Mar 4, 2024 - News

San Diego city attorney race: What to know

Illustration of the number 2024 appearing in the center of graphic shapes colored blue, red, and purple, as well as graphics found on ballots, like arrows and patterned lines.

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

San Diego won't select its next city attorney until November, but the dynamics of the race have already taken shape.

Why it matters: The city attorney prosecutes misdemeanors in San Diego and acts as the city's chief counsel, representing it in civil cases and providing legal advice on policy decisions.

State of play: Assemblyman Brian Maienschein is facing Heather Ferbert, a chief deputy city attorney in the office she's now looking to lead.

  • Per election rules, neither can win outright on Tuesday, but as the only two candidates, they'll face each other in a November runoff.

The intrigue: The job calls for providing legal counsel to the mayor and City Council, and to be an independent elected official that answers to voters.

Endorsements in the race between the two Democrats (Maienschein switched parties in 2019) have reflected the position's split responsibilities.

  • Ferbert, a first-time candidate, is endorsed by her boss, city attorney Mara Elliott, four local bar associations, the union for city lawyers and the union for white-collar city workers.
  • Maienschein, who won his first election for City Council in 2000, has dominated endorsements from elected officials, including Mayor Todd Gloria, most of the City Council, Attorney General Rob Bonta, the county Democratic party, the police union and the regional labor council.

Flashback: An election attorney argued Maienschein wasn't eligible to run due to a requirement that candidates be a licensed attorney for 10 years.

  • A city legal analysis determined he was eligible, because he was licensed for 28 years even though the license was active only seven of those years.

What they're saying: Ferbert has argued Maienschein is unqualified because of his slim legal background.


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