AwkwardSD’s big, progressive voting guide for San Diego’s 2020 primaries

Sometimes you just need people to tell you who to vote for

We’re all busy. Life is a highway. The world is a vampire. The facets of modern day living are exhausting. We all want to be politically engaged, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out, especially when it comes to local elections. Everyone has an opinion on who should be the next president, but who the hell are all these city council members? What’s a district? [Ralph Wiggum voice] What’s a diorama? 

I get it. No need to feel bad! There’s no shame over here at AWKSD HQ. That’s why I decided to write this progressive voter guide for people who may need some help with the smaller races. I didn’t spend seven years at San Diego’s only progressive newspaper (RIP CityBeat) for nothing. And despite my best efforts, I’m sure I’m missing some stuff on here—a few measures, North County and South Bay stuff, for example. Sorry in advance. 

So buckle up, friends, and let’s get a-votin’.  

(Click here for downloadable PDF cheat sheet


Hoo boy, I’m not falling for this one, Readers. I see your little game. I recommend some candidate, and the next thing I know, I’m getting rolled up in a carpet by the other candidate’s fans and thrown off a bridge.

But, seriously, you know by now who you’re going to vote for, and you’re just looking for me to validate your decision. Too bad! 

I will say that I think it’s important to stop thinking of presidents as extensions of our personalities. I think it’s so weird to stan a politician. It’s not like sports where you can pretend you’re part of the team. These are your employees, not your pals.

However, I think that Bernie and Warren are both great candidates, and I would be happy if either of them were president. It does suck how much erasure Elizabeth Warren gets. She meticulously lays out her plans, acknowledges her mistakes and actually shows compassion. Yet, try showing favor toward her online and the armchair leftists get all wet-faced and will quote-tweet your praise with a picture of a guillotine or Spongebob or something. 

Bernie Sanders, though, has been fighting the good fight for ages, and his consistency is impressive. So is his entire campaign, which has been funded by small, private donations. If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is. I truly think he’s fighting for the underdog and working the hardest for an inclusive world where everybody’s voice is heard. I do think he’s definitely a narcissist, and seems unable or unwilling to adapt, or hold himself accountable in the way that Warren has proven herself capable of, but his values are steadfast and I appreciate that.  

So vote Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders for president. You already know in your heart who you’re going to vote for. 


Georgette Gómez

49th District:
Not really familiar with Mike Levin, but he’s the incumbent, and he’s really into the environment, so I’m into that. This is also Darrell Issa’s former district, which he abandoned when he saw the tide turning blue. If things don’t work out for him in the 50th, I wouldn’t put it past him to try to reclaim his position, because that dude is like a horror movie villain who never dies.

Vote Mike Levin for the 49th Congressional District.

50th District:
There are few things more cringey than watching the 50th district eat itself alive. Ever since the disgraced Vapin’ Duncan Hunter pled guilty to some crimes and stepped down from office, Darrell Issa and Carl DeMaio have been fighting for it like two shitty sharks circling shitty chum. Both of these candidates represent the worst in politics: petty self-interest, crybaby scapegoating and fear mongering. It’s surreal to watch them compete for who loves our dictator president more. I just wish this race ended up like that scene/gif from Godzilla where the dude says “let them fight,” and we get to witness the two doofuses destroy each other. Meanwhile, Ammar Campa-Najjar is running again, and although he recently eased up on some of his progressive stances (he’s not a supporter of Medicare for All), he’s vocal about actually representing the district, unlike the other opportunistic fleabags who just want some of that congressional pie.   

Vote Ammar Campa-Najjar for the 50th Congressional District.

51st District: Juan Vargashas been doing a fine job as congressman since 2013, and I don’t think there’s a chance that the Republican challenger, Juan M Hidalgo, Jr., can unseat him. Also, Hidalgo Jr.’s platform is all about increasing security at the border, which we all know is bullshit.

Vote Juan Vargas for the 51st Congressional District.

52nd District:
Scott Peters was one of the first congress members (at least that I was aware of) to call for the impeachment of Donald Trump late last year. That was, in my opinion, an admirable show of backbone. Although he’s not the most radical politician, Scott Peters is proof that integrity can exist in the center.  

Vote Scott Peters for the 52nd Congressional District.

53rd District:
Holy shit. There are, like, a million candidates running for the 53rd. This is bonkers. While it might be in your best interest to look into some of them yourselves, one name stands out for me: Georgette Gómez. After an impressive 2016 campaign for District 9’s City Council seat, Gómez has quickly risen to the ranks to become San Diego City Council president (in a unanimous vote). Her grassroots success, inclusive policies and general badassery make her my pick. We need more people like Georgette Gómez in Washington. Plus, she was recently endorsed by AOC. Change sees change.

