With most of the votes counted, an incumbent and a heavyweight South County Democrat are leading the races for two seats on the Chula Vista City Council.
Residents also are backing a measure aimed at how the city elects its representatives.
Until today, council members have been elected at-large, i.e. by all residents casting ballots for all candidates. Early returns show that 62 percent of voters favor electing representatives by district, where a representative is chosen by a divided portion of the city, like in San Diego.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting, incumbent Councilwoman Pam Bensoussan has a 19-point lead over challenger Larry Breitfelder, who lost against Councilwoman Pat Aguilar in 2010.
Bensoussan thanked the many volunteers who helped her campaign when she spoke at the U.S. Grant, where the Lincoln Club was holding a post-election soirée.
Bensoussan received strong support from all sides of the political spectrum with endorsements from the Labor Council, the Lincoln Club, the San Diego County Democratic Party and other business and community groups.
Linda Wagner, the chief council aide to outgoing Councilman Steve Castaneda and a fixture at City Hall, was losing by nearly 7,000 votes as of 6 a.m. Wednesday to former Assemblywoman Mary Salas.
Still, Wagner remained optimistic as the night drew to a close at Golden Hall.
“I feel fantastic,” Wagner said. “We’ve knocked on so many doors, and collected so much feedback from folks who are just too busy with work and their lives to come into City Hall, but who have some real concerns about issues facing this city. I’ve been watching these races long enough to see them turn around.”
The Chula Vista City Council races are officially non-partisan.
In other South County races, incumbent Coronado Mayor Casey Tanaka held onto a startling 40-point lead over his challenger Councilwoman Barbara Denny.
As of 6 a.m. Wednesday, Brian Patrick Bilbray was among the top two vote-getters for a seat on the Imperial Beach City Council.
The top-two candidates earn a spot on the Imperial Beach council, but longtime councilman Jim King was less than a 100 votes away in the third spot.
The forerunner of that race is a new name, Bobby Patton, a lifeguard closely aligned with Councilman Ed Spriggs, elected in 2010.
Southwestern Trustee Humberto Peraza and San Diego City College professor William Stewart appeared to win a spot on the South County community college board, and Democrat Mitch Thompson held onto a few point lead on the Otay Water District board throughout the night.
Finally, in National City, Councilwoman Alejandra Sotelo-Solis received the most votes in a top two system, where incumbent Rosalie Zarate fell behind challenger Jerry Cano, an environmentalist and City Hall activist.