CARLSBAD — For the second time in less than two years, the Carlsbad City Council has a vacancy on the dais.
However, there will be no special election after the council opted to appoint a District 1 resident to the open seat during its July 20 meeting.
The vacancy was created by the sudden resignation of Cori Schumacher on July 9.
The politically split council, as well as residents from numerous political backgrounds, supported the appointment, many citing the massive cost of a special election. According to City Clerk Services Manager Faviola Medina, the cost ranges between $450,000 to $650,000.
Now, the council will begin to accept applications and resumes for the position, which must be appointed on or before Sept. 3, according to the city’s municipal code.
The earliest the city could hold a special election was April 12, 2022, according to Deputy City Attorney Cindie McMahon. The appointee will be District 1’s third representative in four years.
“April is the earliest established election date,” McMahon said. “No exceptions apply.”
In addition to the application, the council also approved personal interviews with each candidate, along with a five-minute interview of all applications in open session at a date to be determined.
Another source of debate was the requirement that the appointed person will not be eligible to run for the seat within one year of the appointment. The policy was part of a municipal code update spearheaded by a subcommittee of Schumacher and Councilman Keith Blackburn.
Blackburn called for a motion to reverse the policy, but it died. He said it should be left to the voters whether or not the appointed member was good enough to retain the seat.
Councilwoman Teresa Acosta countered, saying the appointed member would have an unfair advantage in the 2022 general election. Acosta cited her personal experience as a new candidate running in District 4 against another non-incumbent. She said it would not be responsible for the council to “gift” someone an advantage.
“I would hate to get a candidate who is doing an excellent job and that would prohibit that person from doing a good job and arbitrarily start over,” Blackburn said.
In 2019, Barbara Hamilton stepped down after winning the District 1 election in 2018 and then Schumacher won a special election in March 2020. After Hamilton’s resignation, the council, which was split between two Republicans and two Democrats, tried for an appointment.
However, Schumacher recused herself from those discussions saying it was a “conflict of interest,” leaving the council 2-1 in favor of an appointment.
But at the time, the council needed three votes to appoint (and still do in the current situation), and those votes came up short as Mayor Matt Hall and Blackburn favored an appointment, while Councilwoman Priya Bhat-Patel stood opposed.
Residents, meanwhile, gathered enough signatures to call for a special election in March 2020, resulting in Schumacher’s election to serve the remaining three years. Those residents said the people have the right to vote for their elected officials.
Opponents of a special election noted that Hamilton spent less than 11 months in office from the previous election and an appointment should be made to someone committed for the next three years.
The council has 45 days to appoint a District 1 representative.
With the current appointment, the person seated on the council is “ineligible to seek election for the same office until one year after the appointment ends,” according to the Carlsbad Municipal Code. The newly appointed council member would not be eligible to file paperwork for the 2022 general election.
However, the council can amend the ordinance to granting the appointed person eligibility to run in November 2022.
The city’s filing period runs from mid-July 2022 through mid-August 2022.