UPDATED at 11:03 pm!
SAN DIEGO -- Kevin Faulconer on Tuesday night took a commanding lead in the race for mayor, as early unofficial results were announced.
Faulconer, a moderate Republican who is credited with helping to negotiate the Aug. 30, 2013 resignation of scandal-ridden Bob Filner, built a sizable advantage over Democrat David Alvarez after the mail-in ballot totals were released. Mail-in ballots traditionally favor Republicans, and Faulconer held a larger-than-expected 56% to 44% edge over Alvarez after those totals were announced shortly after the polls closed at 8 pm.
There were almost 169,000 mail-in ballots.
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By 11:03 pm, 500 of 582 precincts representing 86% of the precincts had been counted. Faulconer's lead was 55% to 45% over Alvarez.
Alvarez was counting heavily on the "South of 8" vote that traditionally goes blue for Democrats and often votes in person on election day. Those totals are typically the last to be counted, and the Alvarez camp said they expected the race to tighten as the evening grows longer.
The winner will replace Filner, a Democrat who replaced termed-out Mayor Jerry Sanders, a moderate Republican. Interim Mayor Todd Gloria will return to his post as City Council president after the winner is sworn in.
If Faulconer wins, he would return the Mayor's Office to the GOP in a city that has a history of electing moderate Republicans to the city's top post. With a Faulconer win, San Diego, the nation's eighth-largest city, would be the biggest in the U.S. with a Republican mayor.
If Alvarez wins, he would become San Diego's first Latino mayor in the city that is growing increasingly Hispanic.
A poll worker at The Center in Hillcrest reported a heavy turnout from the LGBT-dominated precinct. The LGBT community overwhelmingly favored Alvarez in an unofficial SDGLN Poll last week, and the San Diego Democrats for Equality endorsed the Latino candidate.
The two candidates, both members of the San Diego City Council, advanced to the runoff with Faulconer winning 44% of the vote and Alvarez collecting 26% in a race featuring nine other candidates.