SAN DIEGO — The first Asian American on the San Diego City Council in about half a century will be elected Tuesday in a race that will also impact the nine-member panel’s balance of power.
The winner between Chris Cate, a vice president of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, and Carol Kim, an education consultant, will become the first Asian American to serve on the council since Thomas Hom in the 1960s.
Cate fell just short in the June primary of avoiding a runoff for District 6, which represents Mira Mesa, Kearny Mesa and part of Clairemont Mesa — neighborhoods with large Asian American populations.
If he wins, he would provide Mayor Kevin Faulconer with an additional ally on the council and reduce the Democratic majority on the technically nonpartisan panel to 5-4. A Kim victory would maintain the Democrats’ 6-3 veto- proof majority.
In practice, the council members cooperate on the vast majority of issues.
However, the majority flexed its muscle earlier this year by adopting an incremental increase in the minimum wage in San Diego and overriding a Faulconer veto. The ordinance was later suspended when opponents gathered enough petition signatures to force a public vote, which will likely take place in June 2016.
The District 6 seat is currently held by Lorie Zapf. When the council districts were remapped a few years ago, her residence fell into District 2, forcing her to run for re-election there.
She won handily in June, as did Councilwoman Myrtle Cole and Councilman David Alvarez.
The Cate-Kim campaign has been subdued compared to the congressional race taking place in the same part of town. The only exceptions came when Kim made claims about Cate’s voting record and residency that turned out to be unfounded.
Kim has proposed increasing police officer salaries 5 percent annually over the next four years to halt a steep attrition rate.
“We can’t ignore the market,” Kim said. “How can we expect to retain our officers when they can go to other law enforcement agencies in the area and get considerably better compensation packages?”
The city could use one-third of a projected budget surplus to fund the pay hikes at a chronically understaffed police department, she said.
Cate released a plan for neighborhoods in the district that would prioritize infrastructure improvements, reduce traffic congestion and help residents participate in community meetings and engage with elected officials.
The plan was crafted by a “Neighborhoods First Coalition” assembled by the candidate.
“The coalition and this strategic plan are firsts for San Diego,” Cate said. “This group and the plan they’ve helped assemble will serve as my guidepost and it will be used to hold me accountable, to ensure I’m working for each (of the) District 6 neighborhoods, which have been neglected for too long.”
Meanwhile, voters around the county will select mayors in:
- Carlsbad, where Matt Hall is running for reelection unopposed;
- Chula Vista, where Councilwoman Mary Salas faces former Councilman Jerry Rindone;
- El Cajon, where Bill Wells faces challenges from Allen Theweny and Jonathan Wright;
- Encinitas, with a four-way race between Mike Bawany, Alex Fidel, Kristin Gaspar and Tony Kranz;
- Escondido, where incumbent Sam Abed faces challenges from Councilwoman Olga Diaz and Stephen Shaw;
- Imperial Beach, where Mayor Jim Janney faces Serge Dedina;
- La Mesa, where longtime Mayor Art Madrid is taking on Mark Arapostathis;
- National City, where another veteran Mayor, Ron Morrison, is opposed by Luis Natividad;
- Poway, where Mayor Don Higgenson faces Steve Vaus; and
- Vista, where Judy Ritter’s reelection bid attracted a challenge by Cody Campbell.