Vote Georgette Gómez for the 53rd Congressional District. 


Lorena Gonzalez

I don’t know too much about the state Assembly members, except who’s running in the 80th District (my district), but you’re pretty good just voting along party lines here. Chris Ward, who’s running for 78th, has done a pretty good job on City Council, so definitely vote for him if that’s your district. 

Vote Chris Ward for the 78th district

Additionally, vote: 

Liz Lavertu for the 71st district

Karen “Kate” Schwartz for the 75th district

Tasha Boerner Horvath for the 76th district

Brian Maienschein for the 77th district

Shirley Weber for the 79th district

There’s been a lot of vitriol thrown at Lorena Gonzalez lately due to AB 5—a bill she authored that has unfairly hindered contract workers. Hell, I even wrote a whole newsletter about the negative effects of the bill

But despite how dismissive and smug she’s been over AB 5, I wouldn’t tell you to vote against her. She’s built a political career out of looking out for the disenfranchised, and even though I have my aforementioned issues with AB 5, she’s done so much other good. It’s inspiring to see what she’s done for workers’ rights, and she recently made it possible to mail in voting ballots without a stamp—which seems small, but actually has huge implications for voter justice.

Also, she’s running against Lincoln Pickard. I somehow got on that guy’s email list because he runs the San Diego Republicans Meetup group, and he looks like Doc Brown’s meaner brother. He’s got the kind of face that screams, “Can I speak to your manager?”—and your manager is a horse trader in the 1890s.  

Vote Lorena Gonzalez (Fletcher) for CA State Assembly District 80 


This is a no-brainer. Todd Gloria served as the interim mayor after Bob Filner got the boot, and, man, that period when T-Glo was the iMayor? Those were halcyon days. During that time, he helped develop the city’s Climate Action Plan, and he’s a big proponent of high-density, affordable housing. He’s also big on government transparency, as well as transparency in law enforcement. He’s charismatic, thoughtful and I get the sense that he genuinely wants to make the city and our world a better place.  

Vote Todd Gloria for mayor. 


Sean Elo

There are so many open seats on our City Council right now, it’s almost like going to a showing of Birds of Prey opening weekend! (pop culture jokes, I got ‘em) 

But, seriously, I don’t know if this many seats have ever been open at one time. And City Council positions are important—these are the folks who generally steer our city. It’s important to know which district you live in and who your council member is, because in most cases, they’re your most direct line to making political change in the community.

District 1: Dudes, I don’t know. This is the last endorsement in this guide that I have to write (I do these out of order!) and there are eight candidates vying for this seat. I think I’m just gonna defer to the Democratic Socialists on this one and say Harid “H” Puentes. District 1 is pretty hoity-toity (La Jolla, Del Mar), so I think some radical energy could do it well. 

Vote Harid Puentes for City Council District 1

District 3:
For this one, I asked my friend and District 3 resident Seth Combs—who recently moderated a panel featuring the candidates—who he would endorse, and this what he said: “Chris Olsen. He’s a natural successor to [Chris] Ward. He’s hyper-intelligent, has a firm grasp on the issues in the district and has substantive plans to get things done.... I do think he’ll listen to his colleagues and also fight for TRUE progressive causes, and more importantly, not be beholden to business owners.” Thanks, Seth. 

Vote Chris Olsen for City Council District 3  

District 5:
This seat was previously occupied by the fresh-faced Republican Mark Kersey, who will be termed out. I can’t remember a lot of what Mark Kersey has done, except fight to make San Diego a craft beer town. And that’s sort of indicative of the priorities of this district, which includes many of the wealthy parts of San Diego, like Rancho Bernardo, Rancho Peñasquitos, and Scripps Miramar Ranch. Democratic Marni von Wilpert is pretty centrist, but she’s also really smart (went to Berkeley) and seems like a good negotiator. Plus, she spent time overseas in the Peace Corps, and that’s cool. 

Vote Marni von Wilpert for City Council District 5. 

District 7:
Wendy Wheatcroft is my choice for D7. She’s a huge proponent of gun control, which is a high priority on my list as well. I mean, we’re all going to eventually die from climate change, but it’d be nice (“nice”) to actually get to that point before we’re all gunned down at the hands of a mass shooter.  

Vote Wendy Wheatcroft for City Council District 7

District 9: Okay, let’s see, there are [checks notes] SEVEN candidates running for this seat?? Yeesh.

District 9 is my district, and I love it AND WANT TO MARRY IT, so if you use any recommendation from this voter guide, use this one. 

