SD Rostra

Larry Breitfelder, leading vote-getter for open Chula Vista seat, resigning as Otay Water District trustee

When was the last time a candidate for office voluntarily gave up an existing elected title in the middle of a campaign?

It’s happening in the Chula Vista City Council election.  What’s more, it’s happening in a contested race, in a key business-labor battleground city, as the leading vote-getter in the June 8 primary is now seemingly dismissing the very ballot title that likely helped him qualify for the November run-off in the first place.

In what can only be described as a political head-scratcher, Republican Larry Breitfelder, who handily led the field for an open Chula Vista council seat last week, is now resigning his post as an elected member of the Otay Water District after serving eight years.  His current term as an Otay trustee is due to expire at the end of the year.

The Otay Water District is holding a special board meeting at noon Thursday to accept Breitfelder’s resignation and to discuss the process for potentially filling the resulting vacancy by appointment.  (See Otay Board Meeting Packet 6-17-10, including the Wednesday resignation letter.)

Breitfelder’s ballot designation in the Chula Vista City Council primary election was “Elected Board Member, Otay Water District.”  His three opponents were respectively listed as follows:

AGUILAR, PATRICIA
CA
Community Group President

-Patricia Aguilar, Community Group President

-Jill Galvez, Businesswoman

-Humberto Peraza, Senior Policy Advisor

With hundreds of absentee and provisional ballots left to count, Breitfelder is easily leading the field with 10,409 votes.  He will face either Galvez or Aguilar in the November run-off; the two are currently within 80 votes of each other, each with about 6,300.

The fact that Breitfelder was the only candidate with an elected title cannot be easily dismissed by political watchers.  Some might call it an “aura of incumbency,” others would simply say that many voters in local elections — not having much real knowledge of any of the candidates — are often apt to select someone that is perceived to have experience.  A sitting water board member is bound to make a qualified city councilmember, so goes the thought, and voters may very well make a last-minute decision in the ballot box based on the competing candidates’ ballot titles.

No one will ever know for sure if Breitfelder’s ballot title helped him literally run away from the field in the primary, in addition to the fact he ran a great campaign.

Yet, it then stands that no one knows for sure whether he will be hampered in the general election without the title. The key here is whether Breitfelder will be able to continue to list himself on the November ballot with the same title.  Most say not a chance.

SD Rostra has a message to him in that regard, asking that very thing.

Something is for sure, however.  Instead of resigning, in August of this year Breitfelder could have simply not filed for re-election to his Otay Water board position, which would then have opened up his seat for a regular November election.  In the meantime, he could have continued to serve the citizens of Otay until the end of the year, while still being able to rightfully refer to himself as an elected trustee, including on the ballot.  In fact, his Otay term would have expired at the same time  he would be seated as a Chula Vista councilmember, if successful for that seat.

It could be that Breitfelder wants to dedicate his time to the November run-off election, and thus feels he doesn’t have time to dedicate to Otay Water District business.  Could be.

By resigning, it does provide his Otay colleagues the opportunity to fill his vacancy by appointment, with the new trustee able to run for the seat in November as an appointed incumbent.  Yet, why any candidate for higher office would trade away his current elected title in exchange for giving a leg up to someone for his former seat is beyond my pay grade.

Someone help us out here.  Larry?

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