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Tuesday, Sep 26, 2023

POLITICS–Davis, Roberts Lead Mayoral Pack

Politics: Poll Reveals Ballpark Issue Is Low Among Voter Priorities

With about three weeks left until the March 7 primary, the San Diego race for mayor seems to be shaping up as a contest among a wealthy banker and two veteran politicians.

That’s according to a recent poll taken by San Diego-based Competitive Edge Research Inc. and KPBS, which showed the top three mayoral candidates to be Peter Davis, the former president of the Bank of Commerce, Supervisor Ron Roberts, and City Councilwoman Barbara Warden.

But the separation between the three leaders is so close , about 2 percent , they could change positions, and a move up or down by anyone can be critical.

The primary determines a runoff between the top two vote-getters in November. The rest of the 12-person field will have to pack up and go home.

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John Nienstedt, president of Competitive Edge Research, said Davis is definitely in first place and the choice of 15.6 percent of the 385 people polled. Davis’ spending of $800,000 of his own money on an extensive television campaign has definitely worked, and he is showing substantial strength among a fairly broad geographic area, he said.

Roberts, who ran for mayor in 1992, was the top choice of 13 percent in the poll, and is also showing significant core support, but that support is as energetic as Davis’, Nienstedt said. Just behind Roberts is Warden, who received 12.7 percent of the “vote.”

Second Tier

After the top tier, there is another trio of candidates who may be able to launch themselves into the next level, but it would take some stumbling by the frontrunners, or for one candidate to catch fire with voters.

Of the next three candidates, only Judge Dick Murphy has the best chance of moving into the runoff, Nienstedt said. Murphy’s criticism of the city’s involvement on the Padres ballpark is one issue that connects with lot of voters, and could make a difference.

“The question is whether he will have enough money to get his message out,” he said.

Murphy, a former city councilman, got 6.2 percent in the poll, the same amount as Councilman Byron Wear. Councilman George Stevens received 7.3 percent.

Environmental designer Jim Bell got 3.4 percent in the poll. The rest of the field was mentioned by less than 1 percent.

The poll’s undecided vote of 34 percent may underscore a feeling shared by one longtime political consultant that many voters aren’t that interested, at least for now.

“This is one of the most boring mayoral races that I’ve ever seen,” said Ann Shanahan-Walsh, a political consultant who is working on a state Senate race and not employed by any of the candidates.

The poll’s results didn’t surprise Shanahan-Walsh, who predicted the runoff would be between Davis and Roberts.

While he had little name recognition about six months ago, Davis is the odds-on favorite thanks to his commercials, and a general feeling among the local electorate that is looking for some change.

“If voters are tired of the politicians now holding office and lost confidence in them, there’s more likelihood they are willing to elect an outsider, particularly a businessman,” she said.

Funding A Non-Issue?

Although Davis’ media blitz has been nearly entirely self-financed, it hasn’t emerged as an issue in the campaign.

“I don’t think most voters care much about political financing,” Shanahan Walsh said.

Roberts fall from frontrunner to second place in the polls has clearly thrown a scare into his campaign. Last week, Roberts called in some chips and got endorsements from two members of the City Council , Juan Vargas, and Chris Kehoe.

“Pete Davis is trying to buy the race,” Kehoe said. “He may have a lot of money, but that doesn’t mean he knows the neighborhoods, knows the people, and knows the issues like Ron does.”

Coming on strong and making a bid for the second spot is Warden, who stands out not only because her gender, but by her often unabashed pride in her achievements on the council for the last eight years.

And while she has done some good things, Warden’s ties to the council could work against her, particularly with the hot issues like the ballpark and the Charger ticket guarantee, Shanahan-Walsh said.

But if those are the issues that incenses some candidates, they don’t show up in the KPBS poll. Asked what issues most concern them, the overwhelming first choice of 26.3 percent of those polled was “traffic, roads and congestion.”

After that, at 20.6 percent, was “growth, development, population increase.”

The ballpark? It’s way down on the list, with only 6.5 percent saying they are against the project.


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