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Weber Close To Victory In 79th Assembly District Special Election

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La Mesa City Councilwoman Dr. Akilah Weber was close Wednesday to being elected to the 79th Assembly District seat her mother Shirley held from 2012 until being appointed secretary of state in December.

Speaker 1: 00:00 Well, Mesa city council woman, Dr. Akilah Webber is leading the race for the 79th assembly district seat with 52% of the early vote count. That's the seat. Her mother, Shirley Weber held from 2012 until being appointed. Secretary of state in December the 79th district includes Southeast San Diego County, Republican Marco Contreras trails behind with 33% of the vote. If Democrat Weber's total remains above 50%, she'll be elected without a runoff. Joining me now is KPBS reporter max Riverland Adler. Who's been covering the special election. Max. Welcome. Good to be here. How likely is it that we will see a runoff between Weber and Contrarez,

Speaker 2: 00:43 It's going to be really close because the rule is that Weber would have to break 50% plus one vote. And the number of outstanding ballots is 9,500 votes. Um, considering that, you know, there were 55,000 ballots cast, 9,500 would definitely swing any, um, total, a few percentage points. So it's going to be close.

Speaker 1: 01:05 And if there is a runoff, when would it

Speaker 2: 01:07 Be held? It would be held on June 8th. So that would be fairly soon. And this seat again has been open since, uh, earlier this year

Speaker 1: 01:16 And what's party preference look like in the 79th district. I mean, if people were to vote along party lines, who would have the advantage

Speaker 2: 01:22 Ditch in the 17th district, there's, um, almost 135,000 Democrats, 66,000 Republicans and 80,000 people with no party preference. So that's really where the swing comes in. As we see increasingly in California, less people are identifying as Republicans, but more people are identifying as having no party preference.

Speaker 1: 01:44 How did the other candidates in the race do

Speaker 2: 01:46 Everything kind of stuck in line with what the understanding is for how many voters there are, uh, who vote for each party? The democratic votes were split up among three other candidates, not including Weber. So the TCM Mongolia who is backed by labor came in with only eight point 12% right now. Uh, Shane Parmalee, uh, she's a teacher. She came in with 5% in Aramaic glass. Blake came in with just 1.2, 2%. Uh, so really this was a dominating performance on the democratic side by Dr. Webber. Uh, one thing to look at when it comes to the other candidates is Latisha. Mongolia was supported by labor in San Diego. She had gotten most of the endorsements and she really came, uh, low, uh, in terms of a vote total here. And that continues a streak for San Diego politicians who are backed by traditional labor coalitions. Um, a lot of successful candidates lately have been building broader coalitions ones that go outside of, of kind of the labor leaders and maybe make more of a connection to, uh, some rank and file members and build larger coalitions.

Speaker 1: 02:53 Hmm. And we know Dr. Akilah Weber is the daughter of Shirley Weber who previously held the seat, but remind us of Dr. Weber is and what she brings

Speaker 2: 03:02 Dr. Kilo Weber's right now with Lamesa city council, woman. She was also a doctor for many years. Uh she's um, really, you know, just entered politics a few years ago when she came to the Lamesa city council, but has been active there and kind of pursuing many of the similar, uh, priorities that her own mother pursued when she was a state assembly member,

Speaker 1: 03:23 Mother, Shirley Weber created a lot of legislation to build on like police use of force, a state commission to look into reparations for the descendants of slaves. She was also big on education. Do you have a sense of if Dr. Weber plans to continue building on those issues?

Speaker 2: 03:41 Yeah, absolutely. And, and she's really promoted that she's going to bring her public health background into the conversation because her own mother was an educator. She was a teacher, she was a professor for many years. Whereas Dr. Akilah Weber's background is obviously in medicine. Here's what she had to tell KPBS about the differences between them on these issues.

Speaker 3: 04:02 I am very much about developing healthy individuals, healthy families, and understanding that in order to do that, we must really deal with all of what we call social determinants of health. And so those do align with a lot of the things that my mother was dealing with. She dealt a lot with police reform and criminal justice reform, and we understand that those kinds of things, those stresses, those issues, that disproportionately impact certain communities also have a significant impact on their health. She then continued on to say to KPBS, when we talk about education, she was very adamant about closing the academic achievement gap as am I. Um, I am a mother of two African-American boys in elementary school, but I also understand that your education, your K through 12 education establishes your foundation on which you will have to build on later on in life, which determines your future health and the future health of your future families. And so it is extremely important to me that, that we close that gap so that every child here in California, that graduates out of our public schools has equal opportunity, equal access.

Speaker 1: 05:05 Let's talk about Marco Contrarez remind us of who he is and what his appeal to voters in the 79th was.

Speaker 2: 05:12 He was running a very social media savvy campaign. He was, um, running, uh, as a, as a big open up California, uh, candidate. And he was against a lot of the lockdown and, and quarantine and social distancing, uh, requirements and suggestions that the local government had made. So he was running kind of in the, the standard lane of where the Republican party is right now, but I don't think he'll walk away feeling all that disappointed in, in, you know, the amount that he's gotten here. He really held on to the amount of Republicans that are in this district. And, um, he also is a member of a church that, that flouted social distancing guidelines. So I think he has a, an absolute base here. Um, and I don't know if he's going to go away, uh, in terms of a political future in San Diego County, as the local San Diego County Republican party kind of looks for its new faces.

Speaker 1: 06:07 Hmm. And do you have a sense of what the biggest issues are for voters in the 79th assembly?

Speaker 2: 06:12 Strict everyone is focused on COVID-19 recovery. So a lot of small businesses, one out of business, a lot of people lost their jobs and this entire district was hard hit by the COVID 19 pandemic itself from a health perspective. So it's going to need a lot of the both federal funds and state funds that are now funneling down to the local level to actually have a big impact. And the state assembly member will play a huge role in making sure it gets there.

Speaker 1: 06:37 And when will the election results be final? So usually

Speaker 2: 06:41 Some month to certify an election, but because there's only one, this one special election is going to be done very fast. They should have a certified winner by April 15th. So just eight days from now. And that would give it the requisite amount of time to actually have a run-off campaign, uh, for June 8th. So that's why it's being done really quickly.

Speaker 1: 07:00 I've been speaking with KPBS reporter, max Rivlin, Nadler, max, thanks so much for joining us.

Speaker 4: 07:05 Thank you.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.