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Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña e-mailed me her thoughts about the race to replace City Council President Ben Hueso in District 8 next year, when Hueso is expected to run for state Assembly. Here’s Saldaña’s e-mail:

I met with Ben Hueso in Sacramento a few weeks ago, and he told me then he was running for the 79th Assembly seat.

First, I have not endorsed him or anyone else for Assembly yet- I don’t believe in early endorsements, which sometimes discourage very well qualified people to come forward and become candidates.

Second, I encouraged Ben to find and mentor a well qualified woman from District 8 to run to replace him.

Why? Because NEVER, in the entire history of the city of San Diego, has a woman of color been elected to city council. Never. No Latina, African American woman, Asian American, etc. (One woman, Celia Ballesteros, was appointed to [District 8] many years ago, but only after she promised she would not run for the seat.)

The same is true of the County Supervisors. We have NEVER had a woman of color elected to the Board, in the County’s history.

For the nation’s 7th largest city, and one of its largest most diverse counties, I find this a terrible situation. There are more women than men in this nation, yet we make up a minority of elected officials at every level.

As Chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus, the largest in the legislature with 33 out of 120 members, I see women of ever color serving ably in Sacramento. As Chair, one of my tasks is to actively encourage qualified women from non-traditional backgrounds to run for office around the state, to ensure a healthy and broad debate on the issues.

It’s time for the same diversity in San Diego.

I believe increasing diversity in representation is essential for informed decision making that reflects the different experiences of people throughout our region. Diverse leaders also serve to inspire the next generation, and show them that leadership can be developed from many walks of life.

When I spoke with Saldaña today, she said she didn’t have anyone particular in mind for Hueso’s seat, just that women with untraditional backgrounds — such as educators or heads of social service agencies — should be encouraged to run.

When she brought up the idea with Hueso, Saldaña said Hueso mentioned there was “a woman on his staff who was interested in running and that she decided not to.” Saldaña said a system where people in office choose who replaces them means that ideas remain static, adding that she couldn’t imagine giving such a response for her replacement.

“There are 450,000 people in my district,” Saldaña said. “I think there’s a lot better choices than just looking across the desk.”

The assemblywoman, a Democrat who is termed out of office next year, didn’t know which staffer Hueso was referring to. Senior policy analyst Raquel Marquez-Maden has been mentioned as potential candidate, but his chief of staff, Ana Molina-Rodriguez, might also fit the reference.

Saldaña said a minority city councilwoman might have done more to preserve affordable housing in San Diego, noting the example of lower-priced rentals lost when apartment buildings were converted to condominiums during the housing boom.

“Affordable housing is very much a women and family issue,” Saldaña said. “This City Council has failed miserably in my eyes to protect affordable housing in the city.”

RANI GUPTA

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