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The Chula Vista city council chambers are pictured on Sept. 19, 2023 with the KPBS VoterHub branding in the top left corner.
Kori Suzuki for KPBS
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California Local
The Chula Vista city council chambers are pictured on Sept. 19, 2023.

Primary Election 2024: Chula Vista City Council races

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

What does a city councilmember do?

The City Council is Chula Vista’s legislative body. Representatives introduce legislation, review policies and advocate for their constituents. City Council members can also represent Chula Vista on regional boards like the San Diego Association of Governments, or SANDAG.

The City Council prepares Chula Vista’s budget. They make important decisions regarding how public tax dollars are spent. This includes expanding municipal services or cutting public programs to fund other priorities.

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There are four council districts in Chula Vista. The Districts 3 and 4 seats are on the ballot for the March 2024 election. To find your council district, search for your address here.

What issues is the district facing?

Public trust

A key question in this race is whether District 4 voters think an elected official should be able to remain in office while facing high-level criminal charges. County prosecutors have charged the incumbent in the race, Councilmember Andrea Cardenas, with fraud, grand theft, money laundering and tax evasion. Her trial is scheduled to begin in mid-March, just after the primary election.

Cardenas resigned Feb. 19, after facing several calls to resign since the charges against her were announced.

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Homelessness

Like many California cities, Chula Vista has rising numbers of unhoused residents. This is particularly true in District 4, where a city-led point-in-time count last September tallied hundreds of people living unsheltered on the street.

City councilmembers can set policy regulating homelessness within the bounds of the city. They also decide how many city dollars should go towards shelters, permanent supportive housing and other measures.

Housing

The City Council decides where the city should allow new housing to be built and what kind of homes are constructed. The City Council can choose to work with agencies or institutions that own land and are interested in building housing, like the Metropolitan Transit System. The Council can also propose and adopt laws on renting, which affect tenants and landlords.

Development and infrastructure

The City Council makes key decisions on major development and infrastructure projects, like the decision to move towards renovating and reopening Harborside Park. City councilmembers can ask voters to raise taxes and can seek out county, state and federal funding so the city has more money for these

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Primary Election 2024: Who's running for Chula Vista City Council District 3?
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League of Women Voters: Chula Vista City Council District 4 candidate forum

Who are the candidates for District 3?

Primary Election 2024: Chula Vista City Council races

District 3 is in the southeast part of Chula Vista, which includes the neighborhoods of Sunbow and Otay Ranch. The district also features the “University and Innovation District,” a plot of land the city set aside to bring a four-year university to the South Bay.

Only two of the five candidates responded to KPBS’ questions about the election.

Chula Vista District 3 City Council candidate Leticia Munguia.
Leticia Munguia
Chula Vista District 3 City Council candidate Leticia Munguia.

Leticia Munguia

  • Board of Directors for CSA San Diego County
  • Decades of experience as a community organizer
  • Endorsements: Planned Parenthood and the Service Employees International Union - United healthcare Workers West (SEIU UHW)

Closer look

Leticia Munguia is an employee and labor relations consultant who has worked for the California School Employees Association, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and the University of California. She previously ran an unsuccessful campaign for the California State Assembly’s 79th District.

Public trust
Munguia believes that Councilmember Andrea Cardenas should resign in light of multiple fraud counts against her and her brother, Jesus Cardenas.

Munguia described Cardenas’ indictment as a distraction that pulls focus away from her constituents.

“The community must come first in every decision you make as a council member,” she said. “Ultimately, it should be about the residents that you serve.”

Public safety
Munguia wants to be an advocate for the people.

“For me, it’s about bringing city services to the residents of District 3,” she said. “Being that bridge builder between City Hall and southeast Chula Vista.”

She said last year’s shooting at the Otay Ranch Town Center that left four people injured underscores the importance of having a strong police and fire department.

Housing
Munguia identified affordability as one of the top issues facing the district. She raised concerns about the fact that people who grew up in Chula Vista can not afford to live there.

Munguia said she favors using public/private partnerships to increase affordability.

“New professionals are being priced out of the market and I think it’s absolutely critical that we maintain an element of affordability,” she said.

Her pitch to voters
“I am committed to serving my community. This is a critical time in Chula Vista and people need an advocate on the City Council that is going to be resident-focused.”

