Sean Elo-Rivera, the Ninth District candidate who beat labor candidate Kelvin Barrios
The Cinderella story of last year's November San Diego city council runoff is that of Sean Elo-Rivera, the Ninth District candidate who beat labor candidate Kelvin Barrios, forced from the race as campaign finance chargespiled up against him.
Barrios was flush with cash from the union he is employed by, along with some of the city's biggest developers, including $2100 from two top Cisterra Development employees, records show.
But after the election, Cisterra's cash, in the form of a total $1200 in contributions made by Cisterra chief Steve Black and company principal Jason Wood went to Elo-Rivera on November 13 and 17, respectively.
Reports show that Black and Wood had given the Barrios campaign a total of $2100 in January and June.
Elo-Rivera is not alone among his council-mates. So-called late and post-election money is a fact of life in the closed-door world of San Diego politics.
Even a would-be reformer is not immune from the blandishments of wealthy and influential figures who have made their fortunes by haunting the corridors and council office suites, their checkbooks open, in some cases for decades.
But when elected officials accept campaign cash from the city's big real estate players and providers, especially those entangled in city lawsuits regarding a property scandal, questions can emerge.
A web of litigation currently envelopes the city's bungled deal with Cisterra to lease a decrepit, asbestos-laden high rise at 101 Ash Street. According to a Union-Tribuneaccount of January 10, confidential settlement talks between the city and Cisterra were called off and are now due for an April case management conference.
Cisterra employees and their leader Black are longtime givers to city political causes, coming up with a total of $123,688 in well-timed contributions since 2011.
Current members of the council who have gotten Cisterra's cash include its sole Republican, Chris Cate, with $2700, along with Democrats Jen Campbell ($1650), Marni von Wilpert ($1200), Steve Whitburn ($1200), Raul Campillo ($600), Joe LaCava ($500), and Vivian Moreno ($350), city records show.
In addition, Von Wilpert's separate legal defense fund got a total of $1200 from Black and Wood in December of last year, and Lorie Zapf, an incumbent Republican who Campbell beat, got $3900 from Cisterra employees for her 2010 and 2018 campaigns.
City Attorney Mara Elliott got $250 from Cisterra's Steve Scott in June 2019, and then-Assembly Democrat Todd Gloria, elected mayor in November, took in a total of $4300 for his mayoral campaign, including $2300 from Black.