A steady stream of voters turned in their ballots at the San Diego County Registrar of Voters. Photo by Chris Stone
A stream of voters at the San Diego County Registrar of Voters. Photo by Chris Stone

There’s plenty of drama around the Nov. 8 general election, with the Republican Party seeking to wrest control of Congress and Democrats hinting of a national ban on abortion if that happens.

California is seeking to pre-empt any abortion ban with a state constitutional amendment guaranteeing reproductive rights, and Democratic leaders hope this will encourage enough turnout to keep the GOP from flipping any Congressional seats in the Golden State.

In San Diego County, the high-profile races include those for the 49th Congressional District, 38th state Senate District, 76th Assembly District, 80th Assembly District, San Diego Sheriff, San Diego City Council and Mayor of Chula Vista.

Here is Times of San Diego’s voter guide for the Nov. 8 general election.

Gov. Gavin Newsom at the White House with the Washington Monument in the background. Image from Governor’s Office video

Governor

Just over a year ago, Gavin Newsom easily beat a Republican-led recall effort. Now he’s running for re-election to a second four-year term.

Like arch-rival Ron DeSantis of Florida, he’s frequently mentioned as potential presidential candidate. And also like DeSantis, he must first be re-elected. But unlike DeSantis, Newsom’s race doesn’t appear close, with Republican Brian Dahle, a state senator from District 1 in the far north, trailing in polls.

Other State Offices

Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, Secretary of State Shirley Weber and Treasurer Fiona Ma have only token Republican opposition. The races for Controller, Attorney General and Insurance Commission are closer, and the one for State Board of Equalization is a rare battle between Democrats.

Malia Cohen

Republican Lanhee Chen, a Stanford University lecturer and financial policy expert, led Democrat Malia Cohen, chair of the State Board of Equalization, by 37.2% to 22.7% in the primary for Controller. Chen has positioned himself as a liberal Republican focused on financial issues, claiming he didn’t vote for Donald Trump. Cohen stresses her leadership experience in state and local finances, including management of San Francisco’s $22 billion public employee retirement fund.

Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta, a Democrat appointed by Newsom, has been accused of being soft on crime in the aftermath of the pandemic. He faces Republican Nathan Hochman, a former Justice Department lawyer who is now in private practice in Los Angeles. Bonta is endorsed by the Los Angeles Times, but Hochman gets the nod from the San Diego Union-Tribune. The latest data suggests California ranks between Texas and Florida in per-capita crime rate.

Incumbent Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, a Democrat, faces Robert Howell, a self-described “Regan Republican” who owns an electronics firm in Silicon Valley. Howell narrowly beat former Assemblymember Marc Levine in the primary. Lara has been accused of being too cozy with the industry he regulates, but counters he has forced insurers to continue coverage after California’s devastating wildfires. Howell, who has run unsuccessfully for other offices, promises to fight waste, fraud, and “abusively inflated” insurance premiums.

David Dodson

The District 4 seat on the Board of Equalization isn’t high profile, but incumbent Mike Shaeffer‘s past has caught up with him and he faces a challenge from within his own party. Shaeffer, one of the oldest elected officials at 83, was elected during the 2018 Democratic wave, but has a troubled legal history, including misdemeanor spousal abuse and disbarment in Nevada. His challenger is David Dodson, who has long run the board’s Southern California office, administering California’s property tax system.

U.S. Senate

If you like the job that appointed Sen. Alex Padilla is doing, you can vote for him twice — once to fill the eight weeks remaining in the term of Kamala Harris, whom he was appointed to succeed, and again for a full six-year term starting Jan. 3, 2023. Newsom appointed then Secretary of State Padilla in January 2021 as Harris became vice president, but Nov. 8 is the first general statewide election since then. Padilla, an MIT-trained engineer who turned to politics, is challenged in both contests by activist Republican attorney Mark Meuser, who opposed COVID vaccine requirements and pandemic restrictions.

House of Representatives

The Republican Party is hoping to flip the 49th District, with former San Juan Capistrano Mayor Brian Maryott replacing Rep. Mike Levin after two terms. Levin beat Maryott by 49% to 21% in the primary, but Republican votes could coalesce in the general election.

Mike Levin

Levin, a former environmental lawyer, has championed climate action legislation to protect his coastal district that stretches from Del Mar to Laguna Niguel, and supports abortion rights. Maryott, a financial planner, says he’s pro-life but respects other viewpoints.

