seat on the board effective May 15.

He announced his resignation March 29 after admitting to what he called affair with former Metropolitan Transit System employee Grecia Figueroa, who is suing him.

District 4 is the smallest geographically of the county's five districts, consisting of central San Diego, La Mesa, Lemon Grove, as far north as Clairemont Mesa and portions of Kearny Mesa, as far south as Paradise Valley, as far east as south El Cajon and west as far as Mission Hills.

The Registrar’s office estimates the cost of both of these special elections is $5.2 million.

Democracy Day is an effort that started in 2022 to draw attention to the crisis facing American democracy, provide the public with the context and information they need, and bring all types of media together to sound the alarm collectively. KPBS is a media partner in this collaborative.