City Council officially certified the official November election results from the Registrar of Voters during a special meeting on Dec. 15. As newly elected Mayor Esther Sanchez was sworn in, her District 1 council seat became vacant.
Council now only has four members after former Deputy Mayor Jack Feller’s term expired.
Council is now required to either fill the District 1 vacancy by appointing a new member or calling for a special election to fill the vacancy at the next scheduled election date, not less than 114 days from the call of the special election.
According to the City Clerk’s office, though the city Elections Code allows for an election date on March 2, 2021, the city doesn’t have time to provide the required notice. Because of this, if a special election were to be called, it wouldn’t occur until Nov. 2, 2021.
If the council chooses to fill the vacancy by appointment, the new member would hold the seat until the term’s expiration in December 2022.
City Clerk Zeb Navarro estimated that the special election would likely cost the city more than $250,000, meanwhile, an appointment would have no financial impact besides advertising the council seat vacancy.
Council approved moving forward with accepting applications for an appointment in a 3-1 vote with Sanchez opposed.
Sanchez urged her fellow members to consider “following the democratic process” by allowing voters to fill the vacancy instead. A few residents who spoke virtually at the meeting also urged the council to do the same.
“You can’t put a price on democracy,” said Diane Nygaard, an Oceanside resident.
Councilmember Chris Rodriguez explained he was supportive of an election but felt waiting until November would be too long to go without a fifth council member.
Sanchez pointed out that this would be the fourth appointment City Council has made in four years. The others were the appointment of current Councilmember Peter Weiss to his former role as mayor in 2018, Deputy Mayor Ryan Keim to his council seat in 2019 and Navarro as City Clerk that same year.
In November, Keim and Weiss were elected to fill the Council’s District 3 and 4 seats, respectively, and Navarro was elected as City Clerk.
Council has until Feb. 12, 2021, to make an appointment, though the decision would likely happen at either the Feb. 3 scheduled meeting or during a potential special meeting on Feb. 10.
Residents interested in the council seat must file their applications with the City Clerk by 4 p.m. on Jan. 8, 2021.