By Arturo Castañares
For the first time in San Diego history, the two candidates running for Mayor in the General Election will both be Democrats, with no Republican having made the run-off election.
California State Assembly Todd Gloria and San Diego Councilwoman Barbara Bry are now the remaining candidates from a field of six that ran in the primary election.
On Election night, Gloria led all candidates with 40.2% of the vote, San Diego City Councilman Scott Sherman was in second place with 25.2% of the vote, and Bry trailed Sherman in third place by more than 3,000 votes.
But the Registrar of Voters office reported it still had an estimated 350,000 votes to be counted after the election, which included absentee ballots dropped off or mailed on election day, as well as provisional ballots that require individual verification.
On each day after the election, the Registrar’s office reported updates to the total vote tally, and on each update, Bry closed the gap with Sherman. Last week, Bry surpassed Sherman’s vote total and jumped into second place.
On Friday, the Register reported that only 1,500 ballots remain to be counted. With the latest update, Bry now has a 1,197 lead over Sherman. Unless 80% of all of the remaining ballots are for Sherman (which is statistically impossible), Gloria and Bry will be the official candidates in the November General Election.
In the history of San Diego since its incorporation in 1850, only 10 Democrats have been elected Mayor, including Bob Filner that only served for 8 months before resigning in 2013.
This election will now pit traditionally aligned interest groups against each other as two Democrats face off in the election for the City’s chief executive.
Gloria received the endorsement of the Democratic Party, several elected officials, including California Governor Gavin Newsom, former Governor Jerry Brown, and City Attorney Mara Elliott to name a few, as well as several powerful labor groups.
Bry enjoyed the support of big local Democratic leaders, including Congressman Mark Levin, former Congresswoman Lynn Schenk, and former City Councilwoman Donna Frye, as well as homeless advocate Father Joe Carroll, and several other community leaders.
Now, as the race moves to the General Election, the dynamics shift as both candidates look to capture shares of the independent and Republican votes in November.
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. Although only Democrats are running, 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 in Bry, or just not voting at all.
History has shown that some Republicans will skip a race with only Democrats 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.
And given the uncertainty of how the elections will be run if the COVID-19 crisis is not over by October, no one is sure of how many people will vote this November, which would also affect the outcome of the race.
The only thing that is certain is that the next Mayor of San Diego will be a Democrat, but which one is still anyone’s guess.