CARLSBAD — Residents may think the race to fill the City Council ends in November. But it could turn out the council may be short one seat for up to nearly six months.
The outcome of November’s general election could lead to a special election.
Should Councilwoman Cori Schumacher defeat incumbent Mayor Matt Hall, it would leave one open seat on the City Council. All the current City Council members were elected through the city’s previous at-large voting system.
Last year, though, Carlsbad moved to district elections, which are staggered, with Districts 1, 3 and mayor up this year. Schumacher, who lives in District 1, decided to run for mayor instead of in her district, which could leave the city with one less council member come November.
Districts 2 and 4 are still considered at-large seats and not up for election until 2020. Currently, Schumacher and Keith Blackburn hold those seats, but if Schumacher wins the mayoral race, it would open one seat on the council.
Under this scenario, and according to city code 2.04.030, the council must appoint a new council member within 60 days after the Dec. 11 swearing in of the general election victors.
If the council does not come to a consensus, meaning at least a 3-1 vote, by the 60-day deadline, a special election must be held within 114 days after the 60 days, per the city code. A 2-2 vote would represent no action by the council and the item would die.
Should the special election be called, it be would a citywide vote as the seat is still an at-large position, according to Sheila Cobian, Carlsbad City Clerk services manager.
“They would hold a special election to serve out the remainder of the term until 2020,” she added. “That seat would then become a District 4 seat. In November 2020, they would hold the District 2 and 4 elections.”
The last appointment from the City Council came in 2014 when Farrah Douglas stepped down and Michael Schumacher was appointed by the council. Additionally, Norine Sigafoose resigned in 2007 and Julie Nygaard was appointed.
As for the current situation, Cobian said any council member can nominate a registered resident to be considered for an appointment. Then the council would vote on a candidate for confirmation.
From there, should either an appointment or special election be called, the appointee or winner would serve the remainder of the term, less than two years, and would have to decide whether to run again in 2020 depending on whether they lived in District 4.
Cobian said she has had preliminary discussions with the San Diego County Registrar of Voters about the possibility of a special election. However, she declined to give a cost estimate as several factors are still in play.
“It’s too early to tell,” Cobian said. “They can’t tell until we come closer to the day. As you know, special elections are much more expensive than consolidating.”
Most notably, though, the divisive and controversial Measure A special election in February 2016 to determine whether a mall would be built on the south shore of Agua Hedionda Lagoon cost about $500,000. The measure was defeated.