SAN DIEGO — Voters headed to the polls Tuesday to decide whether David Alvarez or Kevin Faulconer will replace former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, who left office in disgrace Aug. 30, nearly three years before the end of his term.
Both councilmen finished in the top two of nearly a dozen candidates to replace Filner in a Nov. 19 special election, but neither man garnered more than 50 percent of the vote, resulting into Tuesday’s runoff.
Kevin Faulconer and David Alvarez
Should Alvarez win, he would be the California border city’s first Latino mayor and his victory would spell a second straight mayoral win for Democrats in the traditionally conservative town.
Democrats currently hold a 5-4 majority on the technically nonpartisan City Council and the party is fielding two potentially strong candidates in GOP- held districts in elections later this year.
If Faulconer wins, he would regain control of the city’s top seat for the Republicans.
Alvarez picked up last-minute endorsements from President Barack Obama and Gov. Jerry Brown. He is also supported by organized labor and other Democratic officials.
Faulconer received strong backing from the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and pro-business Lincoln Club of San Diego County. He’s also been endorsed by prominent religious leaders, including legendary San Diego homeless advocate, Father Joe Carroll.
Faulconer emphasized his experience as the senior member of the City Council and the need to continue fiscal reforms implemented under Filner’s immediate predecessor, Jerry Sanders, a Republican who now runs the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Alvarez, meanwhile, touted the need to increase funding for vital city services, such as libraries, police and fire protection, street repair and street light installation. He also campaigned on the need for job creation, more school support, making San Diego a more sustainable city and the need for a more open government.
Alvarez, 33, was born and raised in San Diego’s primarily Latino Barrio Logan neighborhood and was the first in his family to graduate from high school and college. He began his professional career in social services and education before entering politics, joining the City Council in 2010 as its District 8 representative. District 8 includes Barrio Logan, Golden Hill, Logan Heights, Otay Mesa, San Ysidro, Southcrest and the Tijuana River Valley.
The married father of one young daughter lives in Logan Heights and graduated from San Diego State University, as did Oxnard native Faulconer.
Faulconer, a 46-year-old Point Loma resident, is also married and has two school-aged children. He worked in public relations before joining the City Council in 2006 as a representative for District 2, which includes downtown, Bankers Hill, Little Italy, the Midway District, Mission Beach, Mission Hills, Ocean Beach, Old Town, Pacific Beach and Point Loma.
The latest poll, released Sunday, show the candidates in a virtual dead- heat, with Faulconer narrowly leading 47 percent to Alvarez’s 46 percent.
Though neither candidate was a clear favorite to win the race, Faulconer was expected to hold a lead in the count of absentee ballots to be released just after 8 p.m. Registrar of Voters Michael Vu said about 170,000 mail-in ballots had been turned in as of midday.
Those who have not turned in an absentee ballot can do so at any polling place, Vu said.
But the winner will be determined at the city’s almost 500 polling places. Vu projected a turnout of around 45-50 percent.
The first results from the precincts should begin coming in between 9:30 and 10 p.m., Vu said.
The National University System Institute for Policy Studies found that Democrats had returned more absentee ballots overall than Republicans. However, the portion of GOP voters who had done so was greater than the percentage of Democrats.
Vince Vasquez, author of the NUSIPR report, said the endorsement of Alvarez by the president could add to Election Day interest.
“Polling shows that Faulconer maintains a narrow lead in this election,” Vasquez said. “Alvarez will have to generate a higher Democratic turnout on Election Day in order to win. With Obama an unknown factor in this race, it may be a late evening for poll watchers.”
Vasquez also said more than 40,000 absentee ballots had been returned by voters not affiliated with the Democratic or Republican parties.
City Council President Todd Gloria, who has been serving as interim mayor since Filner’s resignation, said that unless problems arise, the new mayor will be seated March 3. Gloria declined to run for the permanent position and has since endorsed fellow Democrat, Alvarez.
Residents in Solana Beach were also going to the polls Tuesday to decide whether special use permits should be issued for private events at the Fletcher Cove Community Center.