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Roundtable: Reaction to early election results in San Diego County

 November 11, 2022 at 12:00 PM PST

S1: The votes are cast , but California is still counting. Even so , we're getting a clearer picture of how things are shaking out after a midterm election that featured plenty of close races and a few surprises along the way. It's all about the will of the voters this week. I'm Matt Hoffman and this is KPBS roundtable. Thanks so much for joining us for KPBS roundtable. I'm your host , Matt Hoffman. And joining us this week for some post-election reaction and analysis are Andrea Lopez via FINA. She's the managing editor for Voice of San Diego. And we also have two of our KPBS reporters who are wrapping up a very busy week. Andrew Bowen covers city government in San Diego. And Gustavo Solis is following key races in the South Bay. I want to welcome you all back to roundtable. And before we dive into some of the details of these races , I want to get all of your initial thoughts , your quick initial thoughts , starting with Gustavo.

S2: You know , Andrew , I think we talked about it a little bit. But Democrats right now , based on the the update from from last night , they're behind in the Chula Vista mayoral race. One of the Chula Vista City Council races , the National City mayoral race and two Imperial Beach City Council races. And I mean , we've been hearing for years that Democrats have this huge advantage when it comes to voter registration numbers , especially in the South Bay. But at least looking at the results right now , that numerical advantage doesn't seem to be leading to election victories. So obviously , we have to wait and see how some of these races play out. But I think that's super interesting right now.

S1:

S3: I mean , my guess is Chula Vista is going to go to John. Just looking at the numbers now , unless something significant happens. But I think it'll be really , really interesting to see how these new mayors coming in really impact just the region in general. Right. On SANDAG board the port , you know , those regional kind of decisions will be interesting to watch.

S1: And Andrew , we've had a few rounds of first returns.

S4: You know , obviously , turnout tends to be a lower in midterm elections as opposed to presidential elections. But , you know , I think it's good when as many people as possible exercise their right to vote. And it seems like this election cycle in San Diego County didn't bring a whole lot of people to the polls compared to prior elections. As far as the city of San Diego and the city council races , I don't see any big surprises there. I am surprised by some of the ballot measures about how close they are , and I know we'll dive into that a bit more.

S1: And as of Thursday evening's update , there's still about 400,000 ballots outstanding , or at least that's what the registrar is estimating. A lot of tight races in here from the 49th congressional to the sheriff race. But we want to hone in on some other areas. The city of San Diego used to be a reliable place for Republicans , but in a few weeks there won't be a single Republican on city council. Andrew , let's start over in District two here.

S4: Just a bit of background on Jennifer Campbell and this district. She was elected in 2018 , unseated a Republican incumbent very much pushing this issue of Republican versus Democrat. Of course , local elections and local offices in California are officially nonpartisan , so you don't see a partisan affiliation on the ballot. But party plays an important role in even local politics. And so she rode the blue wave in 2015 to victory. This time , she , you know , had upset a lot of constituents over the past couple of years with some votes that she had taken and faced that the greatest number of challengers in the primary. She , you know , I think was grateful to ultimately have a Republican on the ballot against , you know , facing off against her in the general election. But she , you know , appears to be having a very easy re-election so far.

S1: And Andrea , voice of San Diego , you guys have a reaction piece on the Campbell race from your colleague , Scott Lewis.

S3: To be able to separate herself from her opponent , Linda , being a Republican. You know , opposing the things that that Jenner , Jan of Jan has been pushing , I think , really allowed her to have that. I think she would have had much a much harder time if she was going up against another Democrat.

S4: And a big factor at play in this election was the institutional support that Campbell had built. She got the endorsement of the Labor Council of the Chamber of Commerce , of the Police Officers Association. Huge , you know , very deep pocketed interest groups that were willing to spend a lot of money on her behalf. And I think that , you know , despite the fact that many constituents of hers feel like she was unresponsive to their concerns and was not voting in line with their interests , you know , the margin of her victory , I think , does say something about the role that money still plays in politics and the fact that somebody who even faces a lot of opposition in their district can can do quite well if they have big money on their side.

S1: Now let's move over to San Diego's district. Six Republican Chris Kate turned out and two Democrats were on the ballot. Andrew , what's going on there ? Right.

