Joe LaCava Headed To San Diego City Council District 1 Runoff; Second Spot Still A Battle
UPDATE: 6:36 a.m., March 4, 2020:
With 350,000 ballots left to be counted countywide, it appears Democrat Joe LaCava has secured his seat in the November runoff for San Diego City Council District 1. But the race for who will face him is too close to call, with other Democrats Aaron Brennan, Will Moore and Sam Nejabat just a few hundred votes apart.
LaCava has 25.5% of the vote, Brennan has 15.9%, Moore has 15.3%, and Sam Nejabat has 14%. The San Diego County Democratic Party did not endorse any candidate in the race to replace Barbara Bry, who is running for mayor. But it did rate LaCava, Moore and Brennan as "qualified."
The City Council race is officially nonpartisan but all of the candidates running are registered Democrats, ensuring the seat remains blue.
San Diego City Council District 1 is perhaps the most competitive race for a city elected office on the March 3 primary, with eight candidates on the ballot.
Not long ago, the district, which includes La Jolla, Torrey Pines, University City, Del Mar Heights and Carmel Valley, was the fiercest partisan battleground in the city. But as the city's voter registration trends increasingly favor Democrats, not a single Republican is among the District 1 candidates. Incumbent Barbara Bry is vacating the seat to run for mayor.
The San Diego County Democratic Party did not endorse anyone in the race, though it did rate four candidates as "qualified." Those are small business attorney Will Moore, consultant and activist Joe LaCava, retired firefighter Aaron Brennan and former nonprofit executive Harid "H" Puentes.
While much of city politics revolves around housing and homelessness, the major candidates in District 1 were not unanimous in what they focused their campaigns on. Moore drew connections between the city's housing crisis, its economy and climate change, saying high housing costs are hurting businesses' ability to attract talent and pushing more people into long commutes.
"The most important thing we can probably do on climate is move people from out of town, where they have two-hour commutes from Temecula, to live here in San Diego close to where they work because those commutes make up a full half of our carbon emissions in our city," Moore said.
LaCava agreed San Diego needs to focus on increasing its housing supply, but said its actions thus far haven't delivered much results for the working and middle class.
"Generally making it a little bit easier, a little bit less expensive to build housing is what we need to do to support the home building industry — because ultimately they're the ones that produce the majority of the homes," he said. "The concern that I have is that we're not really addressing the needs of the folks that are at the moderate income (level) or the lower income."
Brennan said infrastructure and road repair are the issues he most frequently hears about when talking to District 1 voters, and that housing affordability is less relevant in the district because its residents are wealthier than much of the rest of the city.
"For the voters of District 1, they're not as concerned about it from a personal standpoint," he said. "They are concerned about — oh, you're going to build affordable housing? Where are you going to build it?"
Puentes said he wants to harness the knowledge and innovation in District 1 for the betterment of the entire city, and touted his founding of CONNECT ALL, a startup accelerator in Southeast San Diego for low- to moderate-income and minority entrepreneurs.
"That is an example of how we thought differently, thought creatively," he said. "We were able to build consensus around the idea between what was happening up here on the mesa, and the innovation that's happening, and bring that down south of (Interstate) 8."
The other four candidates are activist and retired architect Louis Rodolico, attorney James Rudolph, entrepreneur Lily Zhou and consultant Sam Nejabat. Zhou is registered "no party preference" while Rodolico, Rudolph and Nejabat are registered Democrats.
Rodolico did not report raising any money for his campaign, while Rudolph and Zhou raised little compared to the rest of the field. Nejabat entered the race relatively late and his campaign was overwhelmingly self-funded.