I’m going for Sean Elo, because he looks out for the kids. In 2018, he won a seat on the San Diego Community College District’s Board of Trustees, beating out David Alvarez—who even had City Council name recognition. Elo has addressed homelessness among college students and believes that a college education should be free. He’s also the executive director of Youth Will, an organization that empowers youth to become community organizers. Similar to what I said about Todd Gloria, I think Elo genuinely wants to make this city a better place for everyone, and his record of community involvement is testament to that. 

Vote Sean Elo for City Council District 9. 


I’m sure if you’ve been following local news for the past 10 years, you’ve probably seen Cory Briggs’ name: He’s pretty much sued the shit out of everyone. When I think of Briggs, I think of that Simpson’s clip where Mickey Rooney tries to console Milhouse after Milhouse abandons his role in the Radioactive Man film. Then a helicopter flies by and the pilot shouts, "Hurry, Mr. Rooney! We've got a disenchanted little girl in a Jell-O Pudding commercial!" and then Mickey Rooney says, "I could play that,” grabs the helicopter's rope ladder and flies away. Cory Briggs is Mickey Rooney, but saying, “I could sue that.” 

I mean, I’ll give him props for being a rabble-rouser in a city that’s uncomfortable with rabble-rousers, and he was also among the first public figures (along with Donna Frye and Marco Gonzalez)to call for Bob Filner’s resignation—a very honorable and noble pursuit. 

But the guy’s also just kind of an opportunist. It’s apparent that he revels in being an agitator. Just read any interview with him and he comes off as blunt and, like, so edgy. He talks like he read a Vice Magazine in 2007 and said, “Ah, now that’s a tone.” Also—and this is more serious—he’s been involved in some pretty shady shit, including suing the city on behalf of shell nonprofits that share the same address as his law firm. Whoops. 

Mara Elliott has been our city attorney for the past four years and has done a decent job, especially considering the two attorneys before her (Jan Goldsmith and Mike Aguirre) were complete weirdos. Elliott has made pretty awesome strides in getting our city to be more bike-friendly, and she’s been super vigilant about keeping guns out of the hands of people who’ve proven to be too dangerous to wield them.

But Elliott championed (thankfully short-lived) legislation that would have undermined California’s public records law and recently sang the praises of the camera-equipped smart streetlights that have made San Diego one of the most surveilled cities in the U.S. Those lights, in my opinion, are awful—a steaming deuce on civil rights and privacy. I thought that once we became a technocratic dystopia, at least there’d be flying cars? 

So, I don’t know. Vote Pete Mesich? It’s likely Elliott will win, but at least you can feel good about not voting for a police state.  

Vote Pete Mesich for City Attorney.


Oh Jesus, I thought, I don’t know anything about these judges. I was starting to have dreadful flashbacks to 2012, when San Diego elected Judge Kreep because his name was better than his opponent, Judge Peed. We all had a little bit of a chuckle, and then practiced our constitutional right to vote for the funniest name. However, we ended up electing Kreep, a backwards birther who, in a lot of ways, foreshadowed Trump’s rhetoric and behavior. This is the guy we elected to oversee justice in our county.

So, knowing about judges is important. And I don’t. However, I found this Facebook post by Laura Sheppard (link may not work in mobile), a progressive attorney at The Law Office of Laura R. Sheppard. She goes into detail about the candidates, and frankly, it’s a great service for us all, so I’m just going to echo her choices below. Thank you, Laura. 

Seat 18: Roberta Wilson

Seat 22: Alana Wong Robinson

Seat 30: Tim Nader

Seat 36: Michelle Ialeggio (who’s the lesser of two evils). Or write-in Laura Sheppard’s name.


For those familiar with recording music, the board of supervisors is like mastering: nobody knows what it really does, but everyone insists it’s important.

Basically, supervisors are responsible for administering state and federal funding for programs like food stamps and CalWORKS. Nathan Fletcher, a Democrat elected in 2018, has initiated a number of programs aimed at helping people with mental illness and addressing homelessness. Hell yeah, supe. So, go with the ones who lean left. I’m going with: 

District 1: Nora Vargas                 

District 2: Kenya Taylor

District 3: Olga Diaz


Just going to follow the Democratic party line for Board of Education nominees, because we all know Republicans literally weep at the very thought of someone getting a free education—which really has nothing to do with the role of board members, but still.