S4: Well , so I think this is perhaps a window into the future of what we might see more of in San Diego as more races become Democrat versus Democrat. And there was , despite them being from the same party , a pretty clear distinction in terms of policy between Kent Tilly , who is currently , you know , looking very likely to be the actual councilmember elect and his opponent , Tommy. How how ran on a campaign of neighborhoods ? First , he would never claim the mantle of NIMBY or not in my backyard , somebody who opposes housing because that's a pejorative term that nobody really likes to take on. But he , I think , would classify himself as somebody who opposes the Yimby movement. The movement that , you know , says we need to build as much housing as possible and we need to do it quickly. Cantlie , you know , tried to take , I think , a middle of the road approach. He was endorsed by the local yimby organization , the Yimby Democrats. But I don't know if he ever really fully took on that title and tried to brand himself as a yimby , But he was definitely more open and more willing to acknowledge that old , low density neighborhoods like Mira mesa and University City do need to change and do need to grow in order for San Diego to build its way out of this housing shortage that we have.

S1: And so the San Diego City Council will be all Democratic one party control.

S4: What I think will change and you know , I alluded to this in talking about District six , is that what kind of Democrat who gets elected to the city council matters a lot. And many of these issues that are at play in local politics , like housing , zoning , transportation and infrastructure , those issues do not fall clearly on the left or right spectrum. So , you know , folks are just going to have to think beyond what party is more in line with their values and think more about the individual candidates and what positions they take.

S1: Let's move over to the South Bay now. Gustavo Solis from KPBS News is here and he's covering some key races there. Let's start with Chula Vista Mayor Gustavo. A big race there.

S2: After yesterday's update , John McCain is up ahead by ten percentage points , which is where he was after the election. So Marquette and Aja , his opponent , really just hasn't made any progress in trying to catch up with him. It is worth noting , though , that John McCann has not claimed victory and Mark Hampton has not conceded. There's still a lot of votes left to count. I think you said like 400,000. Right. But it is very safe to say that it's not looking good for Camp and Aja right now.

S1: And Andre , you also had an update on this for Voice of San Diego and this race. It got personal at times. What are some of your takeaways at this point ? Yeah.

S3: I mean , we had John on on The Voice of San Diego podcast where we had a debate and John was very focused on pointing out to voters in Chula Vista that what he believed that Lamar did not live in the city of Chula Vista , that he was staying somewhere else. Right. Trying to make the case that you should not vote for someone who doesn't live in the city that he wants to be mayor for. I think the better argument for what he was trying to say that I think resonated with voters and some people who might have supported Amar was it made them question , you know , was he present in our community ? How involved has he been in a community as a leader ? And , you know , when you think about it like that , it's it's hard to say , Yes , he has roots in Chula Vista , but it's hard to point to specific things for voters who want to elect someone to lead their city.

S2: I think India is totally right on this. I mean , the the criticism wasn't just that he may not have been living in Chula Vista full time. It spoke to the fact that Amar had ran very publicly in the East county and tied himself to that community , saying , I'm an East County guy. I mean , I think everyone is still online. They can see his interview with the defend his county folks. And there's just this idea that there's something not totally genuine about Camp and Aja. Now , John's approach to kind of calling that I was really bizarre by having a private investigator following him and taking pictures and videos that didn't come out very well. But I think there were and are legitimate questions about Captain Aja that are probably hurting him right now.

S1: And Andrew , go ahead.

S4: I'm curious , Andre and Gustavo , since you've been watching this race closer than I have. What how much policy discussion was there between and how much policy differences were there between Amber and Jon ? You know , I , I think of Chula Vista and the surveillance technology that they've really embraced and , you know , how aware citizens may be of that trend that the government is is taking , you know , the city government.

S2: Right ? I support public safety. I want to bring businesses to Chula Vista. I want to finish the bay front. When you push them on how to do things , they don't have a plan set out in terms of surveillance. I mean , there was a little bit of a difference in that. John McCann just as super reluctant to criticize the police department for anything that they do. I've asked him point blank multiple times , like what about the fact that the police chief didn't know that you're sharing data with ICE from the license plate readers , and he just kind of said , well , as soon as she found out she did a good job and they stopped doing it. And he just is not going to be the voice of a reformer or oversight for the police department. Whereas Amar , probably because he's not in elected office , has been a little bit more vocal and willing to criticize the police and raise concerns about the privacy issues there. But other than that , I mean , policy wise , they seem very similar in that they have really talked about it.

S3: Right. But I do think that early on they did paint themselves as very different candidates where you had John pushing himself as like someone whose experience and again , like pushing his involvement in the community and knowledgeable of like how city council works in Chula Vista. And Amar was coming more like bright ideas like Chula Vista need something new. People want to grow. People don't want to be a sleepy town anymore. Like we we need to bring universities. We need to bring jobs. But then it took this like really weird , twisted turn where it just became a lot of arguing and accusations back and forth.

