Special elections to fill seats vacated by Juan Vargas, Tony Young scheduled

SAN DIEGO - Two special elections to fill the state Senate seat of Rep. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, and the City Council seat vacated by Tony Young, were scheduled Monday for March.

Vargas gave up his Senate seat after he won an election to replace 10-term Congressman Bob Filner, San Diego's new mayor.

Gov. Jerry Brown scheduled a special election to fill his seat for March 12. If necessary, a runoff would be held on May 14.

The City Council set its special election for March 26, deciding against holding the election on the same day. Doing so would have saved about $100,000 of the estimated $385,000 needed to hold a special election, but March 12 would not give candidates for the District 4 seat a full two weeks to collect the required 100 nominating signatures, City Clerk Elizabeth Maland said.

If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff would be held within seven weeks of the March 26 vote.

Young, who was council president for two years, resigned Jan. 2 to become CEO of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Chapter of the American Red Cross. He had about two years left on his term.

He left office just after new district boundaries took effect. But because he was re-elected in 2010, the District 4 boundary at that time will determine who gets to choose his successor.

Votes in neighborhoods new to the district, like Redwood Village and Rolando Park, protested that they would be "disenfranchised" by not being allowed to vote on Young's successor.

Carol Hill has worked at Darnall Charter School for 10 years and she has lived in the Redwood Village neighborhood of San Diego for 16 years. The mother of four says she values her right to vote and was stunned to hear that she is losing it.

"It's not right. It's not right at all," she said. "You know, if they're going to be representing our area, everybody should have a say."

Hill lives in District 4, which includes southeast San Diego from Paradise Hills to Oak Park. Redwood Village and Rolando Hills were added during redistricting. However, according to city code, in a special election the old district lines apply.

Deputy City Attorney Sharon Spivak told the council that the state Supreme Court has ruled that those who put someone in office should determine a successor, and that the city lost a court battle over a similar issue in 1991.

"It's somewhat confusing and maybe it doesn't make common sense on some levels but the law is the law, and we're required to follow it," Councilman Kevin Faulconer said.

Council President Todd Gloria said the legal precedent was "disappointing," because some voters will be able to choose a candidate who will never represent them.

"I'm incredibly troubled by it," said Gloria.

He calls it an unfortunate convergence of events.

"One is redistricting which happens every 10 years," he said. "The other is the resignation of a council member which happens really infrequently."

Gloria has asked the city attorney for any legal remedies for the estimated 5,000 registered voters affected, but he says it is doubtful change will come before the special election.

"Many cases have been fought in court to support this approach and so changing it is what is making it difficult because it's not just something unique to San Diego, it's something that is true across the state," he told 10News.

Hill said a situation like this could alienate future voting, but she says not for her.

"I'm still going to be active in the community I'm still a part of, but it needs to be changed for the future," she said.

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