Vote for the following people:

San Diego County Board of Education 

District 1: Gregg Robinson

District 2: Guadalupe Gonzalez

Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District 

Area 3: Julie Schorr

Area 4: Elena Adams

San Diego Community College District 

District B: Bernie Rhinerson

District D: Mary Graham


Prop 13 is a bond measure that would raise $15 billion to maintain public schools. With interest, it would end up costing taxpayers $26 billion. Now, I’m by no means a real adult, so take everything I say about finances with a grain of salt, but these are the people who care about taxes: Libertarians, rich people and any disgruntled individual who’s declared “this is where my tax dollars go??” Buddy, your taxes go to a lot of things, not just where you want them to go. My point is, schools need all the funding they can get, and yelling that Prop 13 is fiscally irresponsible while schools erode is some serious rich people shit. 

Vote yes on Prop 13. 


Measure A: In the most basic terms—at least as I understand it—this measure is about the approval process of future development in rural and unincorporated parts of San Diego. It would require that voters approve any plans to add more than six houses to very specific and relatively small areas in rural San Diego. 

First of all, it’s stupid to put land use measures on the ballot. It sounds cool at first, like oh right on, direct democracy in action. But the general public doesn’t really have time to think about something that should be the county’s responsibility. 

That said, this is being framed as an environmentalist effort, but it really seems like an attempt to limit new home construction in certain parts of San Diego—namely, multifamily housing. It stinks of NIMBYism. The signature-gathering part of this measure was also initially financed by the the Golden Door, a secluded luxury spa in San Marcos that, I’m sure, doesn’t want any poors living next door. 

Affordable housing should be our priority. 

[Special thanks to this episode of Show In Progress with Matt Strabone for helping me with this one.]

Vote No on Measure A. 

Measure B:
God, another land use initiative? This one would allow developer Newland Communities to build 2,135 homes and 81,000 square feet of retail space—roughly the size of Balboa Park—jnear Escondido.

More housing is always good, though environmentalists say the project will contribute to sprawl. And it’s easy to imagine Newland Sierra’s retail space will include, like, Panda Express, Starbucks, Best Buy, WaBa Grill and everything else you find off the highway. This is another one opposed by Golden Door spa (why do I suddenly wanna stick it to Golden Door so much?). 

I’m split on this one. We need as much housing as we can get, and developers have said that the new homes will be affordably-priced. But also... ugly sprawl.

So, your call for Measure B, but I’ll probably vote Yes. 

Measure C:
Measure C reminds me of that dude in high school who could never land a date to the dances. Not that there was anything objectively wrong with him at first—you just weren’t into him. But then he got increasingly persistent and desperate and finally he’s showing up to your door with a diamond ring and you’re just like ah fuck it I’ll go with you

This measure will increase San Diego’s hotel-room tax to pay for the expansion of the San Diego Convention Center, something Mayor Kevin Faulconer has been championing on for a long time. There’s no reason for me to dislike the idea of a convention center expansion, but I do think it’s unnecessary and such a weird priority for our city. What’s with everyone’s fascination with new stadiums and new convention centers, especially as a means of attracting tourism? You could fill the center of downtown with a pile of 10 million dead rats and people would still vacation here.

Also, I don’t know if you went to Comic-Con last year, but it suuucked. Comic-Con has peaked. Every city has competing con, and superhero movies have seeped into every aspect of everyday living—so why would anyone pay $400 to experience lukewarm exclusives and third-rate cable show premieres? I’m just bringing up Comic-Con because everyone wants to keep it in San Diego and city officials think a bigger convention center will do that, but I’m saying that they’re just fighting over the opportunity to host an increasingly bloated corpse.

The measure would also provide money for homeless services. While I think it’s really dumb to dangle such an incentive to get votes for a stupid convention center, it’s a sizeable amount of money for much-needed services. 

So ah fuck it: Vote Yes on Measure C

Measure D:
This basically takes the responsibility of hiring a city auditor out of the mayor’s hands. Since the auditor is supposed to be independent, this is a big doi. 

Vote Yes on Measure D 

Thanks to Kelly Davis, Seth Combs, Laura Sheppard, Dave Rolland for educating me on policies, candidates and San Diego politics in general. Also thanks to KPBS, The San Diego Union-Tribune, Voice of San Diego, Times of San Diego, and Show in Progress with Matt Strabone for being great sources of information. 

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Head on over to Jim Ruland’s newsletter Message from the Underworld to check out our discussion on Episode 8 of The Outsider. We both agree that it was the best episode of this already-fantastic series. 


Summer Cannibals

Wednesday, Feb. 26

OPTION 1: Lower Dens, Ami Dang @ Soda Bar. Lower Dens play beautiful, atmospheric indie pop. It makes me think of what Chromatics would sound like if they replaced their intentional vapidity with emotion.   

