Violations of the city’s campaign finance rules are punishable as a misdemeanor. But it doesn’t appear that any candidate or elected official has ever been cited. Politicians and consultants said they believe the rules are unclear and need to be updated.
In November 2020, Andrea Cardenas beat incumbent Mike Diaz for a seat on the Chula Vista City Council.
The race attracted a bit of media attention. Cardenas, a Democratic political consultant, had helped elect others across the region. Diaz, a retired firefighter, wound up running as an independent after the Republican Party questioned his conservatism.
In the end, Cardenas didn’t just bring in more money than Diaz. She outspent him, too, and wound up with a lot of debt. Cardenas’s unpaid campaign bills totaled $36,691, more than Diaz had raised from donors over the course of the entire election. He finished with a slight surplus.
Ending a campaign with debt isn’t a problem in many cities. But the Chula Vista Municipal Code states that an “extension of credit … shall be subject to the contribution limit of $360.00 per person.”