Council race leaders as 2020 ballots continue to be counted. Top: Joe LaCava, Stephen Whitburn, Marni von Wilpert. Bottom: Raul Campillo, Sean Elo-Rivera

Five newcomers will fill San Diego City Council seats thanks to terms limits or current members opting to run for other offices – but the potential shift is even more dramatic.

In the first returns, Joe LaCava, Stephen Whitburn, Marni von Wilpert, Raul Campillo and Sean Elo-Rivera established sizable leads in their respective races, as two candidates endorsed by outgoing Mayor Kevin Faulconer faltered.

The District 5 and District 7 races in fact, could swing the council to a supermajority of Democrats. Though the races remain non-partisan, votes often fall along expected party lines on issues from growth to labor.

District 1

With mayoral candidate Barbara Bry termed out, community volunteer Joe LaCava, with almost 62% of the vote, led Will Moore. LaCava is a civil engineer known as an advocate for neighborhood preservation. Moore, a small-business attorney, wants more aggressive housing development. Moore has support from the Democratic mayors of Encinitas, Imperial Beach and National City. LaCava received endorsements from former council member Sherri Lightner, the Sierra Club and San Diego City Lifeguards. The district covers the city’s northwestern neighborhoods. 

LaCava said he was “overwhelmed and extremely honored” that voters “have entrusted me to represent them at City Hall.

“San Diego, like cities across America, will be facing lean times with difficult decisions ahead,” he added. “I look forward to putting in the hard work to help jump start our economy safely, tackle our long-term issues, and provide the neighborhood services our residents and local businesses deserve.”

District 3

As Chris Ward leaves after one term to run for the state Assembly, nonprofit leader Stephen Whitburn led substantially over Toni Duran, a district aide in state Senate District 39. Both candidates are Democrats, but Whitburn has the local party endorsement. The district encompasses some of the most urban communities of San Diego, from downtown, Bankers Hill and Hillcrest to North Park and University Heights. Whitburn scored 63.3% of the vote.

District 5

The candidates vying to fill the seat Mark Kersey is vacating due to term limits, are Deputy City Attorney Marni von Wilpert, and attorney and small business owner Joe Leventhal, had the tightest of the council races Tuesday. Von Wilpert’s lead over Leventhal slipped slightly, to 55.1% to 44.9%. The county Democratic Party backs von Wilpert, while Levanthal, who served on the city’s ethics commission, received the endorsement of Faulconer and the San Diego Chamber of Commerce. 

District 7

Deputy City Attorney Raul Campillo leads restaurant owner Noli Zosa, of the Dirty Birds chain, who is endorsed by Faulconer, Father Joe Carroll, Sheriff Bill Gore, Supervisor Dianne Jacob. Campillo – who secured 56.8% of the vote – received endorsements from the county Democratic Party and a number of labor unions. They hope to replace Scott Sherman, who is termed out and lost in the mayoral primary. 

District 9

The race to replace City Council President Georgette Gómez, received a shake-up when primary leader Kelvin Barrios suspended his campaign over financial mistakes he admitted committing in past political posts. With that development, community college trustee Sean Elo-Rivera established the largest lead among the council candidates, at just under 26 points.

– Staff reports

Updated at 7:54 a.m., Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020

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