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Mike Najera, a port commissioner who was abruptly asked to step down from his position by Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox on Monday, just told me he recently held a fundraiser for Chula Vista City Councilman Steve Castaneda, who is widely expected to challenge Cox when her term expires in 2010.

“I don’t have any factual evidence, but I can say it’s kind of coincidental,” Najera said.

Najera said he attended a meeting with Cox on Monday and was told that he had until noon on Tuesday to step down or Cox would “go to the media.” He said the mayor told him she was disappointed that a proposed waterfront development in Chula Vista has not materialized during his time as a commissioner.

Steve Cushman, chairman of the port commission, said he’s waiting to hear an explanation from Cox as to why she asked Najera to resign. Najera has been a “terrific commissioner” who works hard, never misses meetings and has done a great job, he said. Cushman said he called Cox to ask for an explanation but has not yet spoken to her.

Castaneda said Cox’s leadership of the city has been disappointing and said he supports a change in leadership in the county’s second-largest city. But he stopped short of saying he would be running against Cox for mayor.

Cox did not return a call for comment.

WILL CARLESS

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