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Chula Vista District 3 City Council candidate Michael Inzunza.
Michael Inzunza campaign
Chula Vista District 3 City Council candidate Michael Inzunza.

Michael Inzunza

    • Former High School teacher and School District Administrator
    • Chula Vista Charter Review Commission board member
    • Endorsements: San Diego Democratic Party and the San Diego Labor Council

    Closer look

    Michael Inzunza was born and raised in Chula Vista. He currently serves on the city’s Charter Review Commission. Inzunza used to be a high school teacher and currently works as a legislative advocate for the California School Boards Association.

    Public trust
    Inzunza believes Cardenas should resign.

    “Andrea Cardenas needs to resign now,” he said. “She should’ve resigned months ago.”

    Inzunza is concerned about partisan infighting within the Chula Vista City Council, which has a Republican mayor and majority-Democrat council.

    Homelessness
    Inzunza credits an increase of homelessness in Chula Vista to the city of San Diego’s encampment ban.

    “The only thing that really happened is that the can was kicked down the road,” he said. “They jumped on the trolley heading south.”

    The increase of homelessness in west Chula Vista is pushing resources away from the east part of town, he said. Inzunza specifically cited traffic accidents and speeding along Olympic Parkway and Otay Lakes Road as a sign that there are not enough police officers patrolling the district.

    Housing
    Inzuna identified affordability as one of the top issues facing the district. He raised concerns about the fact that people who grew up in Chula Vista can not afford to live there.

    “I walk into homes where there’s parents and grandparents with 25- to 35-year-old children who are professionals with college degrees and can’t afford a home,” Inzunza said.

    He’d like to leverage city property to build affordable housing for teachers, nurses, first responders, or municipal workers.

    His pitch to voters
    “Right now, there’s a lot of grappling between the Democrat City Council and the Republican Mayor John McCann. I’m the independent consensus builder.”

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    David Alcaraz

    Did not respond to questions. Visit their campaign website for more.

    Daniel Rice-Vazquez

    Did not respond to questions. Visit their campaign website for more.

    Christos Korgan

    Did not respond to questions. Visit thier campaign website for more.

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    Who are the candidates for District 4?

    District 4 is the Southwest part of Chula Vista below L Street and west of the I-805 freeway.

    Only 4 of the seven candidates responded to KPBS’ questions about the election.

    Chula Vista City Council District 4 candidate Andrea Cardenas is shown in this undated portrait.
    City of Chula Vista
    Chula Vista City Council District 4 candidate Andrea Cardenas is shown in this undated portrait.

    Andrea Cardenas

    • Incumbent Councilmember (Update: Cardenas resigned on Feb. 19)
    • Registered Democrat
    • Facing charges of felony fraud, grand theft, money laundering and tax evasion
    • Endorsements: None

    Closer look

    Public trust
    Cardenas is running amid accusations of grand theft, money laundering and tax evasion. County prosecutors have charged her with fraudulently obtaining a federal emergency pandemic small business loan and using parts of it to cover personal expenses, including a $33,500 check to her campaign account.

    A number of city officials and community leaders have said Cardenas should resign, including Mayor John McCann and Deputy Mayor Jose Preciado.

    Homelessness
    Cardenas did not respond to KPBS’ interview request and didn’t address homelessness in her campaign statement. During her term, the City Council oversaw the opening of a new transitional housing shelter. But city leaders faced criticism over the shelter’s operations and their approach to unsheltered encampments in District 4.

    Housing
    In her campaign statement, Cardenas said she has worked hard to create more housing opportunities that “prioritize affordability.” In 2022, she voted to approve stronger protections for Chula Vista renters.

    Development and Infrastructure
    In her campaign statement, Cardenas said the City Council oversaw renovations at Loma Verde Community Center and Lauderbach Park during her time in office.

    Cardenas also faced months of criticism last year for her proposal to explore building affordable housing on Harborside Park. City leaders have since reversed course and are now on track to reopen the park.

    Read Cardenas’ campaign statement here.

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    Chula VIsta City Council District 4 candidate Christine Brady is shown in this undated photo.
    Christine Brady campaign
    Chula VIsta City Council District 4 candidate Christine Brady is shown in this undated photo.

