National City Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis speaks at Politifest South, Oct. 6, 2022. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

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If Alejandra Sotelo-Solis wins re-election as National City mayor, it won’t be because things have been easy for her.

She lost the support of many labor unions. (Not the firefighters! As she’ll point out.) She lost the Democratic Party. And this week she faced perhaps the most personal setback among setbacks when her longtime ally, National City’s vice mayor Marcus Bush rescinded his endorsement of Sotelo-Solis and then announced that, instead, he now supported her rival Jose Rodriguez.

Before all this became public, Bush texted Sotelo-Solis Thursday morning while she was in a meeting of the Metropolitan Transit System with the news that he’d be switching his endorsement to Rodriguez. It was the latest, and perhaps unkindest, defection from her campaign by progressives and interest groups including many labor unions that have decided to line up instead with Rodriguez. Sotelo-Solis read Bush’s text out loud at the Politifest South debate.

“As you know, I’ve tried to talk with you about my concerns, but we haven’t been able to connect for one reason or another,” the text from Bush said after informing Sotelo-Solis that he’d be announcing his support for Rodriguez that day.

Sotelo-Solis seemed unwilling to accept the news.

“I think you have to pull an endorsement or say that ‘I’m no longer behind you.’ Because in politics, there’s no takebacks,” she said from the Politifest South stage at the Emo Brown Foundation in Chula Vista.

“That is not a rescinding of an endorsement,” Sotelo-Solis said.

In fact, after she got the text from Bush, she reposted, on Facebook, an image of Bush endorsing her campaign from months before.

National City City Councilman Jose Rodriguez speaks at Politifest South, Oct. 6, 2022. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

Things escalated: Bush had his attorney send Sotelo-Solis a cease-and-desist letter to stop her for doing that again.

“Unfortunately, her response was what has become typical of our interactions: She was curt and dismissive, then posted my prior endorsement of her, which she no longer has,” he told the Politics Report.

Why it matters: National City’s mayor will have spots on regional agencies A third candidate in the race, longtime National City fixture Ron Morrison found this all amusing. As Rodriguez and Sotelo-Solis attack each other, the odds that his name recognition and his conservative base help him secure a plurality of voter support increase.

But he found himself on the hot seat at Thursday’s debate as well.

In his opening remarks, Morrison, who was National City’s mayor for many years, said the city has gone downhill since Sotelo-Solis took the mayor’s office.

Morrison said city residents had generated a higher level of pride after the Great Recession. The city had invested in quality of life improvements. He said now, though, it felt less clean.

“We started all kinds of work within the city and really bringing a pride into the city. A lot of people feel that’s been lost in the last few years,” he said.

Sotelo-Solis took offense.

“It really upsets me that yes, we have issues like every other community, but to point out that is National City dirty — that’s not OK,” she said. “I just want to make that point because we are very hardworking community and many times we are scapegoated, as people of color, as being a certain way. And that’s not OK.”

National City City Councilman Ron Morrison speaks at Politifest South, Oct. 6, 2022. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

Politifest Starts Strong

That was just a slice of the tense exchanges between candidates on stage in the inaugural Politifest South held in Chula Vista Thursday night. The rest of Politifest is going on today at the University of San Diego.

Saturday will feature debates for sheriff, county assessor, San Diego school board and City Council and the proponents and opposition for Measure B and Measure C. Plus, we have a conversation between San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria and Nathan Fletcher moderated by our Lisa Halverstadt.

Scott will host a “hot tea” session (with no actual team, to be clear) featuring political insiders labor leader Brigette Browning, political consultant Ryan Clumpner and City Hall maven Francis Barraza.

There’s more, if you can believe it. Everyone is going to be there and you’ll be feeling intense fear of missing out if you do not come even if you are doing something fun. Do not risk it.

Chula Vista Candidates on Why Cops Don’t Want Cop Jobs

In 2018, Chula Vista voters raised their sales tax on the promise that the new revenue would increase public safety – faster 9-1-1 responses, more neighborhood patrols, fewer gang and drug crimes, a crackdown on homelessness and better fire and paramedic responses.

Just a year later, it was clear the city was still dealing with police and fire staffing issues, despite the extra revenue.

That’s been a persistent issue in Chula Vista’s mayoral race between Ammar Campa-Najjar and Chula Vista Councilman John McCann.

McCann – who supported the 2018 tax increase because it was marked for public safety spending – said voters who did the same should know the math behind the promise was sound, and it isn’t the city’s fault that more tax revenue hasn’t translated into more police.

“The challenge right now is, we do have the funding for police, but because of the anti-police, defund-the-police movement, we have positions open,” he said. “The problem and the challenge is that because of the culture right now, nobody wants to become a police officer… We have those positions open. We actually have a fund — so the tax comes in, we don’t spend it, we don’t put it in the general fund and spend it on other things. We actually save it for police positions and fire positions.”

That puts officials from Chula Vista, or any other city, in a tricky – or convenient – spot. They can’t just pass a resolution to make the American public view police more favorably, or to scrutinize their actions less harshly. It’s unclear how local officials can combat police recruitment problems if they have all the funding they need, but can’t fill positions because of a mood.

Tacos to the rescue: McCann said he has a plan for that.

“I’ve been working with the chief, and one of the things we went to and did yesterday was, tacos with a cop,” he said. “We had an event where families could come, they could meet the police officers, they could talk to people… the community comes in and they get tacos.”

Campa-Najjar said allowing for more workforce housing in the city could address staffing problems. He agreed that the police issues are no longer a funding problem, but also said firefighters – whose union has endorsed him – need a raise.

He joined McCann in condemning the “defund-the-police” movement.

“I think it’s important as a Democrat that we say we do support the police,” he said. “We don’t want to defund the police. I mean, there’s bad actors in every single industry. Imagine if we stopped having teachers because of a few bad actors. I mean, that would just be an absurd way to govern, right? So we don’t want to defund the police, we do want to hold bad actors accountable.”

Campa-Najjar also said police enforcement needs to be part of the city’s plan to combat homelessness.

“I’m not going to get an applause for this but, enforcement is important too,” he said. “And so the city of San Diego’s been doing this progressive enforcement piece, where we tell people, ‘Look, you could either go to a shelter – and we’ll have to have one before we could enforce that – or eventually after four strikes, you have to deal with the legal ramifications.’ So I think those are the pieces that we have to put in place.”

See you at Politifest. If you have any feedback or ideas for the Politics Report, send them to scott.lewis@voiceofsandiego.org or andrew.keatts@voiceofsandiego.org.

Scott Lewis

Scott Lewis oversees Voice of San Diego’s operations, website and daily functions as Editor in Chief. He also writes about local politics, where he frequently...

Andrew Keatts

I'm Andrew Keatts, a managing editor for projects and investigations at Voice of San Diego. Please contact me if you'd like at andrew.keatts@voiceofsandiego.org...

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