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Marti Emerald Wins New District 9 Seat

Marti Emerald talks to KPBS reporters at Golden Hall on June 5, 2012.
Lori Lum
Marti Emerald talks to KPBS reporters at Golden Hall on June 5, 2012.

Marti Emerald won the new District 9 seat. The incumbent from District 7 got three-quarters of votes cast, trouncing challenger Mateo Camarillo.


The new 9th District extends from Kensington and Talmadge to the north through City Heights down to Mountain View and Southcrest. Centered in City Heights, the majority of residents are Latino. It was drawn that way during last year's redistricting process to give Latinos – who make up almost 30 percent of the city’s population - an edge on gaining a second seat on the council.

Although the majority is Latino, only 26 percent are registered to vote, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Whites make up 23 percent of the district’s population, but 45 percent of them are registered to vote.

The numbers show the challenge that Latinos face in bringing together political power in the city.

However, San Diego's newest district shows that a numerical advantage doesn’t mean a lot because of the residents’ immigration status, low educational attainment and a general lack of political mobilization among Latinos.

Camarillo told KPBS he decided to run in part because he was frustrated no other Latino candidate had emerged.


Camarillo said he wanted to give others opportunities he didn’t have.

According to his website, he came to San Diego because he believed in democracy and the American dream. He is a graduate of Hoover High School, where he was awarded two scholarships and had three jobs as a student. He said he was advised to drop out of school, but believes no education is a life sentence to poverty.

Both Camarillo and Emerald agreed that engaging voters is important, but differ when finding the source of the city’s financial problems.

He said Latinos need to see evidence that their vote counts before they will register to vote.

"Politicians talk a good story, but look at their records," he said. "The city is $2 billion in the hole. And they're $2 billion on top of that in deferred maintenance. And yet we keep reelecting the same people to make the same mistakes. We need a business perspective, somebody who can balance a checkbook that can get us out of this hole."

She said the city has a balanced budget, and that it’s the pension system that’s “in the hole.”

She also agreed that increasing engagement among voters is important.

"We need to get at those reasons and start working on that issue to get people registered to vote, and make sure that they express their voices," she said. "Within the district as a whole, there are more than 60 languages spoken in the schools in City Heights. And we need to get to those different communities and engage them as well.

The lines of the districts changed and Emerald found herself living in District 9, so she decided to represent it.

"I was redistricted out of the 7th district," Emerald told KPBS. "I'm running because there is a lot of work to do and I'm excited about all the potential here in the ninth district."

Former radio and television investigative reporter and current San Diego City Councilwoman, Emerald started as a broadcast journalist. She was elected into the San Diego City Council in 2008. Emerald was the Consumer Advocate at San Diego ABC television affiliate for 22 years. According to her website, as a councilwoman Emerald has focused on fixing the image of City government through “fiscal restraint, pension reform and increasing transparency in City government functions.” Graduate from National University, she lives in the College Area.

The communities of District 9 are Azalea Park, Bay Ridge, Castle, Cherokee Point, Chollas Creek, Colina del Sol, College East, College West, Corridor, El Cerrito, Fairmont Park, Fairmont Village, Fox Canyon, Hollywood Park, Islenair, Kensington, Mt. Hope, Mountain View, Ridgeview, Rolando, Southcrest, Swan Canyon, Talmadge, Teralta East and Teralta West.