The district has turned increasingly Democratic over the past decade, prompting Darrell Issa, the sole Republican in San Diego County’s delegation, to resign from Congress and then run and win in Duncan Hunter’s former conservative, rural East County district.

Issa looks set for re-election after winning 62% of the vote in the primary, through his statement that overturning Roe v. Wade was “a great day for the cause and the principle of life” may cost him some votes in the general election. He faces Democrat Stephen Houlahan, a nurse and former Santee city councilmember.

The county’s three other Democrats in Congress, Sara Jacobs, Scott Peters and Juan Vargas, all won their primaries with over 50% of the vote and face only token Republican opposition. Peters recently received his fifth endorsement from the influential U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

State Senate

The sprawling new 18th District stretches from Chula Vista along the border through Imperial County and then in a counter-clockwise arc through parts of Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Chula Vista Councilman and Coastal Commission Chair Steve Padilla won the primary with 61.0% of the vote and appears headed to state elected office.

In the 32nd District, which stretches from Julian and Borrego Springs into Riverside and parts of Orange County, Republican Assemblymember Kelly Seyarto is seeking to move up to the Senate. After a career as a firefighter, Seyarto entered politics in Murietta, becoming mayor of the fast growing city. He won with primary with 62.8% of the vote.

Catherine Blakespear

Seeking her first state office, Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear is running in the 38th District, which stretches along the coast from Mission Bay into south Orange County. Blakespear, a Democrat, has been active in environmental and transportation causes and is currently chair of SANDAG. In the primary she split the Democratic vote with OC labor leader Joe Kerr, winning 43.0% of the vote to 45.9% for Republican political newcomer Matt Gunderson, who owns auto dealerships in Orange County.

In the 40th District, which covers much of East and North County, Sen. Brian Jones is running for a second term. Jones, a Republican from Santee, received 54.4% of the primary vote to 45.6% for Democrat Joseph Rocha, a Marine captain and prosecutor who had earlier challenged Rep. Darrell Issa.

State Assembly

Democratic incumbents Tasha Boerner Horvath in the 77th District, Chris Ward in the 78th District and newly elected Akilah Weber in the 79th District all received over 60% of the vote in their primaries and appear headed for re-election.

Redistricting put two well-known Republican incumbents, Marie Waldron and Randy Voepel, in the 75th District. Waldron, who beat Voepel in the primary by 63.5% to 36.5%, is a business owner from Escondido and the former Republican leader in the Assembly. Voepel is a Navy veteran and long-time conservative voice from Santee.

Brian Maienschein

There’s a chance the 76th District will change parties. Republican Kristie Bruce-Lane, a businesswoman and Olivenhain Municipal Water District director, is challenging Democratic incumbent Brian Maienschein, himself a former Republican who switched parties during the Donald Trump presidency. Maienschein, a former San Diego city councilmember, received 49.9% of the vote in the primary, with Bruce-Lane getting 28.1% and Republican June Cutter taking 22.0%.

In the 80th District in the South Bay, the race between former San Diego City Councilmembers David Alvarez and Georgette Gómez is a battle between two wings of the Democrat Party. Alvarez, a traditional Democrat, was elected to fill the remaining term of Lorena Gonzalez, and led Gómez, a progressive, by five percentage points in the primary.

Judges

Patricia Guerrero

Justices of the California Supreme Court are appointed by the Governor to serve 12-year-terms. If confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments, they then face a yes/no confirmation by voters at the next gubernatorial election. On the ballot for the first time are Patricia Guerrero, a San Diegan who became the first Latina chief justice, and two associate justices, Joshua Groban and Martin Jenkins. Associate Justice Goodwin Liu is on the ballot to serve a second 12-year-term.

Similarly, there 12 judges on the Court of Appeal who face yes/no confirmations following appointment by the Governor and confirmation by the Commission on Judicial Appointments. All of the positions are for the Fourth District, which serves Inyo, San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange, San Diego, and Imperial counties.

In San Diego County, there are two Superior Court offices on the ballot. For Office 35, Deputy Public Defender Michael J. Flemming is rated “qualified” and Asst. U.S. Atty. Rebecca Kanter “well qualified” by the San Diego County Bar Association. For Office 36, Court Commissioner Peter Singer is rated “qualified” and Deputy Atty. Gen. Pete Murray, a retied Navy pilot, “well qualified.”

