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Lightner leads Ellis in absentee votes

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Democratic Councilwoman Sherri Lightner has a nearly 5 percent lead over Republican businessman Ray Ellis in the race for San Diego’s first district City Council seat, according to the San Diego Registrar of Voters’ count of mail-in and early-vote ballots.

The results currently stand at 52.53 percent for Lightner, and 47.47 percent for Ellis, in a council district that covers from La Jolla to Rancho Penasquitos. Lightner’s lead amounts to 1,029 votes out of the 20,351 that have been counted.

The race will determine which political party controls the City Council, though council seats are technically nonpartisan. An Ellis win would give the Republicans a majority and mean president pro tem Kevin Faulconer would become the new council president. A Lightner victory would maintain Democratic control and likely allow Council President Tony Young to maintain control of the gavel.

On citywide issues, the race became something of a referendum on each candidate’s commitment to pension reform, especially in terms of Proposition B, the voter approved initiative in June that would switch most new city hires to a 401(k)-like plan.

Ellis, who served on the San Diego City Employees’ Retirement System, took an early position in favor of the initiative. Lightner stayed silent on Prop. B for much of the primary before announcing her support.

The Ellis campaign has pointed to her vote not to allow the city to pay for outside counsel to defend a legal challenge facing the initiative as evidence that he would be a stronger vote in its favor.

Lightner didn’t receive the backing of the influential San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council, losing its get-out-the-vote campaign, in part because of her support of Prop. B.

Local issues of relevance in District 1 included the Regents Road Bridge, which Lightner opposes and Ellis says is of secondary importance to overall street repair, and the One Paseo development, which both candidates oppose.

As in the mayor’s race, street repairs and the city’s infrastructure repair backlog were of central importance. Lightner, as the incumbent, argued the city had taken hold of the problem with the largest street repair program in history. Ellis said the city wasn’t doing enough, and pledged to divert new city revenue to increased repaving services. Lightner said she’d prioritize public safety services instead.

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