Cheryl Cox handily defeated incumbent Steve Padilla Tuesday night in the race for mayor of one of the county’s most rapidly developing cities, Chula Vista.
With 100 percent of precincts counted, Cox has more than 55 percent of the vote, effectively knocking off a mayor who has overseen the city through one of its most important periods in its history of incorporation.
“Taking on an incumbent and surpassing them is really no small feat,” Cox said during an election night party on the fourth floor of the U.S. Grant hotel. “But I really attribute that to the outreach we did to the community.”
Cox, who is a school board member in Chula Vista and wife of County Supervisor Greg Cox, will now lead the city’s charge to redevelop its downtown and negotiate terms with the proposed Gaylord waterfront redevelopment.
However, she will also inherit the woes of the previous administration, which has recently been criticized by taxpayer watchdogs for overspending and plunging the city into debt.
Cox said Wednesday that the City Council will now have to exercise more fiscal prudence and said that overspending is what gets cities into trouble.
“The notion of having your city’s financial house in good order means to me not spending more than you take in,” she said. “And we’ve had that as a habit in Chula Vista for four years, and that’s got to stop.”
Cox campaigned largely on the idea of restoring integrity to the office; something she said was lost under Padilla’s administration. In the run up to Nov. 7, Cox said that the mayor was not acting in the best interest of Chula Vista residents, and that he had taken numerous actions that we’re unethical or at best questionable.
Padilla, meanwhile, accused Cox of having a conflict of interest if elected, because her husband represents Chula Vista on the Board of Supervisors.
Padilla did not return repeated phone calls for comments on this story.
Cox said Wednesday that moving forward, she will focus on how best to engage the city in redevelopment efforts and restore its financial prowess.
“I think the campaign platform that I was working towards was good governance and fiscal accountability,” she said. “We have a lot of opportunities -- as you know -- in Chula Vista.”
Meanwhile, Cox is also charged with the task of trying to court the San Diego Chargers football team. She said she will engage the Chargers in discussions, but said she would not support building a football field on the taxpayers’ dime.
“I’m a Charger fan. I’d like to see them stay in the region,” she said. “But building a football stadium is a very expensive venture. I can’t support a public subsidy with that. On the other hand ... when a business comes to town and wants to work with the city, the responsible action is to sit down and talk.”
Padilla and Cox both fought a heated race, which culminated last week in a debate that carried a highly accusatory tone from both candidates.
Cox beat Padilla in a primary on June 6, taking 40.6 percent of the vote, compared to the mayor’s 30.94 percent. However, because neither candidate garnered a majority, they were forced to face off in Tuesday’s runoff.
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