Duo Leads Crowded Race for Seats on San Clemente City Council

By Brad Jones
Brad Jones
Brad Jones
Brad Jones is an award-winning journalist based in Southern California.
November 9, 2020Updated: November 9, 2020

Democrat Chris Duncan and Republican incumbent Gene James are leading the race for two 4-year term seats on the San Clemente City Council.

Both had received about 18.5 percent of the unofficial vote count as of Nov. 7, according to the Orange County Registrar of Voters. The vote was split among 10 candidates vying for seats on the California city’s council.

“I am so grateful to the people of San Clemente for their terrific support,” Duncan said in a Nov. 4 media release.

“The results so far are extremely encouraging. While there are a lot of ballots left to process, we’re confident that when all the votes are finally counted, our campaign will be victorious.”

San Clemente is ready for new ideas, Duncan said, vowing to live up to his campaign message to protect the environment, support residents’ health, and be “smart on crime.”

“We are still in the midst of a deadly pandemic and an economic recession, and our nation is still bitterly divided. We must come together as a city and meet these challenges head on,” he said in the release.

“I will be a voice for all members of our community, whether they voted for me or not.”

Aaron Washington trails behind the two contenders, with just under 17 percent of the vote. Unofficial results show Bill Hart next with about 14 percent, followed by Charlie Smith with around 12 percent of the vote.

Meanwhile, Republican Steven Knoblock is leading the race to fill a two-year-term seat with just under 24 percent of the vote. Also in the running are candidates Jim Dahl with 21.5 percent and Democrat Donna Vidrine with about 18.5 percent.

The two-year seat was left open when former deputy Mayor Dan Bane resigned to pursue an out-of-state employment opportunity in his law career. Eight candidates are vying for the seat.

Bane, elected to council in 2018, was selected to be mayor pro tem. But when then-Mayor Steve Swartz died in May 2019, Bane became acting mayor and Councilman James won the open council seat in a special election last fall.

Although city council races are officially nonpartisan, many candidates in San Clemente have shown their political stripes through party endorsements.