Schools

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony K. Thurmond, an educator and former school board trustee from the Bay Area, is seeking a second term in the officially nonpartisan office. He received 45.9% of the primary vote, and faces Lance Ray Christensen, a Republican activist, who polled second at 11.9%.

The San Diego Unified School District, California’s second largest, now elects trustees from specific geographic areas. Political newcomer Shana Hazan has received widespread support in her campaign to represent District B and won the primary with 52.5% of the vote. Hazan is a former teacher and nonprofit executive who serves on the California First 5 Commission.

In District C, the race is closer. Cody Petterson, an educator educator and adviser to County Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer, received 44.9% of the vote in the primary, with second-place finisher Becca Williams, a conservative charter-school founder, getting 31.6%.

Board of Supervisors

Nathan Fletcher

Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, who was the face of the county’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and chairs the Board of Supervisors, is up for re-election in District 4. Fletcher is a Marine combat veteran and former state Assembly member. The position is nonpartisan, but Fletcher is a Democrat. He faces Republican opposition on the right from Amy Reichert, whose organization ReOpen San Diego fought efforts to contain the virus.

Supervisor Jim Desmond, a retired airline pilot who was often a dissenting voice during the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns and vaccine mandates, is running for a second term. His opponent is Tiffany Boyd-Hodgson, a scientist and small-business owner who is a director of the Vallecitos Water District. She has the support of much of the Democratic establishment.

San Diego County Sheriff

Kelly Martinez

Undersheriff Kelly Martinez, second in command at the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, led in the primary with 37.5% of the vote. She has the backing of former three-term Sheriff Bill Gore as well as much of the political establishment, including four of the five county supervisors. If elected, she would be the county’s first female sheriff.

Martinez faces former city prosecutor John Hemmerling, a Republican who received 20.4% of the vote in June. Hemmerling drew controversy over comments critical of transgender women, and resigned from the city in May. He has since been endorsed by retired sheriff’s commander Dave Myers, who came in third in the primary.

Other County Offices

District Atty. Summer Stephan is running unopposed for a second full term, but two other county races are contested.

Barbara Bry

The highest-profile race is between former San Diego City Councilmember and mayoral candidate Barbra Bry and Jordan Marks to succeed retiring Ernest Dronenburg i Jr. in the office of Assessor/Recorder/County Clerk. Bry, a high-tech entrepreneur, vows if elected “to improve and modernize this critical office that so often flies under the radar.” Marks, who serves as a chief deputy assessor in the department, has union and business endorsements and promises to be an advocate for taxpayers.

San Diego County Treasurer-Tax Collector Dan McAllister is seeking a sixth term. He faces Greg Hodosevich, who has served as chief financial officers for a number of small and medium-sized companies in San Diego.

San Diego City Council

Incumbent City Council members Jen CampbellMonica Montgomery-Steppe and Vivian Moreno are up for re-election in Districts 2, 4 and 8, but only in Campbell’s case is there anything but token opposition. Both Montbomery-Steppe and Moreno polled over 60% in the primary.

Jen Campbell

Campbell, a physician who is backed by Mayor Todd Gloria, the Chamber of Commerce and much of the Democratic Party establishment, has been under fire from neighborhood activists for her efforts to find a compromise on short-term rentals and her support for redeveloping the dilapidated Midway District. She faced numerous challengers in the primary, but led with 29.8% of the vote to Republican real estate agent Linda Lukacs‘ 25.4%.

The District 6 seat is open, with former radio personality and environmental activist Tommy Hough and nonprofit director Kent Lee vying to succeed Chris Cate. Hough, who serves as a county planning commissioner, has been actively campaigning for the position for several years. Lee, who led in the primary by 40.7% to 37.1%, has the support of the chamber.

Chula Vista Mayor

The race for mayor of San Diego County’s rapidly growing second city has drawn national attention and been shaken by clandestine surveillance. The race is officially nonpartisan, but it’s a Democrat vs. Republican battle in microcosm.

Ammar Campa-Najjar

Ammar Campa-Najjar, who twice ran unsuccessfully for Congress against Duncan Hunter and Darrell Issa, came in second in the primary but then won endorsements from three challengers. He faces City Councilman John McCann, a Naval Reserve officer and small business owner, who came in first, but with only 30.8% of the vote.

