San Diego election 2016 preview: City CouncilPolitically Aware Wednesday, November 25th, 2015
Commentary: Politically Aware
In presidential election years, the five odd-numbered City Council districts are up for election. As with the California legislative elections, they can be dull because the incumbent wins easily or the general election features two candidates from the same party. 2016 looks to be a bit more interesting than most, with three open seats and an incumbent who could face a stiff challenge.
That leaves one safe seat: Mark Kersey, District 5. Kersey has the conservative bona fides to keep his district happy, but clearly wants to be a problem solver in City Council. He hasn’t drawn a significant Democratic challenger and probably won’t. The question isn’t whether he can keep his seat, but how far his star will rise.
District 1. In 2012, this was the swing City Council district, and showed the importance of Democrats making it to November. Ray Ellis beat incumbent Sherri Lightener in the June primary but failed to reach 50 percent, allowing Lightener to come back and beat him in November. Combined with Bob Filner’s victory, it was supposed to give Democrats four years of unfettered control of City Hall; now, it is all that keeps Democrats in charge of City Council.
Council President Lightener is termed out, but Ellis is back. At this point, he is facing Barbara Bry and Joe LaCava. The former seems to be the favorite of big money Democrats, while the latter is trying to solidify the grass roots support. Expect Democrats to pull out all the stops to keep Ellis below 50 percent in June, and then unify to get the surviving Democrat across the finish line in November.
District 3. Through 2013 and 2014, it seemed like this race could be a progressive bloodbath, with a number of candidates rivaling the current Republican presidential field. Somehow, it narrowed to two candidates: Anthony Bernal and Chris Ward. Ward is drawing strong support from the LGBT community and establishment with both his boss, State Sen. Marty Block and Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins supporting him despite running against each other. Bernal works for Councilmember Gloria and has some LGBT support, but may need a surge from downtown voters to replace LGBT voters who want to keep their seat at the table.
District 7. Councilmember Scott Sherman could have a much tougher road than fellow incumbent Kersey. District 7 isn’t as red as District 5, but Sherman managed to tie up the election in June 2012, coming in a hair over 50 percent. Two Democratic candidates are trying to ensure it doesn’t happen again: Jose Caballero and Justin DeCesare. If one of them can make it to November, Sherman could face a tough test. Democrats would love to keep this seat in play rather than letting District 1 decide the fate of the Council.
District 9. Incumbent Marti Emerald decided not to run for re-election, leaving the seat open. It will likely stay in Democratic hands, but it will be a battle between money, organizing and endorsements. The current slate includes Ricardo Flores, Georgette Gomez, Araceli Martinez and Sarah Saez, but this race feels the least developed, and more candidates could be coming.
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