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San Diego swears in all-Democrat 74th city council, selects council president

The city of San Diego swore in its 74th City Council Monday, and for the first time in city history, all the council members are Democrats. KPBS reporter Jacob Aere has the details.

The city swore in its 74th City Council Monday, making the officially nonpartisan board unofficially all-Democratic for the first time in history.

Outgoing Councilman Chris Cate, who was the only Republican on the council, thanked his family, staff and colleagues in his departing remarks — even though he sometimes disagreed ideologically with the latter.

"From the outset, I knew that our time in office would be short," he said. "I've found that it is possible to have differences in opinion with my colleagues and still find a away to deliver for San Diegans.


"My team and I have helped thousands of San Diego families, passed meaningful policies, advocated for underserved communities, supported our local businesses — especially during the pandemic — and repaired several miles of streets and sidewalks," he said.

Cate represented City Council District 6, an Asian American and Pacific Islander Empowerment district. He touted policies specifically helping members of that community, including eliminating fees for home-based businesses, strengthening penalties for illicit massage parlors to address human trafficking and helping establish the Convoy Pan Asian Cultural and Business Innovation District.

Replacing him in District 6 is nonprofit director Kent Lee. Lee was sworn in Monday by 95-year-old Tom Hom, the first Asian American and non-white member of the San Diego City Council, who broke that color barrier in 1963.

“Many people have talked about this district being an Asian empowerment district because it's 41 percent Asian and Pacific Islander. And that's certainly not lost on me as well,” Lee told KPBS. “I look forward to making sure that we carry those voices forward within the city. But really at the end of the day making sure that we serve all of our residents within the city of San Diego and the district.”

Lee, the son of two immigrants, will become only the fourth AAPI councilman, following in the footsteps of Hom, now-Mayor Todd Gloria and Cate.


"We can and we must do better," he said. "Our message connected resoundingly with voters. It is my honor to follow in your footsteps."

The District 6 council member said he has his top priorities in order.

“Homelessness has grown to be a bigger challenge each and every day here in the city of San Diego,” Lee said. “And what that means is we must do something in terms of the actual housing that we can deliver for San Diego residents so people can live, play and enjoy working in San diego. And what's most important to that is that housing is affordable to many of the middle incoming working families throughout the city.”

Lee was the only newly elected council member, but Councilwomen Jennifer Campbell, Monica Montgomery Steppe and Vivian Moreno were each sworn in for new terms. Campbell was sworn in by Assemblyman Chris Ward, Montgomery Steppe by her husband Steven Hayes Steppe and Moreno by Assemblyman David Alvarez.

On Monday afternoon, the council unanimously re-elected Sean Elo-Rivera as City Council President.

Campbell, who served as council president before being ousted for Elo-Rivera, threw her full support behind him, while reminding him and her fellow Democrat colleagues of their responsibility to all the city's residents.

"I believe we can be a leading light for the Democratic party across this nation, but we must remember our Republican friends," she said. "At the end of the day, we are all 100% American."

Elo-Rivera said he would continue to place equity and inclusion for underrepresented neighborhoods within the city at the forefront of his dockets and during the budget process.