The election Tuesday of a Democrat to fill a vacant San Diego County supervisor seat boosts the chances of Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez to be appointed county administrator of the state’s second largest county.
San Diego City Councilmember Monica Montgomery Steppe, a Democrat, trounced Republican Amy Reichert 61% to 39% in unofficial returns from county election officials late Tuesday, ensuring that Democrats will retain their 3-2 board majority.
The San Diego board of supervisors is scheduled to reopen for one month an application window for the $300,000-a-year county administrator job.
Chavez applied for the post late last year, and was considered the favorite until the hiring process was derailed in May by the resignation of a Democratic supervisor in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal. The supervisors postponed a hiring decision until after this week’s special election.
San Diego County has declined to say whether Chavez is still an applicant for the position, or whether she needs to reapply if she wants the job. Chavez has not responded to inquiries about her application for the San Diego job.
Last week she confirmed that she will not make a third attempt to be elected mayor of San Jose in 2024.
Chavez, a former staff director of the influential South Bay Labor Council, was expected to get the San Diego job because of her longtime friendship with Lorena Gonzales Fletcher, a former San Diego state assembly member and currently head of the politically powerful California Labor Federation.
Fletcher’s husband, Nathan Fletcher, was accused by a female employee in late March of “unlawful employment practices” involving sexual harassment, then six weeks later announced he was entering rehab. Fletcher also said he would resign as supervisor but not until after casting a deciding vote in May to hire a new county supervisor, which was assumed at the time to be Chavez because of her friendship with his wife.
Fletcher’s vote was considered key, because the GOP supervisors said they would not support the choice of the Fletchers or the Democrats. As tensions and uncertainty mounted, Fletcher was forced to resign in May, creating the 2-2 deadlock.
In 2020, Democrats had gained a 3-2 majority on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, ending decades of Republican dominance. Tuesday’s vote ensured that the Democrats’ majority would hold at least until 2025, and that the majority would pick the new administrator next month.
San Diego County Republican Supervisor Jim Desmond this summer didn’t mince words in stating the GOP perspective for a renewed county administrator search.
“One of the significant tenets of this revised hiring strategy is the explicit absence of input or influence from Nathan Fletcher,” he said. “By sidelining potential biases, the county is ensuring a hiring process driven purely by merit and the broader welfare of San Diego and its residents.”
In the District 4 supervisor contest to replace Fletcher, Montgomery Steppe was backed by a coalition of labor unions that raised nearly $1 million for her campaign through Oct. 21.