San Diego President Election
Illustration by Adriana Heldiz

This post originally appeared in the Dec. 10 Politics Report. The weekly newsletter is exclusively available to VOSD members. Join today.

It’s been seven months since Will Rodriguez-Kennedy went on leave from his position as the chair of the San Diego County Democratic Party, following a sexual misconduct allegation that became the subject of  a lawsuit in September after local prosecutors said they would not bring any charges over the event.

Since then, Rebecca Taylor has served as the party’s acting chair, a period covering an election cycle that included some good news for Democrats – they now control every seat on the San Diego City Council, won their first countywide elected office and flipped a state Senate seat – and some bad news – they lost control of mayoral offices in Chula Vista, National City and Escondido, among other seats.

Now, though, as the party gears up for the start of the 2024 cycle, we were curious what its plans were for a more permanent leadership arrangement.

The party’s bylaws call for biennial meetings in which the party’s central committee chooses the officers that will lead the organization for two-year terms. That’s expected to occur over two meetings in January – one on Jan. 10, where they’ll elect vice chairs for each of the five areas of the county that the party organizes itself into. The next, on Jan. 17, will serve as the election for the next chair. Individuals running for any of those seats will need to nominate themselves by Jan. 3.

Changes to the party’s chair used to be pretty quiet affairs, until just after the 2018 election cycle, when Rodriguez-Kennedy ran against Craig Roberts, and the party’s internal selection became a quasi-public race that played out in the press.

Now, Rodriduez-Kennedy’s second term, which he took leave from following the allegation against them and has never returned to, is due to simply expire, leaving an empty seat to be replaced.

Taylor, who has been the acting chair since he left, is running for the full term. She told us Friday that she decided to run after talking to party membership and elected officials, and she’s confident she will win.

Taylor said she intends to maintain “the SANDAG strategy” — an initiative started by Rodriguez-Kennedy in which the party prioritizes races that could result in seats on the SANDAG board.

“We’re going to focus on building our bench, and reaching out to people about how they can help the party throughout the year, recruiting candidates in advance and mobilizing people year-round,” Taylor said. “This way if a community priority emerges, we can act on it.”

She said she has not heard of anyone who intends to run against her, but that could change.

“I take nothing for granted,” she said. “Until then, I’m just reaching out to members and getting their feedback, and unsurprisingly it’s mostly to better organize and to find people that reflect the community they represent.”

Sara Ochoa, the South Area Vice Chair who is running for another term in her seat, said she isn’t anticipating significant changes in party leadership.

“We’ll see what the membership decides in January, but I think a lot of the current leadership has made great effort at increasing transparency and access to the party, and I think that’s reflected in the fact that I think the majority of the leadership is going to remain the same,” she said. “In my area, there were some disappointing losses — we lost a couple mayor seats, and a council majority in Imperial Beach, but as a region, we’ll maintain control of some big regional boards like SANDAG. Compared to projections of how Democrats were going to do nationally, locally we won 77 percent of our races and ballot measures, and those ballot measures had some significant oppositions to overcome.”

  • The immediate SANDAG strategy: After Republican John McCann won the Chula Vista mayoral race, there’s been a lot of attention on whether he’ll end up representing the city on SANDAG. The city still has a Democratic majority, though, and Taylor said the party is already engaged with elected officials there and elsewhere about board appointments.

“We’re having early conversations with stakeholders and elected officials to make sure we work together to get folks in those appointed positions that reflect our priorities,” she said.

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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