    Christine Brady

    • Nonprofit Executive
    • Registered Democrat
    • Served on the Cultural Arts Commission in 2022
    • Endorsements: None

    Closer look

    Public trust
    Brady said she has questions about the current administration’s financial decisions, including what she called the “exorbitant cost of development and construction” and the large amounts of city dollars spent on pickleball courts.

    “I think there's something to be looked in there at city hall and audits need to be performed,” she said.

    Brady said the City Attorney should be the one to decide how the city should handle the pending felony charges against Councilmember Cardenas.

    Homelessness
    Brady has proposed building a new shelter for unhoused residents in District 4 that incorporates tiny homes and mental health services. She also criticized the city for its handling of the recently-completed Otay bridge shelter, another tiny homes project.

    “We need to do a whole investigation into what's happening,” she said.

    Housing
    Brady said the city needs to hire more architects on development projects like the planned city library in the Millenia neighborhood. She also said the city should do a better job of seeking community input. She said building more housing is a priority, but that it needs to be spacious, attractive and have room for residents to park.

    Development and infrastructure
    Brady said the city should support a new performing arts district in Downtown Chula Vista. She said it would add jobs and bring more life to the city’s economy.

    Read Brady’s campaign statement here.

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    Chula Vista City Council District 4 candidate Delfina Gonzalez poses for a portrait in this undated photo.
    Delfina Gonzalez campaign
    Chula Vista City Council District 4 candidate Delfina Gonzalez poses for a portrait in this undated photo.

    Delfina Gonzalez

    • Union Organizer
    • Registered Democrat
    • Endorsements: None

    Closer look

    Public trust
    Gonzalez did not respond to KPBS’ interview request. In her candidate statement, Gonzalez said recent political scandals have shown the need for accountable leadership. She said she is committed to honesty, transparency and “restoring faith” in city government. She also said she would champion transparency around city spending.

    Homelessness
    Gonzalez did not address homelessness in her candidate statement. She said economic empowerment was “central” to her vision, and that she would pursue initiatives that would add jobs and encourage entrepreneurs.

    Housing
    Gonzalez did not address housing plans in her candidate statement.

    Development and infrastructure
    Gonzalez said she would prioritize responsible spending of city funds and sustainable growth.

    Read Gonzalez’s campaign statement here.

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    Leticia Lares is shown in this undated photo.
    Courtesy of Leticia Lares
    Leticia Lares is shown in this undated photo.

    Leticia Lares

    • Write-In candidate
    • Harborside Park activist
    • Republican

    Closer look

    Public trust
    Lares said allegations of federal Covid relief funding fraud against Councilmember Cardenas has broken trust between her office and Chula Vista voters.

    “People of Chula Vista are hurt because of the misuse of money we all needed, especially during those two years of our lives wasted during the pandemic,” she said.

    Homelessness
    Lares said she doesn’t like talking about homelessness and thinks it’s politicized. She said she would be interested in creating new adult shelters using government buildings and set side the Otay bridge shelter for younger unhoused people.

    Housing
    Lares said more housing is needed. She said her first priority would be to slow down rising rents in Chula Vista. She said she would talk with current landlords and create an incentive plan.

    Development & infrastructure
    Lares said she would support economic development, although she did not outline specific plans. She also said she would prioritize parkland infrastructure. Lares had previously led a campaign to keep the City Council from permanently closing Harborside Park.

    “Economic growth is always good as families benefit from it when it creates more jobs and is closer to home,” she said.

    As a write-in candidate, Lares did not file a campaign statement.

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    Chula Vista City Council District 4 candidate Cesar Fernandez is shown in this undated photograph.
    Chula Vista Elementary School District
    Chula Vista City Council District 4 candidate Cesar Fernandez is shown in this undated photograph.

    Cesar Fernandez

    • Elementary School District Trustee.
    • Registered Democrat
    • Endorsements: San Diego County Democratic Party, County Supervisor Nora Vargas, San Diego Labor Council

    Closer look

    Public trust
    Fernandez said he hopes to restore trust in City hall.“I’ll bring new leadership to restore trust, end the scandals and start putting our neighborhood’s priorities first again,” he said.

    Homelessness
    Fernandez leveled blame for high rates of homelessness at high rents, addiction, poverty and other factors. He said the city needs more services close to the Otay bridge shelter and to support families on the edge of becoming unhoused.“The answer at City Hall all too often is to drive the crisis further into Southwest Chula Vista,” he said.

