Campbell ousted as San Diego City Council president, replaced by Elo-Rivera
Speaker 1: (00:00)
San Diego city council has a new president after a surprising vote result yesterday afternoon. Yes. I would like
Speaker 2: (00:07)
To vote. Yes. In favor of council, president elect Shawn LA Rivera. Thank you.
Speaker 3: (00:13)
Uh, clerk, please call the roll. It's that passes 8 2 1 with, uh, council, president Campbell voting. No
Speaker 1: (00:20)
With that council member, Sean ELO Rivera representing district nine takes over after the incumbent council president Dr. Jen Campbell, who was unable to get the votes needed for another term. And what many considered to be a formality KPBS? Metro reporter, Andrew Bowen joins us with details. Andrew. Welcome.
Speaker 4: (00:38)
Hi Jade. Thanks.
Speaker 1: (00:40)
So what happened? Yesterday's city council meeting?
Speaker 4: (00:43)
Well, it started with council member, Steven Whitburn, whose voice you heard just at the beginning there nominating, uh, council president Campbell for a second year in that position. Pretty shortly thereafter. Another council member spoke up and asked whether he could make a substitute motion. Um, Campbell ended up shutting that down she's as council president in charge of the meeting, but it immediately kind of let everyone know that something was up. And so the end result was then a five to four vote in against keeping Campbell as council president. After that, the meeting got a little confusing. Um, Campbell took two recesses to consult with city attorneys on rules and just how you know, meetings are allowed to run and motions going here and there and everything. There were some awkward moments where Campbell was clearly not happy. Uh, and some council members were withholding their votes until it, you know, they knew for certain who was gonna be the next council president. Uh, ultimately as you heard, the council voted eight one to elect Sean ILA as the council president, and the only no vote came from, uh, former council president, Jen Campbell,
Speaker 1: (01:48)
And there are yearly votes to choose the city council president. So why was the result here such a surprise? Well,
Speaker 4: (01:55)
Every year since this position of council president was created in 2006, when the city switched to a strong mayor form of gun government, the, the council president has always gotten at least two years in that position. And, uh, the election, the, the bigger election is usually in even numbered years, right after a new city council has taken office that that's when the, the bigger debate is happening. Uh, and odd numbered years are more of a formality where you're just sure take another year. But the important thing that's different here is that Campbell Jen Campbell was one of the most controversial choices for council president in city history from the very beginning last year. Uh, some of our listeners may remember there was this huge community based campaign to elect Monica Montgomery's step as council president she's is the only black elected official in city government.
Speaker 4: (02:46)
She's a former civil rights attorney. She's very popular in her district. And her supporters saw her as just a better person to lead the city on many of its important issues among them racial equity, which was a huge, uh, part of the conversation last year and still is of course. So, uh, Campbell had lost, uh, she, she had support from the political establishment and was elected last year in a five to four vote. But the fact that that vote was so narrow and the vote was so contentious, really just laid the foundation for ultimately what happened yet. And
Speaker 1: (03:19)
Council member, Chris Kate seemed to play a crucial role in preventing Dr. Jen Campbell from remaining as council president. Can you explain what went on there?
Speaker 4: (03:28)
Chris Kate is the only Republican left in elected office in city government. And so last year he was one of the five who supported Campbell for this position, uh, siting with the more moderate Democrats on the council on Monday, he cited with the councils for progressives in voting against Campbell, uh, having a, a second year in that job, he didn't explain what changed his mind. All we got was a tweet, uh, after the vote took place saying congratulations to the new council president. And he said, I appreciate the relationship we've built and look forward to working with you in 2022. So it's possible that Kate and Campbell had some policy disagreement that they're not really talking about in the open, but I think his tweet is a reminder of the fact that building and maintaining relationships is a really important part of politics. And, uh, we should also acknowledge Campbell. Didn't just lose the confidence of what colleague in Chris, Kate. She also failed to gain the confidence of all of the colleagues who didn't vote for her last year. So that was really her downfall
Speaker 1: (04:28)
And council, president ILO Rivera, whose district includes areas such as city Heights. The college area down to south Krest is a relative newcomer to the council. Tell us more
Speaker 4: (04:38)
About him. Uh, he's an attorney I trade, uh, he led a nonprofit that seeks to empower youth before he entered city government. He's had a somewhat unlikely rise in politics, actually in 2018, he won a seat on the community college district board, uh, beating out a former city council member who in that race was seen as the favorite. And then in last year, years, city council race for district nine, he faced a very well funded opponent who had support from establishment Democrats and labor unions, but then that candidate ended up having to withdraw from the race after, uh, reporting on some campaign finance missteps that he had made. So Sean Eve has had a very fast, and some would say surprising rise in local politics, although he's very charismatic. So, uh, you know, if you, if you get to know him and speak with him and, and watch him in council meetings and how he interacts with his, his colleagues, I think, you know, you might find this rise a little less surprising, and
Speaker 1: (05:37)
Here's some of what he had to say soon after his election. We've
Speaker 5: (05:41)
Got a lot to do. Um, and I really do look forward to working with each of you to ensure that every single community in our city gets the services and supports they need.
