Three incumbent San Diego City Council members will fight to retain their seats Tuesday, while two candidates will vie for an open seat in the District 6 race.
In District 2, incumbent Jen Campbell will face dentist/professor/Realtor Linda Lukacs. They outpaced former Assemblywoman Lori Saldana — who placed third — and three other candidates in the June primary.
City Council races, like all municipal races in California, are ostensibly nonpartisan. District 2 — which encompasses Mission Beach, Ocean Beach, Point Loma and Clairemont neighborhoods — was flipped from Republican to Democrat by Campbell in 2018.
A physician, Campbell received key endorsements from Mayor Todd Gloria and the majority of the county’s local and congressional representatives.
Campbell has in recent months won approval to regulate and reduce the number of short-term vacation rentals with the intent of freeing up hundreds of residences for the strained housing market in San Diego. Additionally, she successfully pushed for regulations on sidewalk and pushcart vendors. She is one of the leading forces behind Measure C, which seeks to remove the coastal 30-foot height limit in the Midway area to allow for a stadium and affordable housing project there.
She has also joined efforts to ban flavored tobacco products and declare San Diego a safe city for reproductive freedoms and access to abortion.
Campbell survived a recall effort in 2021, led by residents opposed to her push to regulate short-term vacation rentals. She served as City Council President for a year before being replaced by Sean Elo-Rivera.
Lukacs has been endorsed by the San Diego County Republican Party but says she would lead in a nonpartisan manner. She supports development in the Midway area as well, but not through Measure C and only once “the proper infrastructure is in place.” She backs police and says she wants them fairly compensated as well as to adopt a “community oriented policing” strategy.
She said she finds “The People’s Ordinance” regarding trash pickup to be inequitable in its current state.
“We live in a district that we can and should be proud of,” Lukacs said. “A place in which we feel safe and can enjoy our precious coastline and endless sunsets. A place where we can raise our families, build our businesses and a place where we can rely on an efficient, updated infrastructure that enhances our quality of life.”
In District 4, meanwhile, incumbent Monica Montgomery Steppe will face off in November against Gloria Evangelista.
Montgomery Steppe is a Democrat who ousted an incumbent in 2018. She supports police reform and has pushed back against police exemptions to a surveillance ordinance.
Evangelista is a dietician and registered Republican.
“I do not have an allegiance to a political party or a political agenda,” she told KPBS. “My allegiance is to God first and then to the residents of San Diego, especially to those in District 4.”
In the District 6 race, nonprofit director Kent Lee and environmental activist Tommy Hough will square off in their bids to replace termed-out Councilman Chris Cate — the only Republican currently on the San Diego City Council. Both men are Democrats, which leaves the very real prospect of no Republican representation on the technically nonpartisan nine-person council.
They share ideas in most arenas, but have drawn differences in recent months over housing and The People’s Ordinance.
Hough, a former local radio host, serves as a county planning commissioner and has been actively campaigning for the position for several years, losing to Cate for the seat in 2018. His priorities include a hyperlocal focus on fixing roads and improving parks and libraries in the district.
He opposes the effort to repeal the People’s Ordinance, which would have every San Diegan — homeowner and renter alike — pay a fee for trash collection. Currently, the 100-year-old ordinance means that any resident who can get their trash to the curb does not have to pay any fee for collection, while those in apartment complexes or who use a shared trash receptacle must pay a third-party hauler to collect the trash.
“I’m tired of seeing our District 6 neighborhoods left behind by the city, and our concerns over basics like parks and roads being dismissed by an increasingly hubristic City Hall that seems to have lost patience for working with neighborhoods and more focused on implementing unrelated initiatives,” Hough told the San Diego Union-Tribune.
He was endorsed by the Sierra Club, League of Conservation Voters and San Diego Progressive Democratic Club.
Lee is a first-generation immigrant who studied at UC San Diego. He was the executive director of Pacific Arts Movement, a media arts organization focusing on Asian, Asian American and Pacific Islander cinema and which hosts the annual San Diego Asian Film Festival. He stepped down from the role to campaign.
His priorities include improving neighborhood services, COVID-19 economic recovery, increasing housing access across all affordability levels and investing in the future of the Convoy Pan Asian Cultural and Business Innovation District.
“Over our last 16 years of living in District 6, things have changed dramatically,” Lee said. “The cost of housing, interest rates, and other economic factors have made housing more challenging for all San Diegans. No single solution exists to solve the housing crisis, and so the leadership necessary to avert this crisis will lie in coherent ideas, decisive action, and strategic collaboration across our region.”
Lee was endorsed by the San Diego County Democratic Party, the San Diego Regional Chamber, Gloria and Elo-Rivera.
District 8 Councilwoman Vivian Moreno, meanwhile, is being challenged by Antonio Martinez.
Moreno, a Democrat, faced Martinez in 2018 and won by just over 600 votes. She earned council approval to pave dirt roads and alleys in the city’s poorer neighborhoods. She has been on maternity leave since giving birth on Aug. 31.
Her priorities include making sure the far-flung, noncontiguous District 8 — which covers Barrio Logan and Logan Heights as well as the border- adjacent communities on San Ysidro and Otay Mes — is not forgotten or overlooked in terms of city funding and services, as it has been historically.
“It has been a tough two years for our friends, family and neighbors,” Moreno said. “As your council member, I have been fighting to ensure the recovery of our neighborhoods and families was and continues to be the focus of the city. We need to push the city to do more.”
Martinez, a Democrat, is a staffer for Rep. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, and is a board member of the San Ysidro School District.
His priorities include establishing an infrastructure maintenance plan for the district, establishing a program for People of Color first-time homebuyers, cleaning the Tijuana River Valley and building more inclusionary housing.
“If you’re working two or three jobs, if your family is working two or three jobs, and you still can’t make ends meet, there’s something seriously wrong with what we’re doing,” he told KPBS.