La prensa

CV Council May Appoint to Fill Remainder of Cardenas Term

Cardenas in court
Author: La Prensa
Created: 21 February, 2024
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4 min read

(Pictured: Jesus Cardenas, second from left, and Andrea Cardenas, far right, in San Diego Superior Court.)

By Alberto Garcia
Investigative Reporter
 
The four remaining Chula Vista Council members will have an opportunity to appoint someone to fill the remainder of the unfinished term of Andrea Cardenas who resigned on Monday after she was indicted on several felony criminal counts in November and another count this week.

On Monday, Councilwoman Cardenas sent a memo to Chula Vista Mayor John McCann and the other three members of the City Council tendering her resignation “effective immediately.”

“In an effort to prioritize my mental health, and the health of my community, I have made the very difficult choice to formally resign effective immediately from my position as Councilmember for our City’s 4th District,” Cardenas wrote. “It has been an honor and privilege to serve my community and work alongside all of you,” she added.

Cardenas, who was indicted in November on seven felony counts, while her brother, Jesus Cardenas, was charged with five felony counts over a $176,000 Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan their company applied for and received in early 2021.

The siblings appeared in court on February 20 for a readiness conference between their lawyers and prosecutors.

At the hearing, the District Attorney’s office added an additional criminal count to each sibling for having committed unemployment insurance fraud from April to December 2020 when they applied for and received government unemployment benefits during a period when the pair ran campaigns for County Supervisor Nora Vargas, San Diego Councilman Stephen Whitburn, and outreach efforts for the Democratic Party.

La Prensa San Diego found and exposed their PPP loan in a February 2023 article based on two phone interviews with Jesus Cardenas where he admitted using employees of a local cannabis dispensary that is a client of his consulting firm to qualify for the loan.

The siblings were later indicted by San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan’s office in November on charges that the two fraudulently used the names of employees of Harbor Collective in San Diego to apply for the loan even though their own company had no employees, then used to pay their credit card bills and pay off campaign debt from her 2020 election. 

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The City Council will hold a special meeting on February 26 to officially declare the seat vacant and then decide if the Council will attempt to choose someone to fill the vacancy or leave the seat open until someone is elected in November.

Chula Vista’s Charter outlines a process where the Council can consider an appointment and has 45 days from the day the vacancy is declared to decide. If they cannot find a consensus appointee, the Council loses the power to choose someone and the seat remains vacant through December. Anyone appointed to fill a vacancy is banned from running for a full term in the next election.

A Special Election can only be called to fill a vacancy when more than half of the term remains. Cardenas was elected in 2020 and her term expires this December.

Cardenas is running for re-election on the March 5th Primary Election ballot along with five other candidates challenging her. The candidates include former Councilman Rudy Ramirez, Chula Vista Elementary School Boardmember Cesar Fernandez, Delfina Gonzalez, Christine Brady, and José Sarmiento.

Her lawyer announced on Tuesday that Cardenas would be ending her campaign efforts just two weeks before the election but her name is still on the March 5th ballot. Mail-in ballots have already been delivered to voters, and several thousand have already been returned to the Registrar of Voters.

If Cardenas were to be one of the top two vote-getters in the Primary Election, she would continue to the head-to-head matchup in the General Election even if she stopped her campaign, according to state law.

California Election Code Section 8801states that “ No candidate nominated at any primary election may withdraw as a candidate at the ensuing general election except those candidates permitted to withdraw by this part” which only applies to candidates who die before the election, or judicial candidates appointed to another office before the election.

Under this scenario, the other candidate who makes the General Election with Cardenas would be virtually assured of winning the seat in November.

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The City Council appointed Alonso Gonzalez in January 2023 to fill the remainder of the unexpired term of Steve Padilla who was elected to the California State Senate in November 2022.

Gonzalez will be replaced with the winner of the District 3 race. Five candidates are vying for that seat, which covers the southeastern portions of the City. The candidates are Michael Inzunza, David Alcaraz, Daniel D. Rice-Vazquez, Christos Korgan, and Leticia Munguia.

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