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City of Chula Vista Civic Center is shown in this image taken Oct. 21, 2021 with the KPBS Voter Hub overlay.
Matthew Bowler
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KPBS
City of Chula Vista Civic Center is shown in this image taken Oct. 21, 2021 with the KPBS Voter Hub overlay.

Primary Election 2024: Chula Vista City Attorney race

Get general information about the election, news coverage, an interactive ballot guide, and results on election day.

What does the City Attorney do?

The city attorney is Chula Vista’s top lawyer. The position oversees a team of lawyers who provide legal advice on a variety of issues facing the city.

The City Attorney’s Office reviews municipal contracts, assists the City Clerk’s office with public records requests, and represents the city in lawsuits. On top of all that, the office helps the Mayor and City Council draft new laws and regulations.

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The office, when fully staffed, has 10 full-time attorneys, one risk management specialist, three administrative assistants, a manager and interns.

Two candidates are running for the seat:

Bart Miesfeld, who started his legal career as a trial attorney for a private law firm. He joined Chula Vista’s City Attorney Office in 1998 to help build its litigation branch, and served as the last appointed city attorney from 2008 to 2010.

Marco Verdugo, who worked as a deputy city attorney in San Diego. He currently works in a private law firm that provides legal services to local municipalities and serves as deputy city attorney of both Coronado and Solana Beach.

What issues is that office facing?

Understaffed office

Whoever wins the Chula Vista election will inherit an understaffed City Attorney's Office.

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Miesfeld said the office has lost its most experienced lawyers. He said that drain of institutional knowledge means he will have to fill those open positions with quality hires.

“I’ve been in the legal community for over 30 years, I know good talent out there,” he said.

Those vacancies make it especially important for the winner to hit the ground running.

“The job of the next city attorney will be to build up that office,” said Verdugo.

Verdugo touted his experience working with city attorneys in San Diego, Coronado and Solana Beach.

Campaign controversies

Both candidates have squared off in court over their opponent’s ballot designation. And both won.

In September, Miesfeld challenged Verdugo’s title of “Deputy City Attorney,” arguing it was inaccurate because Verdugo works for a private law firm. Verdugo changed the designation to “City’s Attorney.”

More recently, Verdugo challenged Miesfled’s designation of “Chula Vista Attorney,” claiming that Miesfeld is not currently working as an attorney in Chula Vista. A judge sided with Verdugo and Miesfeld changed it to “Retired Municipal Attorney.”

Restoring trust

Both candidates said restoring the public’s trust is a top priority.

“I think the trust between our city leaders and our residents isn’t there,” Verdugo said. “So the job of the city attorney is to bring back that trust.”

Vergudo and Miesfeld cited City Councilmember Andrea Cardenas’ felony fraud indictment as part of the reason for the fractured trust.

“Currently the biggest issue is that people are just sick and tired of the political corruption in the South Bay,” Miesfeld said.

Both candidates support open government policies that would make the city more transparent.

Primary Election 2024: Chula Vista City Attorney race

Who are the candidates?

Chula Vista City Attorney candidate Bart Miesfeld poses for a portrait in this undated campaign photo.
Bart Miesfeld Campaign
Chula Vista City Attorney candidate Bart Meisfeld poses for a portrait in this undated campaign photo.

Bart Miesfeld

  • Former Chula Vista City Attorney, 2018-2020
  • More than 20 years of experience in the Chula Vista City Attorney's Office
  • Endorsed by state Assemblymember Steve Padilla and former Chula Vista Mayor Mary Salas

Closer look

Miesfeld started his legal career as a trial attorney for a private law firm. He joined Chula Vista’s City Attorney office in 1998 to help build its litigation branch. Then he spent more than 20 years working in the office, eventually serving as city attorney between 2018 and 2020.

Miesfeld touted his experience, particularly because members of the City Council do not have a lot of experience.

“We have four relatively inexperienced council members,” he said. “It takes a while to learn the process and the government structure; the things you can and can’t do.”

One of the actions Miesfeld wants to take as city attorney is to have a deputy district attorney dedicated solely on public safety issues. This person would work inside the police department and be available to support the department.

Marco Verdugo, Chula Vista City Attorney candidate, poses for a portrait in this undated campaign photo.
Marco Verdugo campaign
Marco Verdugo, Chula Vista City Attorney candidate, poses for a portrait in this undated campaign photo.

Marco Verdugo

    • Senior Associate with Burke, Williams & Sorensen law firm
    • Former deputy city attorney for the city of San Diego
    • Endorsed by San Diego Democratic Party

    Closer look

    Verdugo began his law career as an intern for the Chula Vista City Attorney Office in 2011.

    He went on to work as a deputy city attorney in San Diego and currently works for a private law firm that provides legal services to Coronado and Solana Beach. He also serves as deputy city attorney for both cities.

    Verdugo wants to prioritize public safety.

    “I’ll focus on preventing gun violence, prosecuting quality of life crimes, and ensuring our attorneys and staff have the tools and training that they need to protect the city,” he said.

    Verdugo would also like to add anti-corruption measures to prevent politicians charged with certain felonies from serving on the City Council.

    Gustavo became the Investigative Border Reporter at KPBS in 2021. He was born in Mexico City, grew up in San Diego and has two passports to prove it. He graduated from Columbia University’s School of Journalism in 2013 and has worked in New York City, Miami, Palm Springs, Los Angeles, and San Diego. In 2018 he was part of a team of reporters who shared a Pulitzer Prize for explanatory journalism. When he’s not working - and even sometimes when he should be - Gustavo is surfing on both sides of the border.
    The 2024 primary election is March 5. Find in-depth reporting on each race to help you understand what's on your ballot.