S1: And a follow up for any of you here. You know , as a result like this , or at least macand , the Republican in this one leading show that things like party affiliation , you know , only go so far when it comes to a more local position like mayor.

S2: Every single one of them was challengers from the primary , endorsed him , and they're all Democrats. I mean , out of the people in the city council who made endorsements , they all endorsed campaign AJA. But that doesn't seem to matter , at least not in Chula Vista. You can argue it might make a case in National City. And Andre , we'll talk about that race in a little bit. But because there's different kind of factors at play which Varane Morrison being ahead. But no. And it's strange to me at least. Right. You have like Chula Vista as minority majority. It's in California. It's a Democratic town. Not historically. I mean , Chula Vista has been a Republican place , kind of like Coronado. But it is odd that the the amount of endorsements I mean , Omar had endorsements from people in state government , in SANDAG and in the federal government , Voters don't seem to care.

S1: And you had a good segway in there. Let's move over to National City , also in the south Bay. Andre , it looks like a former mayor may be returning to office with the current mayor and another Democrat splitting the votes. Do we know if that was a surprise for the incumbent mayor to be finishing , I think third right now in the latest results.

S3: I mean , I think it's definitely a surprise to be finishing third , having , you know , being the incumbent mayor. But I think not so surprising when you're thinking about two Democrats running against Ron Morris. And so , you know , at some extent they'd have to consider that they would be splitting the votes , given that it's two Democrats. But I do think it must be surprising for Alejandro's at least to be the last of the three. I can expect that feels good in any way.

S1: And similar in Chula Vista with John McCann. Morson is a name that people are familiar with , Right. Has he been mayor there before ? Yeah.

S3: And he's currently a council member. So he's someone you know , when I when I've spoken to community members , he's someone who everybody everybody knows he's everywhere. He's in all community events. I can think of him being at every press conference. So he's definitely someone who's very , very present. And I'm not too sure on the policy discussions on this race. I don't know if Gustavo wants to touch on those , but I've mostly been paying attention to the Lowrider Band , so that's kind of what I'll be looking at moving forward on on this race to see whoever wins.

S2: No , I mean , runs an institution in National City , I think has I forget exactly what it is. But his license plate , he has a vanity plate that just says , like in that city , he's been around forever. He has a big and loyal following.

S1: We're diving into the 2022 general election results this week on KPBS roundtable. And our guests are KPBS reporters Andrew Bowen and Gustavo Solis and voice of San Diego's managing editor , Andre Lopez via FINA is also here with us. Andrea , you know , one issue that voice has covered extensively is the Midway district height limit. We're talking about measure C here. The city wants to redevelop that area , but it needs to build higher than 30 feet.

S3: So it's a close one , but I think Andrew can speak to it better.

S4: Yeah , well , I'm looking at the results right now , and it's just a little over a thousand , not quite 2000 votes that the yes side is leading. So it's definitely a very close race. And where the margin grew just a tiny bit since they've been counting more mail ballots. So if that trend continues , then maybe they can breathe a little easier. But I don't think that we'll see. This race actually called for a couple of days.

S1: And Andrew , how key is this race ? We know that the city has its midway rising proposal.

S4: The city has signed an exclusive negotiating agreement with this development team that wants to build about 4000 homes , apartments on the 48 acres that comprise the sports arena property , along with a new arena and some retail space , some parkland. All of that really does depend on being able to build taller than 30 feet. So if this measure doesn't pass , there is a backup plan that the city has. The whole reason why we're voting on this measure again , the same question was put to voters in 2020. But the reason we have to vote on it again is there was a lawsuit that claimed that the city had not properly analyzed the environmental impacts of taller buildings. And so the city did that analysis. They got sued again by the same group. So there's still a little bit of legal uncertainty , but the city is appealing that loss that they had at the superior court. And so even if Measure C were to fail and they do have a bit of hope in the in the Court of Appeal , even even if that happens , I mean , this is an issue that I don't see going away any time soon until the height limit is actually lifted , because I think too many people in the city , too many people in the Midway district and too many people , you know , around the region just think that this is an issue that that we just need to get across the finish line. So it could be another San Diego special as as our mayor , Todd Gloria likes to call them. One of those things that , you know , you have widespread agreement in in sort of policy groups and people who pay attention to these things more closely that something should be done , and yet they just can't quite seem to actually do it.

