Voters trickle in for Tuesday's primary elections

SAN DIEGO -- More than 1,400 polling places opened Tuesday for a primary election in which San Diegans will vote for mayor, decide between two ballot measures and choose among numerous legislative and congressional candidates.

Registrar of Voters Deborah Seiler said early indications pointed to a low turnout -- in the neighborhood of 40 percent.

Up to last Saturday, 2,212 residents voted early at the registrar's office, compared to 8,535 in a similar period two years ago, Seiler said. Roughly 32 percent of the some 761,000 mail-in ballots sent were returned by midday Monday, she said.

Four experienced elected officials are running for mayor -- Councilman Carl DeMaio, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, Rep. Bob Filner, D-San Diego, and Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher. A fifth candidate, Tobiah Pettus, is also on the ballot. Steven Greenwald and John "Woody'' Woodrum are write-in candidates.

Four prominent candidates cast their ballots this morning.

"I think San Diegans are ready to send a powerful message about what they want in their next mayor,'' Fletcher said.

Dumanis said she hoped her positive message to turn San Diego around would resonate with voters.

"As Margaret Thatcher said, you know, if you want something to be said, ask a man. If you want something to be done, ask a woman,'' Dumanis said. "And this woman is ready to get it done.''

DeMaio said relief was on the way.

"Services are going to come back, the road repairs are going to start, jobs are going to be created because we're going to be focused on getting things done at City Hall,'' DeMaio said.

Filner was confident he would advance to the November runoff.

"I think any two of the four of us can make the runoff, so people have to come out and vote,'' Filner said.

 Polls will be open until 8 p.m., and results from the early voters and mail-in ballots should be released soon after. The first results from precincts should be available by 10 p.m., Seiler said.

The city of San Diego ballot measures pit supporters against organized labor, which opposes both.

Proposition A would forbid the city from forcing contractors on major municipal projects to submit to Project Labor Agreements, which backers believe are too union-friendly. Proposition B seeks to change the city's pension system by giving most new employees 401(k) plans instead of enrolling them in the pension system, and only base salary over the next five years would be calculated into a worker's eventual retirement pay.

The five odd-numbered San Diego City Council seats are up for election, and two crowded races could be close.

In District 1, which encompasses La Jolla and Carmel Valley, incumbent Sherri Lightner was challenged by businessman and former city pension board member Ray Ellis, attorney Bryan Pease and Dennis Ridz, chairman of the Torrey Pines Planning Board.

In the open District 7 seat, community volunteer Rick Hauptfeld, retiree Nathan Johnson, home health advocate Mat Kostrinsky and businessman Scott Sherman are running. The district, which includes Tierrasanta, Del Cerro and San Carlos, is being vacated by incumbent Marti Emerald, who sought to take over the newly created District 9.

Among San Diego's congressional delegation, longtime Democratic target Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-Solana Beach, has a long list of challengers, including Port Commissioner Scott Peters, former Assemblywoman Lori Saldana, D-San Diego, and ex-Santee Mayor Jack Dale. Peters is also a Democrat, while Dale is running as an independent.

In local races, unless someone takes more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two will face off in the November general election. In the congressional and state Legislative races, the top two will also square off in November, regardless of political party.