The San Diego County Registrar of Voters office in Kearny Mesa.

A record 18.25 million Californians are registered to vote in the Nov. 8 general election and a contentious presidential race likely to spark equally record turnout. Here is a guide to the key races on the ballot in San Diego County.


The first woman nominated for President by a major U.S. political party faces a reality TV star in one of the strangest and most contentious races in American history.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton at the town hall debate in St. Louis. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

Supporters of Hillary Clinton point to her 30 years of experience in Washington, beginning as First Lady and continuing as a senator from New York and secretary of state under President Obama. Critics question her use of a private email server and fault her reaction to a terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya. Vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine was governor of Virginia and is now one of the state’s two senators.

Opposing Clinton is Donald Trump, a wealthy real estate developer who lost $1 billion on Atlantic City casinos in the early 1990s but achieved notoriety a decade later as a reality TV star. Trump has built a base of largely white, lower-income voters by suggesting that Obama wasn’t born in America, opposing immigration and foreign trade, and promising to build a giant wall along the Mexican border. His running mate, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, is a traditional, though very conservative Republican.

Clinton is expected to continue the policies of President Obama, while Trump represents radical, populist change. As a border city that is economically integrated with Mexico, San Diego could suffer economically from a Trump presidency.


In a sign of the Republican Party’s fading prospects in the Golden State, the two candidates to succeed Sen. Barbara Boxer are both Democrats. California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris and Rep. Loretta Sanchez, a 10-term Congresswoman from Orange County, are in a November runoff. Harris has been endorsed Boxer herself, Gov. Jerry Brown and President Obama. Harris beat Sanchez by more than 20 points in the June primary, and polls show her with a strong lead going into November.


Rep. Darrell Issa. Courtesy of the Congressman’s office

Eight-term Republican Rep. Darrell Issa faces serious Democratic opposition for the first time in in his congressional career. Retired Marine Col. Doug Applegate, running in his first campaign, surprised the political world by coming within 5 points of Issa in the primary. Originally a supporter of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential bid, Issa has been attacked for subsequently endorsing Donald Trump, while Applegate has had to fend off accusations surrounding a messy divorce. The 49th District, which encompasses north coastal San Diego and south Orange counties, is seen as one of the ten Republican House seats most at risk on Nov. 8.

Two-term Democrat Scott Peters, who beat former San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio in 2014, is now being challenged by Republican newcomer Denise Gitsham, a public relations executive and former George W. Bush administration lawyer. Gitsham has sought to distance herself from Trump, while Peters has positioned himself as a centrist focused on supporting business, life sciences and the military. He has been endorsed by both the San Diego and U.S. chambers of commerce. Peters represents the 52 District, which includes Coronado, La Jolla, much of the City of San Diego, and Poway.

Incumbents Juan Vargas in the 51st District, Trump stalwart Duncan Hunter in the 50th District and Susan Davis in the 53rd District face only token opposition.

State Senate

Toni Atkins. Photo by Chris Stone

Only one state Senate seat will be decided on Nov. 8, the 39th District now represented by Marty Block. Former Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, who is termed out in the lower chamber, is running against Republican newcomer John Renison, a small business owner. Atkins has been a force in local and state politics since 2000, when she was elected to the San Diego City Council. She served briefly as acting mayor before her election to the Assembly in 2010. As Assembly Speaker, the first from San Diego, she worked closely with Gov. Jerry Brown on a wide range of state legislation.

State Assembly

Termed-out San Diego City Councilman and interim Mayor Todd Gloria is seeking to advance his political career by representing the 78th District in the state Assembly. This was the district represented by Toni Atkins, who is running for the state Senate.

Incumbent Assembly members seeking re-election are Marie Waldron in the 75th District, Rocky Chavez in the 76th District, Brian Maienschein in the 77th District, Shirley Weber in the 79th and Lorena Gonzalez in the 80th District.

Chavez, a Republican, was one of the first in his party to denounce Donald Trump. Gonzalez, a Democrat, was named one of the Politco website’s 50 visionaries for 2016.

San Diego County Board of Supervisors

Dave Roberts. Photo by Chris Stone

Incumbent Dave Roberts and Encinitas Mayor Kristin Gaspar are in a runoff to represent District 3, which covers north San Diego, Del Mar, Encinitas and surrounding areas. Roberts, a Democrat, is seeking a second term, but was hurt by a year-long investigation into charges of workplace impropriety leveled by several former staff members. No criminal charges were filed, but the county paid $310,000 to settle claims. Gaspar, a Republican, was the first elected mayor of Encinitas. She was an early, vocal supporter of Donald Trump, but has since attempted to distance herself from the Republican presidential nominee. Her husband, Paul, is running for mayor of Encinitas.

San Diego City Council

Barbara Bry talks with a supporter. Photo by Chris Stone

The makeup of the San Diego City Council was largely decided in the June primary. Three of the five races were decided outright, with Chris Ward in the 3rd District and incumbents Mark Kersey in the 5th District and Scott Sherman in the 7th District winning over 50 percent of the vote.

Entrepreneur Barbara Bry came close to winning outright in the 1st District, and then her opponent, Ray Ellis, dropped out. She still needs votes on Nov. 8 to win, but Mayor Kevin Faulconer has already said he is looking forward to working with her on the council.

The 9th District council seat remains in contention. Environmental activist Georgette Gomez lost by 3 points in the primary to Ricardo Flores, retiring Councilwoman Marti Emerald’s chief of staff, but has since gained momentum. She has been endorsed by former Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, but Flores can point to support from Reps. Susan Davis and Juan Vargas, and state Sens. Ben Hueso and Marty Block.

San Diego City Attorney

Robert Hickey

Two members of termed-out City Atty. Jan Goldsmith’s staff are vying to succeed him. Mara Elliott, a Democrat, is the chief deputy city attorney, and Robert Hickey, a Republican, is also a deputy city attorney and 2011 San Diego County Prosecutor of the Year. Hickey has the endorsements of Mayor Kevin Faulconer, Sheriff Bill Gore and the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, but Elliott is backed my most Democratic elected leaders and trade unions.

San Diego Unified Board of Education

In the county’s largest school district, two-term trustees John Lee Evans and Richard Barrera are up for re-election. Both have served since 2008, and only Evans faces opposition, from political newcomer Stephen Groce. Trustee

Sharon Whitehurst-Payne, who was appointed after the resignation of Trustee Marne Foster, faces LaShae Collins, who beat her in the June primary. Collins is the district director for Assemblywoman Shirley Weber.

Local Ballot Measures and State Propositions

There are two San Diego County ballot measures, 12 City of San Diego propositions and 15 California propositions on the length ballot. See Times of San Diego’s separate guide to the ballot measures and propositions.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.