Heated local races culminate in failed propositions, close wins

By Claire Harlin

Candidates and their supporters were celebrating victories on Nov. 7, with most wins looking certain and a few extremely close, with about 475,000 absentee and provisional ballots left to be tallied countywide as of press time for this newspaper.

Soon after the polls closed, the Secretary of State’s office reported that about 52.6 percent of the county’s some 1.6 million voters cast ballots in the Nov. 6 elections — a much lower turnout than the 75 percent predicted by the registrar of voters.

But maybe the elections in Carmel Valley, Del Mar and Solana Beach, which were said to be some of the most heated political battles in the history of the communities, upped the turnout numbers at least for those areas. For example, close to 2,000 votes were already tallied on Del Mar’s Prop J, a controversial downtown revitalization plan for the city of 4,000, and that’s not including the more than 1,000 Del Mar residents who are registered as permanent absentee voters and may have voted that way.

The San Diego County Registrar of Voters said its staff is working day and night to get all ballots counted as soon as possible. There is a 28-day deadline to verify the votes, but representatives said they hope to get the results out sooner.

Here’s a round-up of elections affecting the local areas of Del Mar, Solana Beach and Carmel Valley:


As of press time, 1,136 votes (or 58.2 percent) had been recorded against and 816 (or 41.8 percent) votes for the proposition, which would create new development standards for Del Mar — including roundabout traffic circles and raised building height limits.

More than 90 public meetings took place regarding the expansive, 500-page Village Specific Plan, which those on all sides of the debate knew would present an uphill battle.


Incumbent Lesa Heebner led with 18.9 percent of votes in the race for Solana Beach City Council. She will retain her seat and be joined by new council members David Zito, a software architect, and Peter Zahn, a business attorney. Zito earned 18.5 percent and Zahn received 18 percent of the vote.

Trailing Zahn by about 200 votes was research scientist Vickie Driver, who got 16 percent of the vote. Daniel Powel and Paul Frankel both earned about 14 percent.

“I’m very happy,” said Heebner. “I ran a clean campaign, focusing on the issues and my vision for our city. I’m grateful to the voters of Solana Beach and look forward to getting back to work for them.”


Incumbents Joyce Dalessandro (31.30 percent) and Beth Hergesheimer (29.58 percent) were re-elected to the San Dieguito Union High School District board.


Incumbent Richard Leib (38.93 percent) and Julie Union (36.52 percent) were elected to the Solana Beach School Board.


Both Del Mar and Solana Beach voters rejected a medical marijuana ordinance that made it to the ballot through the petitioning efforts of a non-profit group advocating for safe and open access to medical cannabis.

On the ballot as Prop H in Del Mar and Prop W in Solana Beach, the ordinance would have both allowed dispensaries and let the cities place regulations and taxes on them.

Almost identical to the turnout in Del Mar’s Prop J measure, 814 votes (43.6 percent) tallied so far from Del Mar supported Prop H and 1,053 (56.4 percent) rejected it. Solana Beach voters had about 62 percent in favor and 37 percent against Prop W.

The measure also made it to ballots through the same initiative in Lemon Grove and Imperial Beach, and it was killed in both cities. Lemon Grove had 62 percent against and 38 percent for the ordinance, and it failed 59 to 40 percent in Imperial Beach.


It’s been 18 years since San Diego County has seen a new face on the Board of Supervisors, and 20 years for District 3. Election results as of press time indicated that Solana Beach Deputy Mayor Dave Roberts — with 50.7 percent of the vote —has been chosen by the people to be that new face. His opponent, Carmel Valley resident Steve Danon, received 49.3 percent, a difference of about 1,900 votes.

Although Roberts still awaited validation from the registrar of voters on Nov. 7, he and about 20 supports gathered at his Solana Beach headquarters to hold signs, celebrate and stand in the street waving with excitement at passing cars.

The father of five attributed his victory to being “a real person who has the same struggles just like the everyone else.” Not only is Roberts the first gay man to serve on the board, but he’ll also be the only Democratic supervisor.

But Roberts doesn’t care about party affiliation, he said.

“I just care about being passionate about making San Diego a great place for all people.”


It appeared on Nov. 7 that incumbent District 1 City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner would retain her seat in the northwestern part of San Diego (which includes Del Mar Heights and Carmel Valley) by defeating businessman and philanthropist Ray Ellis. Lightner earned 54 percent of the vote and Ellis earned 46 percent.

“I always said I would run on my record and that’s what I did. The people of District 1 responded to my message because they know how hard I’ve worked to bring their voices to City Hall,” said Lightner in a statement. “They know I’ve listened to them and worked tirelessly to get San Diego back on track financially while addressing important neighborhood issues from preserving open space to fixing our streets.”

Lightner said she was grateful for the strong grassroots effort she had during her campaign, thanking all of her volunteers and supporters.

“I look forward to continuing to serve the communities of District 1 and work on citywide issues like creating a sustainable and affordable water supply and crafting a long-term vision for San Diego’s economy that produces good-paying middle class jobs,” Lightner said. “I can’t wait for the next four years.”


Democratic Port Commissioner Scott Peters appeared to have unseated Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-Solana Beach, in the 52nd District, but with less than 700 votes separating the two, there was some uncertainty at press time about whether absentee ballots might bring forth a different victor.

Bilbray earned 49.8 percent of the vote and Peters was winning with 50.1 percent. Strategists believed Peters had a strong chance of unseating Bilbray, after his district was moved during redistricting into unfamiliar inland territory.


Bob Filner led by about 10,000 votes, with 51.5 percent, to Carl DeMaio’s 48.5 percent in the race for City of San Diego Mayor on Nov. 7. Although the results had not been finalized pending absentee ballots, DeMaio voluntarily sent Filner to the mayor’s office by conceding from the race, telling news media that a win was unlikely and he wanted to Filner to start building a solid administration as soon as possible.


Retired businessman Greg Gruzdowich was elected to the Division 1 seat (Rancho Santa Fe) on the Santa Fe Irrigation District board with 55.61 percent of the vote. Alan Smerican, a retired FBI agent, was elected to the Division 2 seat (Solana Beach) with 60 percent of the vote.

The two join the five-member board for four-year terms.

Look for updated results at and at