Home Message service Two Democrats in San Diego’s hottest council race using starkly different messaging

Two Democrats in San Diego’s hottest council race using starkly different messaging


The two candidates in San Diego’s most competitive city council runoff are both progressive Democrats, but their campaigns have starkly different messages and their supporters represent vastly different factions of the community.

Tommy Hough, a county planning commissioner, is waging an anti-developer campaign that demonizes inner-city special interests and promises to focus on potholes, infrastructure issues and other city priorities. piece.

Kent Lee, a nonprofit arts executive, focuses on his background as a community leader who served on local boards and consistently championed small business.

The two say they would be a better representative of the newly redesigned North Central District 6, which now includes Mira Mesa, University City, Kearny Mesa and part of South Scripps Ranch. The winner will replace Chris Cate, the last remaining Republican on the board.

Lee dominated the battle for endorsements, garnering support from the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, several powerful unions and nearly every politician in City Hall, including Mayor Todd Gloria.

While support from business and labor can seem daunting, several city council members have overcome this challenge in recent years. Joe LaCava, Vivian Moreno and Monica Montgomery Steppe were all elected without this support.

Hough says Lee’s impressive list of supporters shows that Lee is backed by powerful inner-city interests that don’t care about ordinary residents of San Diego’s suburban neighborhoods.

“This race is about neighborhoods versus downtown,” Hough said this week. “Voters have to ask themselves, ‘Who is going to take care of the community?'”

Lee says Hough presents voters with a false choice, saying he has a proven track record as a community leader in District 6 and more widespread support among neighborhood and merchant groups there.

“I have a real mix of everything – traders, city councils and the Asian community,” Lee said.

Support from Asian Americans could be key to the race. New council district boundaries approved in December increased their representation in District 6 from 34% of the total population to 40%, and Lee himself is Asian American.

Despite this advantage and Hough’s spending of $138,000 to $20,000 before the June 7 primary, Lee narrowly edged Hough by only 10,390 votes to 9,461 votes – or 40.73% to 37.09. %.

Since then, Hough has focused on issues likely to resonate with suburban voters, including a ballot measure that could repeal the city’s unusual policy of providing free trash pickup to single-family homes.

Hough opposes Measure B, arguing that it would essentially levy a new tax on residents already struggling with inflation and other challenges. Lee supports the measure, saying it would eliminate an inequity; currently, owners of single-family homes have a free service that tenants and co-owners must pay for.

While Lee has a more impressive list of endorsements, including the union representing city police officers, Hough isn’t completely empty.

He’s backed by most environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, and he’s backed by several former city council members: Marti Emerald, Sherri Lightner, and Harry Mathis.

But although Hough is widely seen as more progressive than Lee, the county Democratic Party has endorsed Lee. Through Sept. 1, registered Democrats in District 6 outnumbered registered Republicans by 36,278 to 22,092.

Lee says Hough’s ardently anti-development campaign message is inappropriate at a time when the city is facing a housing crisis.

“Tommy says developers are the enemy,” Lee said. “But we have to work with the people who actually build things.”

Hough argues that the developments supported by City Hall politicians are too dense, harm the environment, and don’t come with the updates to the area’s infrastructure needed to support large numbers of new residents.

He points out that a much larger share of Lee’s campaign contributions come from developers and people outside of District 6. He says his campaign signs are in far more front yards in Mira Mesa and University City than those of Lee.

The Democrat vs. Democrat battle is a change for District 6, which has typically had partisan battles. Republican Lorie Zapf narrowly beat Democrat Howard Wayne in 2010, Cate beat Democrat Carol Kim in 2014 and Cate beat Hough in 2018.

Another big change for the district is the new boundaries approved in December, which removed Clairemont and added University City.