OPTION 2: Madball, Death Before Dishonor, Section H8, The Eulogy @ Brick By Brick. Madball is legendary NYC hardcore, which always makes me feel tougher when I listen to it. I imagine there will be a lot of sweaty guys in sports jerseys at this show. 

Thursday, Feb. 27

OPTION 1: Hikes, Positioner, Band Argument @ Soda Bar. Man, you don’t hear a lot of math-emo! Hikes will blow your brain with a scorching, Marnie Stern guitar riff, but then drop into some very American Football tenderness. For having so many disparate elements, Hikes sounds incredibly cohesive. I love it. 

OPTION 2: Team Cretins Benefit Show feat. The Gay Agenda, Rival Squad, Matt Kaskitt & The Breaks. @ Til-Two Club. This is a benefit show for a ragtag team of local bike hooligans who ride fixies from San Diego to San Francisco to raise money for HIV/AIDS. Good job, bikers! As for me, I’ll be over here eating a bunch of peanut-butter filled pretzels. 

Friday, Feb. 28

OPTION 1: together PANGEA, Reckling @ The Loft at UCSD. I saw together PANGEA at The Irenic last year and I was amazed and heartened by how many young people were there. It’s a little depressing when everything’s EDM this and EDM that, but to see a sold out crowd of youngsters for a punk show, well, that put a feather in my cap. 

OPTION 2: Dave Hause, Northcote @ Soda Bar. I think I’ve sung the praises of emotional folk punk before in these pages, and I’ll do it again! Dave Hause has been in a lot of bands (The Loved Ones, The Falcon), but he shines as a solo musician. He plays bleeding heart, confessional punk in the vein of Gaslight Anthem or Chuck Ragan, and it’s hard not to get emotional while listening to it.  

Saturday, Feb. 29

OPTION 1: Sudan Archives, Velvet Negroni (sold out) @ The Casbah. Ughhh... Sudan Archives is a treasure, and it makes me both happy and sad that her show is sold out. She masterfully fuses pop with Sudanese folk, and the result is breathtaking. If there’s a way you can find your way into this show, do it. 

OPTION 2: SOB X RBE, Shootergang Kony @ Soma. It’s no coincidence that the cover of SOB X RBE’s newest album Strictly Only Brotherslooks so much like N.W.A’.s Straight Outta Compton—SOB’s crew share the same tightness as N.W.A. once had. Their songs are simultaneously aggressive and smooth, but underneath it all, there’s a real sense of family among these young artists. 

Sunday, Mar. 1

OPTION 1: Summer Cannibals, Ramonda Hammer @ Soda Bar. Summer Cannibals have that Kill Rock Stars/post-grunge sound similar to Sleater Kinney and Veruca Salt. They’re heavy and fun as hell. 

OPTION 2: Vacationer, DJ Mike Wallace @ The Whistle Stop. Is chillbedroomgaze a genre? If not I just coined it, and that’s what I’m calling Vacationer, who produce kaleidoscopic collages of sound. I recommend doing an edible or something before this show. 

Monday, Mar. 2

OPTION 1: Wsprgirl, Junipero, and Hailey Wild @ The Casbah. It’s Monday and somedark gloompop is what you need to stave off the depression. Or maybe revel in it? Who knows. Just make sure you have some lasagna too.  

Tuesday, Mar. 3

OPTION 1: Christopher Paul Stelling, Turnrow Saints @ Soda Bar. Do you have record labels that you trust more than others? For me, ANTI- is one of those labels. So, while I probably wouldn’t have given any attention to Christopher Paul Stelling, once I saw that he was on ANTI-, I was like hello! He’s super mellow—kind of folksy/bluegrassy—but considering that today’s Super Tuesday (oh hey, have you looked at my voting guide yet), perhaps you need something a little mellow to calm your nerves. 

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Is it comedy? Is it horror? Drama? How, exactly, did it get made?

Awkward Movie Nights is a new series I’m doing at Digital Gym that strives to celebrate films that exist beyond classification and good taste. 

For the first entry, we’re going to watch Tammy and the T-Rex, about a man who—after being killed by wild big cats in the local animal park—has his brain implanted into an animatronic dinosaur by a mad scientist. Can he convince his girlfriend Tammy that it’s him buried under that mess of wiring and latex? And how many people does he have to kill to prove his devotion? 

Readers, I’m stoked to be able to share this amazing, potentially life-changing film with you. You’ll never look at an animatronic T-Rex romance the same again. There are limited seats, so get them while they’re hot!

Got a tip or wanna say hi? Email me at, or follow me on Twitter @theryanbradford. And if you like what you’ve just read, please hit that little heart icon at the end of the post.