It Was a Bad Day for Jen Campbell: Replaced as Council President While Questions Raised Whether She Illegally Influenced Redistricting Process

by on December 7, 2021 · 22 comments

in Election, Ocean Beach, San Diego

Monday was a bad day for Jen Campbell. She was replaced as City Council president and a local watchdog group has asked the San Diego City Attorney’s Office to investigate whether she or her staff illegally influenced the ongoing process of redistricting – the drawing of new council districts.

As the Voice of San Diego reports:

San Diego City Council members decided not to re-elect their colleague Councilwoman Jen Campbell as Council president, Monday. She became the first Council president not to win at least a second term in the role since it was formed in 2006 when the city switched to the strong mayor form of government. Councilman Sean Elo-Rivera, who represents City Heights, Kensington and the College Area, took the position instead.

The move was a shock to all but the apparently small number of insiders who knew an effort to change things was afoot.

Elo-Rivera’s win, and Campbell’s loss, came via an unconventional Council majority. Councilman Chris Cate, the body’s lone Republican, joined the Council’s left flank to vote against Campbell’s re-election.

In perhaps the more serious setback, a letter sent late last week from Community Advocates for Just and Moral Governance questioned whether Campbell’s senior policy advisor, Seamus Kennedy, had a hand in crafting the boundaries of Campbell’s own District 2, as it appears in the map currently under consideration by commissioners.

The City Charter prohibits council districts from being “drawn for the purpose of advantaging or protecting incumbents.”

Seamus Kennedy, Senior Policy Advisor for Jen Campbell.

As KPBS has reported:

On Monday, Campbell responded to questions from KPBS on the issue, saying in an emailed statement that “at no point did I direct my staff to influence the Redistricting Commission in any way.”

On Oct. 18, a consulting firm hired by the city presented the Redistricting Commission with four draft maps, all of which placed Campbell in District 1. Had those maps been approved, Campbell would have faced two unappealing choices — move from her longtime home in Bay Ho to seek re-election in District 2 next year; or leave the City Council for two years and try to unseat the District 1 incumbent, Joe LaCava, in 2024.

The Redistricting Commission ultimately rejected all four of the consultant maps. Meanwhile, Kennedy was maneuvering to influence the process both behind the scenes and in public.

On Oct. 20, Kennedy submitted his own proposed redistricting map that kept Campbell in her current district. He also gave public testimony to the Redistricting Commission on Oct. 21 suggesting the boundaries between Districts 1 and 2 be changed.

In his remarks to commissioners, Kennedy did not disclose that he works for Campbell, both as a staffer in her council office and a consultant on her re-election campaign. Campbell’s campaign finance disclosures show Kennedy was paid nearly $15,400 between January and June when Campbell was fighting a recall effort.

The District 2 boundaries Kennedy proposed are nearly identical to the boundaries in another map that commissioners have adopted as their preferred option going forward. Those boundaries group all of Clairemont together with Mission Beach, Mission Bay, Midway, Ocean Beach and Point Loma.

The letter from the advocacy group to the City Attorney, dated December 3, states:

“It is imperative that your office look into whether the city’s redistricting process was improperly influenced in Council President Campbell’s favor, specifically by drawing her residence back into District 2 and allowing for her to keep her seat as an incumbent.”

It was  signed by the group’s Executive Director Geneviéve Jones-Wright, whom Campbell considers an opponent for Jones-Wright opposed Campbell’s election last year as council president and supported the recall movement against her.

The letter was received by the City Attorney’s Office and said in a statement:

“While the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution allows any person to voice their opinion on a matter of public interest, we will review the concerns expressed in the letter and take appropriate action as warranted.”

