Judy McCarty and Jeanette Roache, both conservative Republicans, won the primary for the District 7 seat on the San Diego City Council, according to final election returns Tuesday night.
In other council primaries, incumbents Gloria McColl in District 3 and Ed Struiksma in District 5 won overwhelmingly. But two-term incumbent Bill Mitchell received a strong challenge in District 1 from law professor Abbe Wolfsheimer. In each of those races the incumbents and their top opponents are assured of places on the Nov. 5 runoff ballot.
The turnout Tuesday was 15.2% of eligible voters, the lowest in city history.
McCarty won by a solid margin, in what political observers considered to be a surprisingly strong showing. Roache surprised nearly everybody by beating out Evonne Schulze, 51, a Democrat making her third run for the council seat. Schulze was a longtime aide to Mayor Roger Hedgecock and was considered the favorite.
The top two finishers qualify for the citywide runoff for the seat recently vacated by Municipal Court Judge Dick Murphy.
McCarty, 45, was making her first run for public office. A 10-year resident of San Carlos, she resigned from the staff of Assemblyman Larry Stirling (R-San Diego) before entering the campaign.
Roache, 37, an aide to Assemblywoman Sonny Mojonnier (R-Encinitas) who also worked on the staffs of Murphy and former Councilman Fred Schnaubelt, said her campaign did everything possible to get out the vote.
“We thought we were going to finish second,” Roache said, “but we thought we’d be running against Evonne. This is very surprising.”
A stunned Schulze, whom most observers had conceded a position in the runoff, had no explanation for her third-place finish. “We did the best we could,” she said. “I just hope my supporters don’t get soured. Some of us have been this route before.”
Of the incumbents, only Mitchell faces a serious challenge in the runoff.
McColl, bidding for her first four-year term on the council, was far ahead of Arthur Salzburg, a doctoral candidate from United States International University, who will challenge her in November.
Struiksma easily outdistanced his closest competitor, Robert Switzer, vice president of a computer software firm.
Stirling and other prominent Republicans are expected to campaign actively for McCarty in the fall. She credited her strong showing in the primary to support gleaned from her eight years working with the Navajo Community Planners and the active roles she has taken on local issues like the preservation of Cowles Mountainas open space, acquisition of land for Mission Trails Park and the restoration of Lake Murray.
Both finalists have promised to serve a full, four-year term, something no council representative for District 7 has done since 1973. Since that year, state Sen. Jim Ellis (R-San Diego), Stirling and county Supervisor Susan Golding have resigned the seat to assume higher offices, and Murphy left in the final months of his term to accept a municipal judgeship. District 7 stretches from Interstate 15 to the city’s eastern boundary, bordered by University Avenue on the south and extending to the northern neighborhoods of Tierrasanta.
District 7 was the only primary race to receive significant attention citywide, as the election could have changed the ideological balance of the City Council. The liberal Schulze, a staunch defender of the mayor’s growth-management policies, could have tipped the balance on the council against the pro-development forces, who supported her two opponents. Roache and McCarty were on record opposing the Hedgecock-backed growth management initiative known as Proposition A, which appears on the citywide ballot in November and is expected to receive more attention than any of the four council races in the fall campaign.
Late in the primary, Struiksma, with his reelection virtually assured, served notice that the spotlight likely will be turned on the 7th District race before November when he paid for a widely played radio advertisement in which he urged voters to cast ballots either for McCarty or Roache rather than the more liberal Schulze. That effort apparently had some effect, as the favored Schulze finished third.
Roache had for some weeks conceded one of the finalists’ seats to Schulze and concentrated on defeating McCarty, portraying herself as the candidate who was better-equipped to defeat Schulze in November. She was considered the strongest supporter of development in the race, particularly after McCarty announced her opposition to the controversial La Jolla Valley Project. Nevertheless, McCarty won one of the few major endorsements in the race, from the local Building Industry Assn.
McCarty and Roache agreed on virtually all of the other prominent issues. In fact, apart from the growth management question and her party affiliation (municipal elections technically are nonpartisan, but party politics often play a critical role in their outcomes), there was little to separate Schulze from either Roache or McCarty. All three called for the rapid completion of the eastward extension of California 52 and increased spending for public safety. And they all expressed reservations about the environmental impact of the $306-million trash-to-energy plant proposed for the Miramar landfill.
Of the three front-runners, only Schulze refrained from campaigning Tuesday. McCarty and Roache barnstormed District 7 shopping centers in a last-minute effort to get out the primary vote.
Mitchell, for the first time in his political career, found himself the front-runner in District 1, which includes the communities of Rancho Bernardo, La Jolla and Rancho Penasquitos. But although he was considered a heavy favorite to open up a wide primary margin over Wolfsheimer, Mitchell spent long hours walking the district before the primary, using the same personal-touch campaign tactics that carried him to upset victories in the 1977 and 1981 council elections.
Wolfsheimer is serious about her challenge--she already has personally loaned her campaign $66,000. One of her brochures proclaimed, “It’s time to replace Bill Mitchell, because he ain’t what he used to be.” She has been campaigning in District 1 for months, hopeful that a strong showing Tuesday would buoy her chances of unseating the deputy mayor in November.
Mitchell trailed in the district in both of his previous primary races only to rally and win the citywide election.
City Council District 1 124 of 124 Precincts Reporting Votes % Bill Mitchell, inc. 6,404 50.5 Abbe Wolfsheimer 5,642 44.5 Mary O’Rourke 613 4.8 District 3 120 of 120 Precincts Reporting Votes % Gloria McColl, inc. 7,311 82.4 Arthur Salzberg 1,555 17.5 District 5 101 of 101 Precincts Reporting Votes % Ed Struiksma, inc. 4,937 76.7 Robert Switzer 1,494 23.2 District 7 121 of 121 Precincts Reporting Votes % Judy McCarty 5,351 38.1 Jeanette Roache 3,900 27.7 Evonne Schulze 3,626 25.8 William McKinley 689 4.9 Don Parker 297 2.1 James McNelly 176 1.2