McCann has accused Campa-Najjar of not living in the South Bay, and hired a private investigator to tail him. Campa-Najjar, who worked in the Obama administration in Washington, grew up in Chula Vista and has a home there.

Campa-Najjar is backed by the Democratic establishment, from Gov. Gavin Newsom on down, while McCann is endorsed by the county Republican Party and the local police union.

Proposition 1

This amends the California Constitution to expressly include an individual’s fundamental right to reproductive freedom, including the right to choose abortion and contraceptives. The proposition was drafted after the U.S. Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade. Approving Prop. 1 will make it very difficult for a future conservative Legislature to take away reproductive rights, as is happening in many Southern states. But it wouldn’t prevent Congress from banning abortion, as some Republicans have suggested.

Propositions 26 and 27

Do you believe Californians deserve more opportunities to gamble, specifically with wagering over the outcome of sporting events? If so, these are for you. Prop. 26 favors existing Indian casinos by requiring that sports betting to take place there or at racetracks, while Prop. 27 permits betting both in casinos and online via companies like FanDuel, DraftKings and BetMGM. If you’re against more gambling, then voting no on both preserves the status quo.

Proposition 28

Only about 20% of California public schools have full-time art and music programs. This measure spearheaded by former Los Angeles schools head Austin Beutner would allocate $1 billion annually from the state’s General Fund to ensure arts and music education in all K–12 public schools, including charter schools.

Proposition 29

This may look familiar because it’s the third time the the Service Employees International Union-United Health Care Workers West has attempted to use a ballot measure to pressure the kidney dialysis industry in an organizing battle. The measure would force every center to have a doctor and nurse on site at all times, dramatically increasing costs. If this measure fails, the union says plans to fund a fourth try.

Proposition 30

This measure would place an new tax on high-income California residents and use the money to help lower-income residents buy zero-emission vehicles. Some of the money would also pay for more vehicle charging stations and fund wildfire prevention efforts. Specifically, an additional state tax of 1.75% would be imposed on incomes of $2 million or more. The official Legislative Analyst’s evaluation of the proposition states “some taxpayers probably would take steps to reduce the amount of income taxes they owe” — including potentially leaving the state.

Proposition 31

Teen vaping. Pixabay

Senate Bill 793 prohibiting store sales of most flavored tobacco products passed the Legislature with just one dissenting vote in 2020. But a referendum backed by the tobacco industry made it onto the 2022 Ballot. The law bans sales of flavored e-cigarettes, menthol cigarettes, non-premium flavored cigars and cigarillos, and other flavored smokable, vapable and smokeless tobacco products. Vote “no” to keep the law in place or “yes” to repeal it.

Measure A

This San Diego County measure would enact a special tax on the marijuana businesses, including retailers and cultivators, in unincorporated areas. Proponents say the measure will fund cannabis regulation efforts, while opponents say having the entire county vote on a tax affecting only a small number of businesses is inequitable.

Measure B

Owners of single-family homes in San Diego don’t pay a separate fee for garbage service. This is enshrined in the century-old People’s Ordinance, which apparently didn’t consider apartment dwellers to be people, and didn’t envision condominiums. Residents of those homes have to pay. Over the years, two grand juries have cited this as inequitable. In addition, trash pickup has evolved to include costly recycling and yard waste disposal. The measure on the ballot would repeal the ordinance, and proponents claim the resulting revenue would allow more frequent recycling pickup and other new services.

Measure C

An aerial view of the Midway District along Sports Arena Boulevard. Courtesy City of San Diego

This is another repeat. After voters approved a similar measure by 57% in 2020, a judge invalidated the vote over an environmental technicality. The Midway District, with its strip clubs and old warehouses, is currently covered by a 30-foot coastal height limit. The limit makes it impossible to redevelop the area with new homes and a new sports arena. Opponents of development say removing the limit would set a bad precedent for areas closer to the coast, and suggest turning some of the district into a park. Presumably the strip clubs could remain.

Measure D

This measure would repeal a 2012 ban on project labor agreements that conflicts with state law. Such agreements cover multiple contractors and unions to systematize labor relations at a construction site. If approved, the city could benefit with new state grants, but construction costs could increase.

Measure H

The measure would allow childcare businesses to operate in city parks. It’s intended to make it easer for childcare professionals to start new businesses and support working parents. The measure was placed on the ballot by the City Council and has widespread support.



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Ellen Bullock