    Housing
    Fernandez said making Chula Vista affordable is his top priority. He said he would focus funding for affordable housing on the southwest part of the city. He said the Bayfront Development also should include homes that are affordable for working class families and that locals should get priority.

    Development & infrastructure
    Fernandez said union jobs and local hiring should be a priority for the city, particularly surrounding the Bayfront project, the planned resort and residential development under construction along the waterfront. He said he supports strong project labor agreements, which would bring more opportunities to workers in District 4. He also said the city needs to fix potholes and fight crime.

    Read Fernandez’ campaign statement here.

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    Chula Vista District 4 candidate Rudy Ramirez is shown in this undated photo.
    Rudy Ramirez campaign
    Chula Vista District 4 candidate Rudy Ramirez is shown in this undated photo.

    Rudy Ramirez

    • Former City Councilmember
    • Registered Democrat
    • Endorsements: None

    Closer look

    Public trust
    Ramirez said he’s concerned about the political culture at City Hall. He said he has seen a lack of respect for ethics and the intent of policies like campaign contributions law.

    “When I served in 2006, I served under Mayor Cox,” he said, referring to former mayor Cheryl Cox, who served from 2006 to 2014. “She would have never allowed any of this stuff to be going on behind the scenes.”

    Ramirez said he hopes to be an example of someone who holds high ethical standards.

    Homelessness
    Ramirez said Chula Vista should be a regional leader in addressing homelessness and that the city needs to make drastic changes. He said he supports the Sunbreak Ranch approach, a controversial idea that involves pushing unhoused residents out of cities and into a remote camp in East Miramar.

    “We spend billions of dollars in this state on homeless issues, and we just can't seem to get it,” he said. “We need wholesale change.”

    Housing
    Ramirez said city leaders needed to focus on building trust with residents so they would be more open to future development. He said Chula Vista needs to urbanize its commercial corridors and other areas in order to address the local affordable housing crisis.

    Development and infrastructure
    Ramirez said Chula Vista’s long-awaited university campus is a huge economic opportunity and city leaders need to ensure it brings job growth to the region. He said he would also work to support small businesses in Southwest Chula Vista.

    “Chula Vista has always been developed as a bedroom community, and so breaking out of that mold and becoming more of a job center is not easy,” he said. “But we have to start.”

    Read Ramirez’s campaign statement here.

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    Chula Vista City Council District 4 candidate José Sarmiento is is shown in this undated photo.
    José Sarmiento
    Chula Vista City Council District 4 candidate José Sarmiento is is shown in this undated photo.

    José Sarmiento

    • Bank Manager
    • Registered Democrat
    • Endorsements: None

    Closer look

    Public trust
    Sarmiento said he hoped to restore public trust in local government. He said working in financial services has helped him learn how to build trust with community members and that he would focus on listening to the needs of residents.

    “All I can tell you is that my focus is on my neighbors, District 4, making sure that we do what people are asking,” he said.

    Homelessness
    Sarmiento emphasized the importance of partnerships with local nonprofits like San Diego Rescue Mission and SBCC, formerly South Bay Community Services, and said he would work to strengthen those relationships.

    Housing
    Sarmiento again said he would focus on working with local nonprofits. “We don't have to reinvent the wheel,” he said.

    Development and infrastructure
    Sarmiento said he planned to focus on restoring lighting and sidewalks to make sure that people were safe at night. He also continued to emphasize partnering with nonprofits as a way to add opportunities for new jobs and job training.

    Read Sarmiento’s campaign statement here.

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    Important

    🗳️ Vote-by-mail ballots begin to be sent to all active California registered voters starting Feb 3. The last day to register to vote is Feb. 20. (If voters miss this deadline they can still register and vote in person at any vote center location.) March 5 is the statewide primary election day but many vote centers are open prior to election day. Vote center and drop-off locations close at 8 p.m. on election day.

    Find more guides like this one in KPBS' Voter Hub.

    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.
    Kori Suzuki is a reporter and visual journalist at KPBS and part of the California Local News Fellowship program. He covers the South Bay and Imperial County. He is especially drawn to stories about how we are all complicated and multidimensional.
    The 2024 primary election is March 5. Find in-depth reporting on each race to help you understand what's on your ballot.