CARLSBAD — There will be no special election this time.
The Carlsbad City Council has decided to wait for the general election in November to fill the vacant city council seat. The vacant seat is an at-large position formerly held by Councilwoman Cori Schumacher, who was elected to the council in 2016.
Following the resignation of former Councilwoman Barbara Hamilton, Schumacher later won Hamilton’s District 1 seat during a special election in March 2019, leaving an at-large vacant seat on the council.
Hamilton was elected as District 1 representative in November 2018 before leaving in October 2019.
“As a practical matter, the special election option is really not available in this instance because the next regularly scheduled election date is not until Nov. 3, 2020,” Sheila Cobian, city clerk services, said. “With that election, there will no longer be any at-large seats because the city will have completed its transition to district rather than at-large elections.”
The City Council has 60 days after a vacancy in an elected office to either appoint a successor or call a special election to fill the vacancy. The special election must be held on the next regularly scheduled election date not less than 114 days after the election is called.
Mayor Matt Hall, who was the lone no vote, said he believes calling on experienced former city councilmembers offers viable options for an appointment over the next six months. He said with the city’s budget beginning to take shape, and other pressing issues, the seat should be filled as soon as possible.
Hall said former councilmembers Michael Schumacher, Eric Larson, Julie Nygard and Mark Packard could seamlessly fill the position on a part-time basis, and have experience. As for District 4, the mayor said it is important to make sure both candidates — Teresa Acosta and Phil Urbina — each have a fair chance.
Councilwoman Priya Bhat-Patel countered, saying the residents of District 4 should make the decision.
“I would respectfully disagree,” she said. “An individual, regardless of whether they served two or four years ago, the issues we have now will take them time to get up to speed. We haven’t had too many deadlocked votes. I don’t want folks to see us as a divided council. We are a united council.”
After Hamilton’s resignation, residents and the council engaged in a weeks-long debate on whether to appoint a replacement or call for a special election. In the end, residents gathered enough signatures to call for the special election.
Schumacher and Councilman Keith Blackburn were both elected in 2016 as at-large candidates. It was the last at-large election in the city, as Carlsbad moved to district elections in 2018, where Hamilton, Mayor Matt Hall and Councilwoman Priya Bhat-Patel (District 3) all won.
This year districts 2 and 4 will be decided on Nov. 3. Blackburn, who is running for a fourth term is challenged by Lela Panagides in District 2. Teresa Acosta and Phil Urbina are contending for District 4. The council vacancy will be filled by the winner of the District 4 race.