S1: And Andrew , moving on to another measure , Measure B , that's the one that's all about trash collection in the city of San Diego. The city wants to start charging homeowners a fee for the service that basically condo owners pay. I guess maybe a simple question.

S4: The no side is currently ahead with 50.73% of the vote , so the counting will continue. We'll have to be a little patient on that one. But , you know , if that continues , if if the no side prevails in the end , ultimately what that's just going to mean is that San Diego is going to have to continue to spend more and more of its general fund dollars on this free service provided to only two single family homes. Waste management is getting more expensive in California. There's a state law that requires cities to collect organic waste and compost it all. So it's going to be having to do all of that new service and all of that new large scale composting , you know , all on the out of the same fund that pays for police and parks and libraries and things like that. So it's definitely something that a lot of leaders at the city were hoping they could get done. But again , I think low turnout in this election probably played a role here. I you know , I spoke with some folks on that campaign and they seemed pretty confident , but it doesn't look like it's doing well.

S1: And we are hearing from the registrar that about two weeks or so is when we might get a good idea in some of these tighter races. But in the final few minutes we have here , I want to get your guys's closing thoughts here. You know , we can't touch on everything in a 30 minute program , but is there something that you learned or were surprised by in this election cycle or even something that we just haven't touched on ? And Gustavo , we'll start with you here.

S2: Well , one thing we haven't touched on that that I think is just really interesting to see how it plays out in the future , not just now , but future election cycles are the school board races and just this wave of candidates who ran on campaigns against critical race theory and kind of getting the government out of schools. Some of them are doing pretty well. I know in Coronado there's a couple of folks that might get elected on the school board over there. I'm curious to see kind of what that does to the region in just the state. It's happening all over the place. So I'm very curious. School board races are not the most sexy , but this to me , I think makes them really , really interesting. I mean , they have a lot of things to deal with. I mean , mostly like budgetary and financing and how to educate our children. And this is just kind of sucking up all the oxygen out of the room. If you've ever gone to some of those school board meetings. I mean , they last hours and they're just people shouting at each other the whole time. I mean , you used to just go to the county board meetings for that kind of stuff.

S1:

S3: I would echo Gustavo , and I think that that's an interesting thing to to keep watching because , you know , we have one of our reporters write about the coordinator school board race and how discussions , instead of just being about budgetary issues , started becoming about personal values. And , you know , I think that's interesting to see because you could have you could very well have these school board members , you know , use their seat , use their time there for perhaps other offices in the future. I don't feel like we had a lot of candidates concerned with those kinds of personal value issues on ballots for or make it through for city council seats. But I don't know. I'd be curious to see if that's like a trend we start noticing with people like jumping off from school boards to like city councils.

S4: It was Andrea that mentioned briefly the SANDAG board. So this is a regional body that makes very important and big decisions on how to spend our transportation dollars. And to boil it down to its simplest terms , there's a very real debate happening right now over how much money we should dedicate to public transit and more sustainable forms of transportation versus roads and freeways. And so , you know , every seat in the county has a representative on the SANDAG board , and sometimes it takes a couple more months after the election is even settled to figure out who ends up in those seats and what their opinions are on those questions , because they're not often they can be sometimes , but not often front and center in the actual races that they're running. So I'll be watching , you know , over the next couple of months who ends up on the SANDAG board , how the composition of city councils in these cities all across the county actually impact that makeup of the board. And and you know how they make decisions going forward.

S1: And we're going to have to end it on there. It's all the time we have this week. I want to thank our guests so much , Andrea Lopez via Fania from Voice of San Diego , along with Gustavo Solis and Andrew Bowen , both from KPBS news. Be sure to keep an eye on the KPBS voter hub as more election results roll in throughout the rest of the week. KPBS roundtable is produced by Ben Lacey , and our technical director is Rebecca Chacon. I'm Matt Hoffman. Thanks so much for joining us and have a great weekend.

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Roland Lizarondo/ KPBS
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KPBS
Voters utilizing the curbside ballot drop off at the Registrar of Voters in Kearny Mesa, Nov. 8, 2022.
Votes continue to be counted in the days following the 2022 general election, but the early numbers give us an idea of how voters will decide major offices and issues around San Diego County.

Matt Hoffman hosts a discussion about the 2022 general election and the first few days of results for local offices and ballot measures. Guests include KPBS reporters Andrew Bowen and Gustavo Solis along with Voice of San Diego managing editor Andrea Lopez-Villafaña.