Updated Aug 16, 2023 - Politics

Preliminary results: Montgomery Steppe takes early lead in county special election

Monica Montgomery Steppe. Photo: Courtesy of Montgomery Steppe for Supervisor 2023

Monica Montgomery Steppe. Photo: Courtesy of Montgomery Steppe for Supervisor 2023

San Diego Councilwoman Monica Montgomery Steppe appears on her way to a runoff to be the next county supervisor, but it's unclear who she'll face in the general.

Driving the news: Montgomery Steppe, a Democrat, took 40.6% of the initial 79,000+ votes counted as of 10:30pm Tuesday, giving her an almost 12-point lead in the special election for the fourth district of the County Board of Supervisors.

  • Amy Reichert, a Republican and leader of ReOpen San Diego, has a narrow edge for the other spot in the runoff after the initial vote count.
  • Her 28.6% gives her a 3.6-point lead over Democrat Janessa Goldbeck, a veteran nonprofit executive and LGBTQ advocate.

Why it matters: The race to fill the vacant seat could determine partisan control of the board, which manages the county's $8 billion budget.

Context: The special election is filling the seat vacated when former Supervisor Nathan Fletcher resigned this spring, after he was accused of sexual misconduct by a former staffer with the Metropolitan Transit System, where he was board chair.

What they're saying: Attacks from law enforcement groups alleging Montgomery Steppe supported the "defund the police" movement dominated the primary, but she said talking to voters made it clear those attacks didn't resonate.

  • "People want a balance — 99% of people acknowledge we absolutely need law enforcement, and many acknowledge that people protecting and serving have a lot of responsibilities and they don't need to do everything," she told Axios.

By the numbers: The County Registrar says there are 20,000 outstanding ballots, and the next update will be Thursday at 5 pm.

  • The two most recent special elections in San Diego County had turnouts of 21% and 16% of registered voters.
  • The votes counted in this race already amount to a 20.1% turnout. The extra 20,000 votes would put turnout around 25%.
  • Montgomery Steppe has a 9,190 vote edge, but Reichert and Goldbeck are separated by just 2,913 votes.
  • Ballots mailed on or near Election Day can be counted as long as the Registrar receives them within seven days.

State of play: If Montgomery Steppe advances to the runoff as the only Democrat, which isn't a given, she'd do so with a tailwind at her back, based purely on voter registration in the district.

  • Democrats outnumber Republicans three to one in the district.
  • Just a year ago, Fletcher defeated Reichert by 29 points.

Between the lines: Partisan control of the board could again be on the ballot next year, with another primary election looming in seven months.

  • Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer, a Democrat, is up for re-election in the county's most evenly split district, by voter registration.
  • She already has a serious Republican challenger in former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

Editor's note: This is a breaking story. Please check back for updates.

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