Campbell is running for San Diego City Council District 2
The City Council runoff in San Diego’s coastal District 2 is expected to be a routine victory for the Democratic incumbent in the heavily Democratic district, but her opponent is hoping to deliver one of the biggest defeats in the city’s recent political history.
Republican Linda Lukacs has far less money than Democrat Jennifer Campbell, and registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans nearly two to one in the district that includes Clermont and Point Loma.
But Campbell may be more vulnerable than those numbers suggest. She faced failed recall campaign last year prompted her appeal from vacation rental legislation and complaints that her employees were unusually unresponsive residents.
Campbell received less than 30 percent of the vote in June’s primary despite having the best approval rating of the incumbent, outscoring her five opponents by a landslide and receiving help from an independent committee funded by labor and business.
The county’s Democratic Party is spending more than $100,000 to help Campbell win a runoff. The money will help pay for postage, which could affect the outcome, but it could also be a sign that the side sees Campbell as more vulnerable than expected.
A letter Campbell recently sent emphasized that she is the “only Democrat” in the race and touted her liberal background on issues important to most Democrats: abortion rights and gun control.
Another recent announcement by Campbell focused on her efforts to reduce homelessness, including support for more city-funded overnight parking for people living in their cars and enforcement of homeless people with mental illness.
“Homelessness is a key issue for my district and the entire city,” Campbell said in a phone interview this week. “We’re starting to hit the ground running.”
Lukacs said by phone that Campbell is exaggerating San Diego’s success in fighting homelessness, arguing that District 2 residents feel unsafe visiting Mission Beach and Ocean Beach because of homelessness and crime.
She also accused Campbell of focusing too much on citywide issues and not enough on the neighborhoods and residents she represents.
“The main thing at stake in this race is that our neighborhood has a voice at City Hall that focuses on our quality of life,” Lukacs said. “We don’t have that voice right now, and the community is asking for it.”
Campbell said her strong Democratic pedigree meshes well with a Democratic mayor and a Democratic-dominated City Council focused on social justice issues.
“These are Democrats fighting for working families and the little guys,” Campbell said.
She was supported by Mayor Todd Gloria, several council members, the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and the unions representing the city’s police and firefighters.
Lukacs emphasized that the race is officially nonpartisan, arguing that most of the issues that matter to the neighborhood don’t fit easily into the typical left-right divide.
She also noted that a Campbell victory on Nov. 8 would almost certainly give Democrats unanimous control of the 9-0 City Council, arguing that would not be a good outcome for San Diego.
“Any council needs a diversity of voices and ideas,” Lukacs said. Being more aware of potential criticism during policy debates will help the council make better decisions, she said.
The two candidates also disagree on Measure B, which would end free trash pickup for single-family homes in the city.
Campbell voted to place the measure on the ballot. But she stopped short of expressing strong support, saying she understood why people would vote for the measure anyway.
Lukacs offered mild resistance. She admits the existing policy is unfair to people who live in apartments and condos, but says past mismanagement of taxes and fees collected from residents makes it impossible for her to support the new garbage fee.
After the June primary, Campbell raised $59,000 to $21,000 from Lukacs, according to the most recent campaign donation filings in late September. That money does not include contributions Campbell received from the county Democratic Party.
Conventional wisdom suggests that Lukacs will have a very hard time winning as a Republican in a district where registered Democrats outnumbered registered Republicans by 41,350 to 23,582 as of Oct. 1.
But district 2 can be called unstable. Only two incumbents have lost San Diego City Council races since 1992, but one of those times was when Campbell unseated incumbent Laurie Zapf just four years ago — the last time the seat was up for grabs.
After Campbell was elected, the district was also redistricted. To account for the demographic changes reflected in the 2020 US Census, Pacific Beach was removed from the district, while East Clermont and parts of Old Town were added.
Campbell, 77, lives in Bay Ho. She is a retired doctor. Lukacs, 58, lives in Sunset Cliffs. She is a practicing dentist.