CARLSBAD — For the second time in four years, the city will have a special election.
This time it will be for the District 1 seat vacated by Barbara Hamilton, who was elected last year.
Residents pressured the City Council to act by either calling for the special election or appoint a replacement to serve the remaining three years of Hamilton’s vacated seat.
During its Oct. 22 meeting, though, the council voted 2-1 to move forward with an appointment behind yes votes from Mayor Matt Hall and Councilman Keith Blackburn, while Councilwoman Priya Bhat-Patel voted no. Councilwoman Cori Schumacher recused herself from the vote saying she did not want the appearance of conflict of interest or bias.
Residents took to the streets the following day to gather signatures for the petition calling for the special election. On Nov. 5, the San Diego County Registrar of Voters certified the signatures and will place the election on the March 3, 2020, ballot.
The City Council is also having a special meeting on Nov. 8 to accept the signatures.
“I think we did something in a very limited amount of time … I don’t think everybody thought we could do it,” said resident Hope Nelson who, along with about 60 people, collected signatures. “We have a community here insistent on a democracy and they turned out. I hope our City Council understands. Time will tell whether they do or not.”
The debate has several factors, pointed out by those either supporting a special election or appointment. It could also determine the future balance of power on the council, as currently it is 2-2 split between Republicans (Hall and Blackburn) and Democrats (Bhat-Patel and Schumacher). Hamilton is a Democrat as well, which gave them a 3-2 majority over the past 10 months.
In addition, residents for appointment railed against those in favor of a special election saying it is a way for Schumacher to retain her position on the council for another three years.
She started a campaign fund for the 2022 mayoral race and has more than $20,000 in cash on hand, according to campaign disclosure statements.
Likewise, another potential candidate in the special election could be Tracy Carmichael, who finished second to Hamilton by less than 300 votes. Carmichael also has more than $20,000 left over from her 2018 bid, and she in a previous interview she believes she could still access those funds.
Additionally, March 3, 2020, is the date of the California presidential primary, thus Democrats are expecting a large turnout.
“I believe I could use that if I were to run again for the same office,” Carmichael said in a previous interview. “I think that’s a reasonable amount of time to get a campaign up and running. Is it the ideal situation? Oh heck no.”
However, the residents in support of the special election, which will cost the city between $7,500 to $19,000, have stressed it is about allowing the people to vote. Nelson reminded the council, and also in a previous interview, of the consequences from bypassing the electorate and referring to Measure A, the proposed mall on the south shore of Agua Hedionda Lagoon, which was defeated in the 2016 special election.
Nelson’s group collected the required number of signatures, 1,652, in District 1 in just six days. They filed the petition with the city on Oct. 29. The ROV, meanwhile, had 30 days from the time the petition was filed to certify the signatures.
Sheila Cobian, city clerk services manager, said the nomination period for candidates to file is from Nov. 12 through Dec. 6.
Steve Puterski covers Carlsbad and Vista. For tips or story ideas, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @StevePuterski.