In response, Campbell unleashed her attack dogs. Dan Rottenstreich, a Campbell campaign consultant who worked against the ultimately unsuccessful recall effort, accused Jones-Wright of “manipulating the redistricting process to try and force Dr. Jen Campbell out of office yet again.” He also said:

“The only impropriety here is Jones-Wright weaponizing a supposedly non-political non-profit to advance her clearly political agenda. Nonetheless, our team was completely unaware that a staff person publicly submitted these maps to the commission in his off time and we respect the city’s independent redistricting process.”

This statement is beyond belief. The Campbell “team was completely unaware”, was it, that Kennedy, her senior policy advisor, “publicly submitted these maps to the commission in his time off ….”? And it’s also tough to believe that the Commission didn’t know Kennedy was part of the Campbell team.



{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Mat Wahlstrom December 7, 2021 at 11:00 am

What a laughable non-denial denial from Campbell: “At no point did I *direct* my staff to influence the Redistricting Commission in any way” doesn’t say she didn’t know about it, or that she would discipline Kennedy.

And the biggest tell is Rottenstreich saying this is about “manipulating the redistricting process to try and force [Campbell] out of office yet again,” admitting they had a vested interest.

No wonder the rest of council is fed up with her trying to have things both ways.


kh December 7, 2021 at 11:33 am

Here’s a map that keeps 2 coastal districts, keeps PB in D2, moves Jen Campbell out of D2, and keeps communities intact such as Linda Vista, Kearny Mesa, Clairemont, UTC, Mission Valley, etc.

But who cares what I think… Unlike Seamus I don’t have any money or influence to offer.


Frank Gormlie December 7, 2021 at 11:40 am

I like it! Who came up with it? Not Seamus?


Geoff Page December 7, 2021 at 12:01 pm

Wonderful to see Campbell booted.

Why was Kennedy paid $15,400 and who paid him?


Geoff Page December 7, 2021 at 12:10 pm

I found a link in the KPBS story that showed Kennedy was paid by the committee set up to oppose the Campbell recall. Now, the question is, why is a paid city staffer working for the recall candidate getting paid additional money to work on her defense?


kh December 7, 2021 at 12:09 pm

Also note that Seamus lives in Southeast San Diego and has zero personal interest in the boundaries of D2. So their excuse is pretty laughable.

The payments to Seamus were for working for the anti-recall campaign. I suppose that would be appropriate rather than doing it on the city dole. I know staffers are supposedly prohibited from engaging in campaigning while on the clock, but we all know that’s inevitable.


Sam December 7, 2021 at 12:13 pm

So shady and downright corrupt. The icing on the cake will be watching her twist in the wind if/when Measure E gets rescinded!


PB Resident December 7, 2021 at 1:45 pm

I’m not surprised she was booted from the council presidency, nor that she attempted to influence redistricting to her advantage, however indirectly, preserving her “plausible deniability.”

Her arrogance, incompetence and dishonesty are overwhelming.


laplayaheritage December 7, 2021 at 2:53 pm

12/06/2021 San Diego City Council Meeting Video.
Item 200 Selection of a Council President.

See Video Start Time 28 Minutes for Council Member Cate’s questions on why only Council President Jen Campbell can be a nominated candidate.
And why there are no other nominations allowed before voting, like last year.

Former CP Jen Campbell was so rude to her fellow Council Members by trying to ram her Presidency through without discussion of other potential candidates. I think her distain for Council Member Cate’s basic questions, may have changed his vote from yes to no.

For Redistricing Council District Maps, I do hope PB can still be in D2 with OB, and MB.


kh December 7, 2021 at 3:20 pm

Lol. Good for Cate. It was fun to watch her squirm.

Wild that she didn’t give each councilmember time for comment before the vote. I should send her my Robert’s Rules handbook since it’s clear she hasn’t read it. 8th largest city in the country and the council meetings are run by this amateur.

It’s clear that these decisions are coordinated in advance behind closed doors in violation of the Brown Act. At least in this case Ms. Campbell was on the wrong side of the door.


