UPDATE: San Diego Mayor’s Race (Still) Too Close to Call

By Arturo Castañares
Editor-at-Large

(Story updated Match 13, 2020 @ 6:58 pm)

The race to be the next Mayor of San Diego is still undecided ten days after the election as votes continue to be counted by the Registrar of Voters.

With all Election Day and absentee votes counted, Assemblyman Todd Gloria leads the six-candidate race with 42% of the vote, followed by San Diego City Councilman Scott Sherman with 23.1%, followed by San Diego Councilwoman Barbara Bry with 22.9%.

Bry was 3,063 votes behind Sherman on the night of the election, but has now closed the gap to just 337 votes.

Only the top two candidates go on to the General Election in November. Although Gloria is assured the top spot based on his vote lead, statistically it’s too early to know for sure who will end up in second place.

As of Friday evening, the Registrar of Voters still has 60,000 votes to process and count, including absentee ballots dropped off or mailed on election day, and provisional ballots, which have to be counted by hand. The Registrar had 350,000 uncounted votes on election night, but has processed nearly 300,000 of those since then. The Registrar has up to a month to complete the count and certify the results.

In past elections, absentees and provisional ballots have tended to be distributed proportionally throughout the county, and voters within the City of San Diego represent approximately 43% of total registered voters in the County.

Gloria and Bry are both Democrats, and Sherman is a registered Republican. Although the mayor’s race is non-partisan, the candidates relied on traditionally Democratic and Republican support in their respective campaigns. Historically, late absentees and election day provisional ballots tend to include more Democrats than Republicans due to known voter patterns and outreach efforts.

If these historic trends hold true for the remaining ballots in this election, Gloria and Bry would expect to receive more of the remaining votes than Sherman. If Gloria and Bry split those votes by their respective percentages of the current tally, Gloria could expect to gain the most votes, but Bry could expect to gain a large proportion of those as well, and statistically, more than Sherman.

The question that remains to be answered is whether Bry can overcome the now 337 vote deficit and jump past Sherman to make the runoff.

A Gloria vs. Sherman election would be a more traditional Democrat vs. Republican contest. Democrats outnumber Republicans in the City. Additionally, non-partisan voters are the second-largest voter group in the city.

In that race, Gloria would have an advantage over Sherman, and would most likely win.

But, if Bry were to make the runoff election, then it would be two Democrats in the General Election.

Conventional wisdom would predict that Gloria would receive support from more Democrats because of the endorsement from the Democratic Party and labor unions, but Bry, also a Democrat, would still receive Democratic votes, in addition to a good slice of independents, as well.

But the big advantage for Bry would be among Republican voters. A large Republican voter pool is expected in November when Donald Trump is up for re-election. Those Republicans can vote for Mayor, too, and they will have a choice between a progressive, openly-gay, labor-supported Democratic standard-bearer in Todd Gloria, and a moderate, businesswoman with broad support, or just not voting at all.

History has shown that some will skip a race without a Republican on the ballot, but many will most likely hedge their bets and vote for the more moderate of the two Democrats in a “lesser of two evils” dilemma.  In that case, Bry would piece together some Democrats, a good chunk of Independents, and the majority of Republicans. That would total more votes than Gloria’s majority of the Democrats, Independents, and some Republicans that may cross party lines for him based on issues that may be more important to them than political affiliation.

Political observers differ on their predictions in a Dem vs. Dem election. Both Gloria and Bry are well-known candidates with big fundraising potentials. In a city where developers, business leaders, labor unions, and other interest groups play significant roles in campaigns, it is unknown how such an election would turn out.

For now, all eyes are on the daily vote counts released by the Registrar of Voters. It will be at least a week before a more clear picture develops and voters know which two candidates will campaign to be their next mayor.

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