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Uncalled Races Countywide Tighten as Ballots Continue to Be Counted

Scott Sherman (center) speaks at the Republican Party of San Diego election watch party at the U.S. Grant in downtown San Diego on March 3, 2020.
Priya Sridhar
Scott Sherman (center) speaks at the Republican Party of San Diego election watch party at the U.S. Grant in downtown San Diego on March 3, 2020.

With the primary election in the rear-view mirror, a handful of races across San Diego County remain too close to call, and with 290,000 projected uncounted ballots according to the county registrar of voters, some late changes are within the realm of possibility.

The San Diego Mayor's race, which has a clear front-runner in Assemblyman Todd Gloria, appeared to be looking like a showdown between Gloria and City Councilman Scott Sherman. But as ballots have come in, the results for second place have tightened between Sherman and his colleague, Councilwoman Barbara Bry, leaving just a 2,140-vote gap. That's important, as the second-place finisher will get another shot in the general election.

Tom Shepard, a consultant for Bry's campaign, said that many of the absentee and provisional ballots yet to be counted will skew Democrat. This appears to have been borne out Thursday, with Sherman's 3,063-vote lead slashed by 900 votes overnight.


"This is true not just in San Diego, but throughout the state of California, in part because many Democrats delayed returning their absentee ballots to ensure they were able to make an informed choice in the Democratic presidential primary," Shepard said.

Sherman said at his election night speech that he anticipated making the runoff but would wait until later in the week before declaring victory.

RELATED: Roundtable: March Primary Recap

Other city races without a clear top-two include Bry's former City Council District 1, which covers La Jolla and the coast up to Del Mar, Carmel Valley and University City. While civil engineer and business owner Joe LaCava is clearly ahead with 25.72% of the vote. His rival in the November general election will likely come down to business attorney Will Moore or firefighter and Naval Reserve Office Aaron Brennan, with 4,326 and 4,170 votes respectively. Sam Nejabat, a small business owner, is also not out of the running, just 600 votes behind Moore.

District 3, which covers Central San Diego, including Old Town, Downtown, North Park, Normal Heights and Balboa Park, has a tight race to replace Councilman Chris Ward. Stephen Whitburn, a community nonprofit director, leads the pack of candidates and appears assured of a runoff spot. He will most likely face Toni Duran, a state Senate district representative with 6,833 votes; although Chris Olsen, the city's budget analyst and educator is, with 6,286 votes, within striking distance to make the general election.


In county and Congressional races, only a handful remain close, but they are some of the most notable races.

San Diego County Measure A — a county-wide vote for any housing development larger than six units, which would deviate from the county's general plan — appeared defeated on election night, and the no votes still have a lead of around 11,500 votes of more than 537,000 counted and just the 290,000 ballots left to count.

In the hotly contested — and at times contentious — race for the 50th Congressional District, Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar has a clear lead, but what once looked like a safe second-place finish for former Republican Congressman Darrell Issa has been kept tight, with former San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio in a close third. Issa leads DeMaio by just more than 3,000 votes -- albeit 2.5% of all votes cast in the race — which could lead to a close count as ballots trickle in.

Two of the three San Diego County Supervisor races are likewise a toss- up at this time. In District 1, the race to replace County Chairman Greg Cox, Ben Hueso is ahead with 30.4% of the vote, with Rafa Castellanos and Nora Vargas in a dead heat for second, separated by a mere 160 votes.

In District 3, Republican incumbent Kristin Gaspar is well ahead of her Democratic rivals with 45.3% of the vote. However, Terra Lawson-Remer and Olga Diaz are separated by less than 6,000 votes, close enough that a San Diego County Democrat breakfast scheduled Friday morning to throw support behind Lawson- Remer in the general election was postponed until the rest of the votes were counted.

The 2024 primary election is March 5. Find in-depth reporting on each race to help you understand what's on your ballot.