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Recall campaign against San Diego City Council President Jennifer Campbell of District 2 is officially on

San Diego City Councilwoman Jennifer Campbell
San Diego City Councilwoman Jennifer Campbell is pictured at the Environment Committee’s July 16 meeting.
(File)

Community leaders seeking to oust Campbell file official notice; they must gather over 14,000 signatures by early June to make the ballot.

The recall campaign against San Diego City Council President Jennifer Campbell is officially on.

Leaders of the campaign have taken the required first step of having a notice of intent to recall Campbell published in a local newspaper, starting the clock on a 120-day effort to gather more than 14,000 signatures from registered voters.

Opponents call Jennifer Campbell a bad leader; supporters say she is a bold progressive tackling big issues.

The notice, scheduled to appear in the Feb. 3 issue of the San Diego Daily Transcript, says Campbell has lost the trust of constituents by damaging quality of life, breaking promises and holding closed-door meetings with special interests.

Campbell represents council District 2, which includes Pacific Beach.

The recall notice criticizes her for supporting a ballot measure that lifted height limits near the sports arena in the Midway District and for proposing vacation rental legislation that critics say is too lenient.

It also contends Campbell has stormed out of community meetings when residents disagreed with her and that she regularly ignores recommendations from constituents.

“Council member Campbell has betrayed the voters and is unfit for office,” the notice states. “Having no other recourse, we the residents of District 2, together with concerned residents throughout the city, have come together to take this action.”

Supporters of Campbell, a Democrat elected in 2018, say she has been a strong advocate for progressive issues and a good leader who is willing to tackle controversial issues and look out for the whole city.

They also say a recall would be an expensive, divisive and unwarranted distraction at a time when the city is facing the COVID-19 pandemic, a budget crisis and several other key issues.

Campbell supporters also note that bureaucratic requirements will delay a recall election until late November or early December, roughly six months before Campbell must run for re-election in the June 2022 primary.

“At a time when the city is facing a budget deficit, a small group of individuals are trying to force San Diego residents to spend a million dollars for a recall that might be held a few months before a regular election in 2022,” Campbell said by email Feb. 2. “It is a selfish and irresponsible political stunt.”

Campbell also indicated that she believes the effort is fueled primarily by concerns about her support for proposed vacation rental legislation that would allow such rentals with new restrictions.

“It’s ridiculous that this small group wants to recall me for a disagreement over a short-term vacation rental ordinance that regulates the industry, releases more housing into the market and addresses the nuisance problems that District 2 residents face nearly every weekend,” Campbell said.

Critics, most of whom live in the beach communities of council Districts 1 and 2, say the proposed legislation was written by the travel industry and ignores the concerns of neighborhoods most affected.

On the height limit near the sports arena, Campbell supported and campaigned for Measure E, which lifted the city’s 30-foot height limit only in the area surrounding the arena. Though city voters approved the measure in November at a rate of more than 56 percent, precinct reports show a majority of voters in District 2 opposed it.

The recall campaign has enough credibility that an anti-recall coalition has hired some of San Diego’s most experienced public relations and election strategists to help keep Campbell in office.

Campbell was narrowly elected council president in December in a 5-4 vote over fellow Democrat Monica Montgomery Steppe, who received much more support from residents who spoke during a public hearing before the vote.

The recall campaign has until the first week of June to gather 14,421 signatures from residents of District 2. That number is based on 15 percent of the 96,140 voters registered in the district on the date of the most recent general election, which was Nov. 3.

The campaign can’t start gathering signatures until three weeks after the notice of intent is published so that Campbell has time to issue a rebuttal that the recall campaign must pay to publish.

If enough valid signatures are verified by the city clerk this summer, the City Council would be required to schedule a special recall election within six months.

That election would include two decisions for District 2 voters: Should Campbell be recalled, and who should replace her if she is recalled. No candidates to replace Campbell have emerged so far.

Campbell, 75, lives in the Bay Ho section of Clairemont. She ousted Republican incumbent Lorie Zapf in a 2018 runoff by nearly 9,000 votes, receiving just under 58 percent of the votes.


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