Speaker 1: (05:51)
And what is council member ELO Rivera's vision for the council and how might it differ from his predecessors?
Speaker 4: (05:58)
Well, he is definitely a progressive, certainly more progressive than Jen Campbell, but at the same time, he's also shown willingness to compromise with the more moderate colleagues on the city council. Probably the most notable example is his vote in favor of the city's contract with SD G and E. Uh, his fellow progressive was on the council had voted against it, but he supported it. And in the process extracted some last minute concessions that arguably got the city a, a better deal in that, in that, uh, equation. I, I think one of the fundamental questions in San politics right now is what is the purpose of the city council, especially when the entire city government and by Democrats, which was not the case up until a co uh, just last year really does the city council just rubber stamp the mayor's agenda, or do they pursue their own policies and create sort of a competition with the mayor in comparison with Campbell? I think ELO Rivera leans toward the latter in, in a sort of a leading a strong council that pursues own agenda. And, uh, as you heard there, I think he's very interested in equity in making sure that all of the, the areas of the city that have been historically underinvested in get their fair share of resources. So he's, uh, you know, definitely one to watch. And I think we'll be, um, following that certainly in the next year,
Speaker 1: (07:16)
I've been speaking with K PBS, Metro reporter, Andrew Bowen, Andrew.
Speaker 4: (07:20)
Thank you. Thank you, Jade.
The San Diego City Council on Monday ousted Jen Campbell as council president in a surprise move, replacing her with Councilmember Sean Elo-Rivera.
Campbell was elected to the post by her peers in 2020. Council president votes in odd years are traditionally routine re-elections of the incumbent, but five councilmembers — Joe LaCava, Monica Montgomery Steppe, Chris Cate, Vivian Moreno and Elo-Rivera himself — voted against giving her a second year.
All of those councilmembers, except Cate, voted against selecting Campbell as council president last year in one of the most contentious votes in recent memory. Cate did not explain why he no longer wanted Campbell in the post. However, he congratulated Elo-Rivera on Twitter, saying: "I appreciate the relationship we've built & look forward to working with you in 2022."
In San Diego's strong-mayor form of government, the council president is one of the city's most powerful elected officials. They are responsible for setting council agendas, doling out committee assignments and running council meetings.
Elo-Rivera, who represents District 9, said in brief remarks during the council's deliberation that he was ready for the role, and that he wanted the City Council to live up to its potential.
"That means being a strong council, that means being a responsible council, a transparent council, and a collaborative council that upholds responsible governance, that is as good as the people that we aim to serve," Elo-Rivera said.
The selection of the council president started with Councilmember Stephen Whitburn nominating Campbell for a second year, saying she had led the council through difficult times during the pandemic and had forged compromises on important issues. Whitburn's motion failed 5-4.
The following motion to select Elo-Rivera as council president passed 8-1, with Campbell casting the only "no" vote.
Campbell, who represents District 2, has faced opposition from all sides of the political spectrum and was the target of an unsuccessful recall campaign earlier this year. Her district includes western Clairemont, Mission Beach, Pacific Beach, Midway, Ocean Beach and Point Loma.
Opponents have criticized her for her stances on several issues including energy policy, policing, racial equity and short-term home rentals.
Campbell has also faced criticism recently over a staff member's involvement in the city's redistricting process. A watchdog group last week asked the San Diego City Attorney's Office to investigate whether Campbell or her staff had unethically sought to protect her from being drawn into a new district, which would have forced her to move in order to seek re-election next year.
Campbell said in a statement to KPBS: "At no point did I direct my staff to influence the Redistricting Commission in any way."
Campbell’s ascension to council president last year came despite a wave of community support to pick Montgomery Steppe for the job. Montgomery Steppe's supporters argued she was more progressive and qualified than Campbell, and, as a Black woman and former civil rights attorney for the local ACLU chapter, better suited to lead on racial equity issues.
Elo-Rivera is entering his second year in office. His district includes City Heights, Kensington, Talmadge, College Area and parts of Southeast San Diego. He is seen as a progressive willing to take on controversial issues, such as ending the city's century-old practice of offering free trash pickup to single-family homes but not apartments or businesses.