Special Election 2013: San Diegans head to the polls to pick new mayor

SAN DIEGO - Voting to choose a successor to disgraced former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner got underway Tuesday, with the focus on a battle for the second spot on an expected runoff ballot.

With polls showing Councilman Kevin Faulconer enjoying a healthy lead, his colleague David Alvarez and ex-Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher appear poised to fight it out for the other position.

A candidate needs to pass the 50 percent mark to avoid a runoff. If a second vote becomes necessary, it will take place early next year.

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The most recent poll, released Sunday by SurveyUSA, measured Faulconer's voter support at 40 percent, similar to other recent surveys.

"I can't wait for the polls to close tonight, and us to keep moving forward -- and moving forward quicker," Faulconer told 10News.

The Sunday poll -- conducted on behalf of 10News and U-T San Diego -- gives Fletcher 24 percent and Alvarez 22 percent, a statistical dead heat. Other polls have shown Alvarez with a slight advantage over Fletcher.

Fletcher told 10News Tuesday's voting brings the city "one step closer to having a mayor who's going to stand up and fight for all San Diegans."

Alvarez called attention to his attendance at every debate and forum to which he was invited during the campaign, telling the television station, "It's starting to look like people in San Diego are responding."

More than 570 polling places will open around the city of San Diego at 7 a.m. and will accept voters until 8 p.m. Polling place locations can be found on the back of pamphlets sent to registered voters or at the county Registrar of Voters website at sdvote.com.

Registrar of Voters Michael Vu said 357,000 mail ballots were sent out last month. He told City News Service that he expected a 40 to 45 percent turnout of the city's about 683,000 registered voters, and although that figure was higher than the city's past four special elections, it was nowhere close to the turnout of a presidential election.

Nearly 37 percent of the electorate had already voted prior to election day, either by returning absentee ballots or going to the registrar's office, 10News media partner inewssource.org reported Monday. Vu said additional mail-in ballots were being turned in at polling places.

The first batch of results, from those ballots already cast, are expected shortly after the polls close.

Interim Mayor Todd Gloria said it was always good when the voters had an opportunity to weigh in and help select someone to move the city forward. He said he hoped the eventual winner would focus on fiscal discipline and infrastructure issues.

"As we've seen in recent months, who is mayor matters," Gloria said. "It can have a direct impact on the health of our city and on families."

The special election was brought about by Filner's resignation in August, when he was under fire for sexual harassment and being investigated for various transgressions, including alleged shakedowns of developers. He subsequently pleaded guilty to one felony count of false imprisonment by violence and two misdemeanor counts of battery and was placed on three years probation.

Other candidates include former City Attorney Michael Aguirre; lawyer Hud Collins; Harry Dirks, a Realtor; San Diego State University student Michael Kemmer; businessman Sina "Simon" Moghadam, construction superintendent Tobiah Pettus; and retired contractor Lincoln Pickard. Engineer Farrah Pirahanchi qualified as a write-in candidate.

Bruce Coons, whose name appears on the ballot, previously withdrew from the race and threw his support to Alvarez.

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