Many of the candidates had long roots in the City of San Diego prior to the election. Adolph Gassen had previously held other elected office within the City. John Kastle of the People's Party had previously served as president of the Chamber of Commerce. A.E. Cochran had been active in Democratic Party.
Independent candidate William H. Carlson campaigned vigorously, making numerous extravagant campaign promises, including electric car lines on every street, luxury hotels, steamship lines to every port on earth, transcontinental railroads, and jobs with high wages for all.
On April 4, 1893, Carlson was elected mayor with a plurality of 46.8 percent of the vote, nearly twice as many votes as his closest competitor.
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