San Diego Councilwoman Jen Campbell at an election party held at the Westin Hotel on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. Photo by Brittney Cruz-Fejeran for Voice of San Diego
San Diego Councilwoman Jen Campbell at an election party held at the Westin Hotel on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. Photo by Brittany Cruz-Fejeran for Voice of San Diego

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When the Union-Tribune editorial board endorsed Linda Lukacs in her race to oust City Councilwoman Jen Campbell, it offered a strange logic.  

Campbell, the paper said, had laudable positions: She had resolved the long, torturous dilemma about how to regulate vacation rentals and she supported major investments in housing and development in the Midway area. In contrast, the paper wrote, Lukacs had “disappointing” views on housing and “seemed too inclined to Not In My Backyard (NIMBY) thinking.” 

But ultimately, none of that mattered and the U-T endorsed Lukacs. Why? Campbell had refused to debate her challengers all but once. Her constituents see her as not responsive (seems accurate to me). And, her worst sin? She didn’t do an interview with the editorial board.  

Councilwoman Jen Campbell greets County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher on election night Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, in downtown San Diego. / Photo by Brittany Cruz-Fejeran for Voice of San Diego

Yet Campbell woke up Wednesday morning a comfortable 10 percentage points ahead of Lukacs in the latest vote counts. She will win re-election without ever having to face tough questions and her opponent. Her and her consultants and the independent groups that spent sizably on her behalf ran an audacious campaign based on the simple theory that the best way for her to win was to face a Republican that they could tie to former President Donald Trump. They helped Republican, Lukacs, defeat two Democrats in the primary. She did and then they executed the final part of their plan and delivered Campbell another four years.   

But the audacity of Campbell is more interesting than just how she engineered her re-election. All the things the U-T and the labor unions and the business community and others like about what she accomplished came not despite her lack of connection to her community, her unwillingness to engage her constituents. Those achievements came because of her unresponsiveness to the community.  

If she were responsive to her community, she would have had views much closer to Lukacs. She would never have tried to broker a compromise on vacation rentals that the U-T hailed her for. The winning position in her district would be to demand a total ban on vacation rentals. They didn’t mention it but the other major legislative accomplishment she pursued was a deal on sidewalk vendors. It hasn’t had the impact in Ocean Beach and Mission Beach yet as the California Coastal Commission has only recently allowed it to be fully implemented. But it’s the exact sort of sticky issue that simpler politics would have had her avoid engaging with any sort of compromise in mind.  

A responsive councilmember would have never supported an exemption to the height limit for the Midway area. Ten years ago, we did a story about the then 40th anniversary of the proposition that imposed a 30-foot height limit on construction west of Interstate 5. It included some thoughtful takes about areas that maybe, perhaps, could be allowed to build higher to accommodate housing needs.  

The story didn’t even include then City Councilman Kevin Faulconer but he scrambled to put out a press release reassuring residents that he was not at all considering any exemption to the height limit! 

Two years ago, when the City Council was considering Campbell and Councilman Chris Cate’s proposal to put an exemption for the entire Midway area on the ballot, Campbell was caught in a hot mic moment. The Council was meeting over Zoom and she didn’t mute her mic when she took a call.  

“I’m not chicken at all about it,” she could be heard saying about the height limit. “What have I got to lose, right?” 

That’s it. That was both the case for, and the case against, re-electing Jen Campbell. Her opponents were right — the U-T was right — she is not responsive to her constituents. That’s the only way she does something like the height limit exemption. Faulconer wouldn’t do it, as a City Councilman. If Mayor Todd Gloria were City Councilman for that coastal district, I can’t imagine him supporting it.  

They are too responsive to their community. Sure they both supported the change as mayor but that’s different. Measure E in 2020 proved broadly popular citywide (except for on the coast, of course).  

When I called asking for comment for this piece, her consultant, Dan Rottenstreich explained how they see it.  

“She has succeeded where virtually every councilmember before her failed on some of the thorniest issues facing the city. She doesn’t let a small group of insiders and elitists and extremists stymie progress,” he said.  

Cool, I said. Can I talk to her? He said he would ask.  

Later he said she wouldn’t be able to talk to me. She was too busy, he wrote in a message, his tongue planted firmly in his cheek, “doing community outreach.” 

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...

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11 Comments

    1. Go easy on Scott Lewis. Writing has never been his strong suit and sadly, he has hired some people who are similarly lacking in skills essential to journalism.

  1. Well said, however you left out how her re-election team rigged the re-districting of D2 to move Pacific Beach to D1 and adding more of Clairemont into D2.

  2. So she ignores her constituents and instead manipulates elections by conspiring with people who have influence and money to “engineer” an election, selecting her own opponent and ensuring a win for herself, and the editor in chief of this website writes a glowing support piece because there is a tangible success in her 5 years as an elected official.

    Can’t wait to read the puff piece on Khomeini.

  3. Indeed. What is the point of representative democracy if the representative doesn’t care about the opinions of her constituents? When Campbell beat Zapf, one of her pledges was to do more to protect the community from vacation rentals than Zapf had tried to do. Instead, she cut a side deal that ignored community input and ended up doing much less. Just one example. I have never seen a Councilmember who was more imperious and disinterested in the interests of those she ostensibly represents.

  4. Most of you are fools! As the great Voltaire lie on his death bed in Paris, he said to the Catholic priest, “We all die as fools.” Campbell was vaulted like an Atlas Rocket in 2018 by a cabal of LGBT leaders in Hillcrest. Upon hearing that I was a candidate these certain titans went into the bunker. Dave Axelrod, “Little Jens” famous cousin, a confidant of President Obama blew into La Jolla for a lavish fund teaser. Essentially, Campbell was in like Flynn for life. We do not live in a Democracy; we live in a hypocrisy! Voters and media are feckless and immoral at best. They follow the brand. THE BRAND! You folks will believe anything! Six candidates ran last cycle. Why didn’t the voters read all the ballot statements? Did they read mine? No! Do they want honest politicians? No! Why did VOSD not hold me credible? Because of a few very bizarre words of truth? Are you afraid that I would be honest? WHY? Todd Gloria would not offer me water if I was dying of thirst in the Western Sahara. This is your leader, not mine! This is immoral except you buy it! Well, “You break it, you own it.” Colin Powell

  5. How ironic that Jen Campbell ousted Incumbent Zapf on the promise to protect the 30ft ht limit in the Morena Corridor, which is not even in the Coastal Zone. Now she is willing to throw away the only protection San Diegans have for Coastal Access for All! Because wall-to-wall tall densely-populated bldgs. and gridlock on roads with no parking not only makes one forget there is a coastline; it makes it so much harder to get there.
    Jen Campbell was re-elected by pledging allegiance to the County Democratic Party over her constituents. A candidate who doesn’t pledge to their agenda doesn’t get their $$ or endorsements.
    Now that Campbell has cinched her last term, she has an opportunity to redeem herself. It will be the true test of her character. Unless she expects to run for some other Office, that is…

    1. True that! Except as I have said ad nauseum, it’s not Campbell! It’s the million-dollar political consultants and their black hearts. These parasites can read the voters like a novel by Marcel Proust. It’s a chess game played in the eye of a hurricane. The voters are Johns at the Chicken Ranch but don’t know it!

  6. Luckas must have been the biggest pawn to ever run in San Diego politics and met the November Witch and the gales of Todd! LMAO

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