Geoff Page December 7, 2021 at 4:33 pm

What a train wreck that was. Like kh, said, she has no idea how to run a meeting. And she sure handled that whole thing poorly. I also did not think much of LaCava and the other guy who were not brave enough to vote until they heard how the vote was going. Great to see her gone from that seat and next year, we need to vote her out entirely.


Sam December 7, 2021 at 5:54 pm

I love that she is so unaware of her camera appearance as the bottom half of her face is covered by the lower third name chyron! Classic Campbell!


Paul Webb December 7, 2021 at 5:03 pm

I was amused that Dr. Jen (can we call her that now rather than Council President?) referred to the City Attorney whether to honor Whitburn’s request to hear from Elo-Rivera. Her answer was essentially it’s your meeting, do what you want. Well…Robert’s Rules states that when the question has been put to the floor the chair can only allow “time for members to rise if they wish to make a motion of higher rank.” I don’t think “let’s hear from Sean” is a motion of higher rank.


Geoff Page December 7, 2021 at 5:18 pm

And her idea that the seconder of a motion has to agree to rescind the second before the motion maker can rescind their motion was a real head shaker.


kh December 7, 2021 at 5:59 pm

Jen went instantly to Whitburn for a motion without him even requesting the floor. So it was obviously coordinated in advance, and she went straight into voting without allowing anyone the opportunity to debate the motion. It was good that Cate pressed her on it, even though he doesn’t seem to understand the process himself. And then repeated her error a second time trying to put Whitburn in as prez. And even after going on recess with the city attorney she still made a confusing mess of it.

The proper process is:
Chair recognizes any/all members for debate on the motion

If vote fails, a new motion can be introduced.

Voting is not the time for comment, as the entire point of debate is to try and sway the other members prior to voting.

Also once a motion is made, it is the property of the the entire voting body. The mover or presiding officer cannot withdraw it, and it does not require consent from the seconder. Proper process is the mover requests it be withdrawn, and if there is no objection, it is withdrawn. If there is any objection, a vote must be taken to withdraw it.

If you want to nominate someone else, you do so in your comment period. Others that might support that nominee can vote against the motion on the floor, wait until the motion fails and then introduce a new motion.

Of course this all depends on the presiding officer knowing what the hell they are doing, or someone else willing to call them out on it. The city attorney or someone else should be actively intervening as parliamentarian to keep these meetings professional and legal. It’s embarrassing. Maybe we can sign them up for a webinar on how public meetings work.


Frank Gormlie December 7, 2021 at 7:04 pm

Thanks for the reminders.


unwashedWalmartThonG December 7, 2021 at 10:05 pm

Mr. Paul,
I’m all for calling her Dr Jenny; it’s appropriate, mainly because
a jenny is a term of endearment for a female donkey.


Sam December 8, 2021 at 10:26 am

Paul – I’d take ait a step further and just call her Jenny. The whole Dr. thing is dubious at best!


Vern December 7, 2021 at 5:40 pm

For what it’s worth, and as the 8th largest city in the US, San Diego is still kinda podunk.


Sam December 9, 2021 at 11:24 am

I agree with this 100%!


Douglas Blackwood December 7, 2021 at 8:05 pm

Excellent: joy to our district; a well deserved demotion to our, non-representative!
Now lets send her packing in the coming election.
Jen, “you gotta GO GO GO GO-goodbye”!


Paul Webb December 9, 2021 at 11:40 am

You know, I actually look at this and think how sad it is that we as a community are taking some pleasure at seeing her ousted. I didn’t vote for her, but she campaigned on the issues that resonated with the community – preserve the 30 foot height limit, enforce the existing rules about STVRs, etc. It would have been a really good thing for our community for her to champions these issues and be in a position of power and influence.

Sadly, she turned her back on the community and supported things she campaigned as opposing. When challenged on her change of position, she replied that she didn’t previously understand the issues.

I wish she had campaigned on the platform of “I don’t understand the issues.” At least that would have been honest.


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