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Politics Report: The Intense Council President Contest

Nov 21, 2020 |

Original article can be found here.
Untitled-design-15-800x533-3 Politics Report: The Intense Council President Contest Politics [your]NEWS
Councilwomen Jen Campbell and Monica Montgomery at Golden Hall on election night in 2018 / Photos by Adriana Heldiz

The 2020 Council president’s race was already unlike any other. Councilwoman Monica Montgomery Steppe and Councilwoman Jen Campbell publicly announced – with press releases – their intentions to seek the seat, something we’ve never seen.

And now the race has become something of a harbinger of what the split on the left may look like as the city adapts to Democratic dominance.

We asked them both to come on the podcast: Only Montgomery Steppe wanted to, and we asked her why this had become so important for her and her supporters.

“Because I witnessed a Council president that supported me and I want to offer that same support,” she said. “It is really hard to get things through the city.”

Feeling like a campaign: The public nature of the contest ended up roping in traditional public aspects of a campaign. On the left, for example, candidates usually vie for the support of labor unions and the Democratic Party.

Apparently, this is the same deal.

First, the San Diego County Democratic Party’s central committee held an endorsement vote Tuesday night.

Wonky digression: There was a prolonged procedural debate during the hearing, wherein the party ultimately declared —  crucially — that they were voting to support one candidate, just as they would a piece of legislation, and not voting to endorse anyone. This mattered because the decision did not follow the party’s formal endorsement process. OK. Perhaps that’s an important distinction for the party’s bylaws. But two Democrats were vying for a public position, and the party voted to mobilize to support one of them. That’s an endorsement.

Back to the news: The party went ahead and put its collective thoughts into a Twitter thread the next day, which turned into a long encomium for Montgomery Steppe.

Elected officials joined the party meeting’s Zoom to tout Montgomery Steppe, including Councilwoman Vivian Moreno (that’s one vote she can count on, it seems).

Council President Georgette Gómez argued for the importance of having a true progressive in the role. Assemblywoman Shirley Weber acknowledged it was new for the party to weigh in on the Council president decision, but argued that was a good thing because many traditions are just tools for entrenching the status quo.

Then things got interesting: On Thursday, Montgomery Steppe told us the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council had also voted to support her for Council president. This would be huge news. We had heard, and it was kind of an open secret, that labor supported Campbell.

If they had voted the other way, it would be a big deal. Montgomery Steppe’s supporters shared the news on social media.

But on Friday, we tried to confirm that decision with Laura Fink, who has often served as a press contact for the Labor Council. She said the Labor Council had no comment on the race.

Bottom line: The race is still very much up in the air, by all accounts. As their first order of business upon joining the City Council, five newly elected Democrats will need to choose between two of their colleagues who are, according to the party, “Democrats in good standing.” In her appeal to the party not to take a position, Campbell said splitting the Council’s 8-1 majority so early would threaten the body’s ability to achieve big things.

A Loss, But We’ll Still Keep Fighting for COVID-19 Data

Friday we got the final ruling from a Superior Court judge about our lawsuit seeking the data about outbreaks in San Diego County. The county argues that its contact tracing efforts would break down if people found out that their place of business or other location may become public as the spot of an outbreak.

We point out that other places, like Los Angeles and Oregon, release that data.

But our managing editor Sara Libby noted another interesting part of the disagreement. It centers on a law Assemblyman Todd Gloria got through the Legislature after the hepatitis A outbreak.

“That law requires the county to provide outbreak data to cities. The county argues that since it doesn’t *expressly* say they must also provide it to the public, they don’t have to. But all government records are by nature public records unless they fit a specific exemption,” Libby pointed out. You can read the county’s brief on that here.

Gloria, who is now the mayor-elect, responded.

“There may be reasons why the County feels it’s in the public interest to withhold this information, but I don’t agree with them using my legislation, intended and designed to increase transparency, as a means to limit transparency,” Gloria wrote.

We’ll be out next week giving thanks and all that. You’re the smartest readers in town so be thankful for that. If you have any feedback for the Politics Report, send it to scott.lewis@voiceofsandiego.org or andrew.keatts@voiceofsandiego.org. 

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