The results have been tallied and the Chula Vista City Council has spoken -- through a two-paragraph press release dated September 9. The top three finalists to replace Councilmember John McCann during his yearlong deployment to Iraq are planning commission member Mitch Thompson, contractor Kevin O'Neill, and former interim port commissioner William Hall.
In the month since the council decided to fill McCann's seat in early August, Chula Vista residents were anxious to see how Mayor Cheryl Cox and city councilmembers Pamela Bensoussan, Rudy Ramirez, and Steve Castaneda would select an interim councilmember.
In all, 27 qualified applicants submitted the necessary paperwork to the city clerk's office, but the city council revealed little information on the selection process, leading some residents to feel the process was rigged.
"I didn't know they were releasing the names, but I did expect them to do so hastily. This isn't a surprise," says Ed Herrera, president of the Chula Vista Civic Association and McCann supporter.
Ever since the council decided to fill McCann's seat, the name Herrera expected to see was Mitch Thompson’s, a close friend and political ally to councilmembers Bensoussan, Castaneda, and Ramirez.
"[The Chula Vista Civic Association] predicted that Mitch Thompson was the favorite for the interim position, even before he applied, even before they decided to fill the vacant [council seat]. This camaraderie has opened the floodgates to backroom deals. It just looks politically motivated."
This correspondent asked Thompson on August 12, around the time that his name began to circulate as the frontrunner, to respond to claims that certain councilmembers had handpicked him to fill McCann's seat. "I am touched and honored that some people in Chula Vista think I might be a viable choice based on my involvement in civic affairs in the City over the last few years," replied Thompson. "I trust in the open public process that the Council is using to make a decision that is best for Chula Vista, whoever is ultimately selected to serve."
The city council will hold a special meeting on September 22, at 1 p.m., to conduct interviews with the remaining three candidates and decide who will be the next Chula Vista councilmember.