John McCann and Ammar Campa-Najjar
John McCann, (left) and Ammar Campa-Najjar traded accusations over residency and financial filings in the Chula Vista mayor race. Campaign photos

Councilman John McCann — one of the few Republican bright spots Tuesday in San Diego County — held a comfortable lead over Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar in their race for Chula Vista mayor.

McCann led 55.2% to 44.8% early Wednesday but wasn’t near declaring victory in a bruising campaign to succeed  termed-out Mayor Mary Casillas Salas.

He didn’t think the vote would be solidified for “probably a week,” but said he was cautiously optimistic.

McCann raised doubts about Campa-Najjar’s residency (which he has rejected) and a Democrat accused McCann of violating campaign finance reporting rules (which the FPPC didn’t pursue).

The race is officially nonpartisan, but both parties put resources into the campaigns.

In an election that saw Democrats sweep all nine seats on the San Diego City Council, McCann downplayed his GOP affiliation.

“You know, my focus is always about serving the people and finding solutions,” he said a half-hour after midnight.

“A pothole does not have a party registration. We just need to make sure that we fill it and maintain our roads so everybody can can drive on the road. There is no political affiliation and maintaining our infrastructure.”

He said he looked forward to counsel from outgoing Mayor Salas, a Democrat, in leading the county’s second-largest city, “pushing 300,000.”

“We worked successfully together [on issues] like the Bayfront, the [South Bay] university and I would be very appreciative of getting her advice so I can continue to help.”

He said he always worked well with his council colleagues, even combining with Democrats for a 3-2 vote to join San Diego Community Power “to be able to give our residents an alternative to San Diego Gas & Electric.”

“My only priority really is to do what’s best for the city of Chula Vista,” the 54-year-old Eastlake resident said in a phone interview. “And I’m very pragmatic in that matter.”

Campa-Najjar — who didn’t respond to requests for an interview — served in various roles within President Barack Obama’s administration, including a public relations position in the Employment & Training Administration.

He unsuccessfully ran for Congress in East County, once in 2018 against Rep. Duncan Hunter and again in 2020 against current Rep. Darrell Issa.

“A new day is dawning in Chula Vista,” he said before the election. “As a third-generation Chula Vistan, Obama Administration official and small business owner, I’m offering new leadership for a city on the verge of new possibilities as we hopefully transition into a post-pandemic economy.”

City News Service contributed to this report.

Updated at 3:08 a.m. Nov. 9, 2022