CHULA VISTA, Calif. — Bart Miesfeld and Marco Verdugo appear headed to a runoff in the special election for Chula Vista city attorney.

Verdugo and Miesfeld are neck-in-neck with 39% and 38% of the vote, respectively, according to early results updated Thursday from the San Diego County Registrar of Voters. Dan Smith Diaz trails with 23% of the vote.

A candidate will need to receive more than 50% of the vote to win outright. If none of the candidates meet the threshold, the top two vote-getters will move to a runoff election on Mar. 5 next year. Whoever is elected will serve out the remainder of the term, which runs through December 2026.

“I’m fired up to win this campaign, serve the city I’ve always called home and protect Chula Vista’s families, finances, and future as the City’s Attorney,” Verdugo said in an emailed statement to FOX 5.

“Early results are showing that the voters do want me to be city attorney. You know, I was city attorney before,” Miesfeld said to FOX 5 Tuesday night. “Experience for this job really counts, it really matters.”

The Chula Vista city attorney seat opened after the unexpected death of Simon Silva who passed from cancer during the November 2022 race. His name could not be removed from the ballots, and he ended up beating his opponent by 756 votes.

After Silva won, Chula Vista officials started planning for a special election, as the city charter requires.

The Chula Vista City Attorney is the city’s highest ranking lawyer, leading an office that provides legal services and policy guidance to other elected officials.

FOX 5’s Danielle Dawson and Christy Simeral contributed to this report.