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Donations -- including outside money -- pour into the Chula Vista mayoral race

Chula Vista mayora candidates
Posted at 9:07 AM, May 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-19 12:32:22-04

CHULA VISTA, Calif. (KGTV) — The race for Chula Vista mayor is a crowded one, with six people vying to lead the South Bay city.

Chula Vista is the second largest city in San Diego County and some candidates say it is the first time big outside money is coming into the race.

The six mayoral candidates include veteran Spencer Cash; businessman Ammar Campa-Najjar; community college executive Zaneta Encarnacion; councilmember Jill Galvez; councilmember John McCann; and businessman Rudy Ramirez.

The latest filings show total contributions through April 23. Four of the six candidates have raised more than $100,000.

When it comes to total contributions, four candidates — Encarnacion, Campa-Najjar, McCann, and Galvez — show they have raised more than $100,000.

Chula Vista mayoral race
Donations to mayoral candidates through end of April

Team 10 spoke to each candidate about their fundraising efforts.

“I'm incredibly proud of the community and grassroots donations that we have received,” Encarnacion said.

“For me, it's been about knocking on doors [and] visiting small business owners in Chula Vista,” Ramirez said.

“The majority of my donations are from Chula Vista citizens,” McCann said.

“I'm intending to run a campaign on the least amount of money to win the election,” Cash said.

Both Galvez and Campa-Najjar sent statements instead. Campa-Najjar said his ”average contribution is less than $50.”

Galvez said the bulk of her campaign is paid for with personal savings and not special interests. McCann also loaned personal money to his campaign as well.

The outside money coming into the Chula Vista race is also gaining attention.

An independent expenditure called “Residents for a Brighter Chula Vista” was formed to support Campa-Najjar. Among its biggest donors are entrepreneurs and philanthropists Irwin and Joan Jacobs. They are listed as donating $49,000 each.

The Jacobs are the grandparents of 53rd District Rep. Sara Jacobs, who is Campa-Najjar’s girlfriend.

Campa-Najjar’s campaign manager said legally their campaign “cannot coordinate with or speak on behalf of an independent expenditure.”

Other candidates are raising eyebrows.

“It’s a little bit alarming and Chula Vista voters need to need to know,” Ramirez said.

“We've never seen this amount of money go in,” McCann said.

Fellow councilmember Galvez said via email, “I don’t think it’s right that half a million dollars is pouring into our city from outside special interest.”

Campa-Najjar unsuccessfully ran twice for the 50th Congressional District, which represented a large portion of the East County.

His filings also show that he has the most donations of any candidate coming from out of the area — donations coming from donors who live in states like Florida and New Jersey.

San Diego State University political science professor Stephen Goggin said this type of money can be advantageous in terms of the amount, but it can also have negative side effects too.

“It can also be a disadvantage if you're portrayed coming outside the area,” Goggin asid.

Campa-Najjar would not do an on-camera interview when asked to talk about funding. Instead, his campaign manager said his “message of unity is attracting grassroots support from all over the region.”

“Our community is wise,” Encarnacion said. “They don't want a mayor who's going to buy their seat or have somebody else buy their seat.”

Team 10 tried to reach the spokesperson for Residents for a Brighter Chula Vista and are waiting to hear back.