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Two Democrats in close battle for San Diego’s last Republican council seat

Two Democrats facing off for San Diego City Council District 6 have similar amounts of cash on hand as they gear up for what’s expected to be the most closely contested of four November runoffs for council seats.

New campaign disclosures submitted this week show that Kent Lee has $79,000 in his war chest, while Tommy Hough has $57,000. The candidates are battling to take over the central inland District 6 seat from termed-out Chris Cate, the council’s only Republican.

Lee had been considered a heavy favorite in the race based on endorsements and his status as the only Asian candidate in the city’s most heavily Asian district. New council district boundaries approved in December boosted the share of Asians in District 6 from 34 percent to 40 percent.

But Lee only narrowly edged Hough in the June 7 primary 10,390 votes to 9,461 votes, or 40.73 percent to 37.09 percent — despite the fact that Lee outspent Hough $138,000 to $20,000 during 2022.

Hough, a county planning commissioner, is calling the primary results a “win” for his campaign and evidence that his grassroots style of campaigning resonates with District 6 voters focused more on infrastructure and neighborhood challenges than on politics at City Hall.

Lee, an arts nonprofit executive, said he outspent Hough so dramatically because he is a first-time candidate with limited name recognition. Hough lost a runoff for the seat to Cate in 2018.

Lee has been endorsed by the county Democratic Party, the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, Mayor Todd Gloria and the region’s largest labor organization — the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council. Hough has strong support from environmental groups.

District 6 includes Mira Mesa, Kearny Mesa and University City.

In three other November runoffs for San Diego City Council seats, incumbents have significantly more money than their challengers.

Councilmember Dr. Jennifer Campbell has a huge fundraising lead over challenger Linda Lukacs in the race for coastal District 2. Campbell has $61,000 in her war chest, while Lukacs has $9,000.

Campbell, a Democrat, is considered a heavy favorite over Republican Lukacs in November because registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans in the district 41,090 to 23,346.

But Campbell outspent Lukacs $186,000 to $14,000 and beat her by only about 1,600 votes, 10,832 to 9,211. Campbell, however, was facing three other strong Democrats in the primary, while Lukacs was the only Republican in the field.

District 2 includes Clairemont, Point Loma, Ocean Beach, Mission Beach and Old Town.

Councilmember Vivian Moreno has $158,000 in her Democrat-versus-Democrat battle against challenger Antonio Martinez, who has $42,000. They are facing off for District 8, which includes Barrio Logan, Sherman Heights, San Ysidro and Otay Mesa.

The race is a rerun of a 2018 runoff where Moreno narrowly defeated Martinez by 549 votes, 14,950 to 14,401. But Moreno finished ahead of Martinez by a much wider margin in June, 8,432 to 4,873.

District 8 includes Barrio Logan, Sherman Heights, San Ysidro and Otay Mesa.

In the runoff for District 4, Councilmember Monica Montgomery Steppe has $42,000, and her opponent Gloria Evangelista has not reported raising any money.

Montgomery Steppe, a Democrat, also has a partisan advantage over Republican Evangelista. Registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans 41,698 to 13,864 in District 4, which includes Encanto, Skyline Hills and many other southeastern San Diego communities.

Montgomery Steppe easily finished first in June, receiving 12,110 votes while Evangelista got 3,683.

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