SAN DIEGO — Councilman David Alvarez appears to have won a spot in a runoff election against his colleague Kevin Faulconer for San Diego mayor early next year.
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Faulconer led a field of 12 candidates in Tuesday’s special election with 43.58 percent of the vote, with mail ballots and all 581 precincts counted, according to the San Diego County Registrar of Voters. That was not enough to win the election outright, but it easily secured him a spot in the runoff electionl
Alvarez finished 2,638 votes ahead of former Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher in the race for second. He received 52,283 votes, 25.59 percent of the vote, and Fletcher 49,645, 24.3 percent. About 34,500 provisional and absentee ballots still had to be counted, but most observers say Fletcher has little chance of overcoming Alvarez’s lead.
The only other candidate to receive at least 1 percent of the vote was former City Attorney Michael Aguirre, who finished fourth with 4.44 percent.
Because no candidate received a majority, a runoff will be held. City Attorney Jan Goldsmith told KUSI city officials were looking at Feb. 11 for the runoff.
“When we started this campaign, we said we were going to have an opportunity to get our city back on track, and tonight, we took a huge step forward to do exactly that,” Faulconer told cheering supporters at the US Grant Hotel Tuesday.
Faulconer thanked San Diegans for their votes in the race to succeed the disgraced Bob Filner and said he couldn’t wait to “hit the ground running” for the runoff campaign.
Alvarez campaigned on strengthening San Diego’s neighborhoods and had the backing of the county Democratic Party and San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, an umbrella group for the region’s unions. Fletcher gained the support of individual unions and numerous state elected officials.
Alvarez told supporters he started the race as an underdog.
“Well, we’ve proven if we worked together, worked hard, and share real values with people about hard work, about dedication, that anything is possible,” Alvarez said.
In brief comments, Fletcher told his supporters he was proud of the support he was given.
“It’s a tremendous honor to stand with labor, to stand with firefighters, to stand with police officers, to stand with small business owners and students, and we have run a great campaign,” said Fletcher, who switched his registration to the Democratic Party in the nonpartisan race after serving as a Republican in the Legislature.
County Democratic Chairwoman Francine Busby said Alvarez surged in the last weeks of the campaign because the public got to know him better.
“After a divisive and tumultuous year for the city, David has run a positive, progressive, well-organized campaign,” Busby said.
“He has reached out to communities that are too rarely represented in our politics. He has inspired hundreds of volunteers from every neighborhood and walk of life to join his team.”
Registrar of Voters Michael Vu said 357,000 mail ballots were sent out last month. He told City News Service that he expected a 40-45 percent turnout of the city’s approximately 683,000 registered voters, a higher than the city’s past four special elections.
Before the polls closed Tuesday, interim Mayor Todd Gloria said at a news conference he hoped the eventual winner would focus on fiscal discipline and infrastructure issues.
“As we’ve seen in recent months, who is mayor matters,” Gloria said. “It can have a direct impact on the health of our city and on families.”
The special election was brought about by Filner’s resignation in August, when he was under fire for sexual harassment and being investigated for various transgressions, including alleged shakedowns of developers.
Filner subsequently pleaded guilty to one felony count of false imprisonment by violence and two misdemeanor counts of battery and was placed on three years probation.
Lawyer Hud Collins; Harry Dirks, a Realtor; San Diego State University student Michael Kemmer; businessman Sina “Simon” Moghadam, construction superintendent Tobiah Pettus; and retired contractor Lincoln Pickard all drew around a half-percent or less. Engineer Farrah Pirahanchi qualified as a write- in candidate.
Bruce Coons, whose name appeared on the ballot, withdrew from the race and threw his support to Alvarez, but still received nearly 900 votes