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Salas at a Hillary Clinton rally in 2016
|40th Mayor of Chula Vista|
|Assumed office |
December 9, 2014
|Preceded by||Cheryl Cox|
|Member of the California State Assembly|
from the 79th district
December 4, 2006 – November 30, 2010
|Preceded by||Juan Vargas|
|Succeeded by||Ben Hueso|
|Member of Chula Vista City Council from the Fourth District|
|Preceded by||Steve Castañeda|
|Succeeded by||Steve Miesen|
|Preceded by||Bob Fox|
|Succeeded by||Steve Castañeda|
|Born||March 17, 1948|
Chula Vista, California
|Residence||Chula Vista, California|
|Alma mater||San Diego State University|
Mary Casillas Salas is an American politician from Chula Vista, California. She is a former California Assembly member who represented the 79th Assembly District from 2006 to 2010. She ran for the California State Senate in 2010 but lost. In 2012 she was elected to the Chula Vista City Council, a position she previously held from 1996 to 2004. She was elected Mayor of the city of Chula Vista in 2014.
Salas' father, is one of 9 children of Felix and Urbana Casillas, who once lived in the La Punta adobe, after moving to the United States, through El Paso, from Mexico. Salas was born in 1948 in Chula Vista.
In college, she became involved with MANA de San Diego, a women's organization that mentors young Latinas, which led her into city politics.
Salas served as a member of Chula Vista's Civil Service Commission and Planning Commission.
Initial City Council tenure
In 1996, Salas was elected as a member of city council in Chula Vista. Salas became the first Latina elected to the Chula Vista City Council, and second person of latinx descent on the City Council, after Steve Padilla. In 2000, as an incumbent, Salas was re-elected as a member of Chula Vista City Council. As a councilwoman, she chaired the University Working Group to establish a higher education center in the region and co-chaired the Blue Ribbon Committee for the "San Diego County Preschool for All." She gained a reputation as a member who was willing to speak her mind.
Salas was term-limited out of the city council in 2004, being barred from serving more than two terms consecutively.
2002 mayoral campaign
In 2002, Salas ran in the open-race for mayor against fellow city councilmember and political ally Steve Padilla, but lost. Salas had placed a narrow first in the first-round of the election, but had failed to receive a full majority of the vote, thus triggering a runoff. She lost the runoff.
With both Salas and Padilla running, the election marked the first-time that two incumbent Chula Vista City Council members had run for mayor. The election was also historic in that all three candidates running (Salas, Padilla, and Petra Barajas) were hispanic, guaranteeing that the city would elect its first hispanic mayor.
Salas collected some big-name endorsements. These included Bob Filner, as well organizations such as the AFSCME, Chula Vista Employees Association, and United Domestic Workers. She was also endorsed ahead of the primary by the editorial board of the La Presna San Diego newspaper.
Salas pledged to bring a broader vision to enhancing the city's regional economic importance. She also noted community concerns, such as illegal evictions and areas of the city being in need of sidewalks.
Salas proposed fast-tracking roadway projects to alleviate traffic congestion stemming from the city's rapid growth.
With much political overlap between Salas and Padilla, the race was seen as being debated on which candidate had the superior experience to lead the city.
Throughout the campaign, Salas and Padilla criticized each other for accepting campaign contributions from different real estate developers.
A tense race from its inception, in the closing days of the general election, things became particularly hostile as both candidates assailed each other's records. Additionally, Padilla's campaign circulated literature quoting Salas as having used the word "gringos" in a quote to the newspaper El Latino.
Voter turnout was significantly lower in the 2002 election than it had been in the previous two elections.
Post-city council membership of boards
Salas was a mamber of the South Bay Irrigation District from 2004 through 2006.
Salas joined the Sweetwater Authority Board of Directors in 2006.
California State Assembly
Salas was elected to the California State Assembly in 2006, defeating Jean Roesch. She represented the 79th district which includes the communities of National City, Coronado, Imperial Beach and parts of Chula Vista and San Diego. Salas was appointed Chair of the Committee on Veterans Affairs in 2007. She also served on the following standing committees: Jobs, Economic Development, and the Economy; Water, Parks and Wildlife; and the Committee on Health. She was re-elected in 2008. In 2010 she campaigned for California State Senate but lost narrowly to Juan Vargas.
Return to City Council
In 2012 Salas ran again for election to the Chula Vista City Council, representing District 4. In the November runoff election she defeated Linda Wagner, 57.6% to 42.3%.
Having run unsuccessfully in 2002, Salas made her second attempt at the mayoralty of Chula Vista in the 2014 election. This was the first mayoral election to take place in Chula Vista following the passage of a 2012 proposition which amended the city charter to require mandatory candidate runoffs, meaning that, even if a candidate obtains more than 50% of the vote in the primary, a second round of the election would be held between the top-two finishers. Municipal elections in California are officially non-partisan.
The election was an open-race, since incumbent mayor Cheryl Cox was term-limited. There were two other candidates running. One was Jerry Rindone, who had been a member of the Chula Vista City Council from 1990 through 1998 and again from 2000 through 2008, as well as the vice chairman of Metropolitan Transit System, a member of the San Diego County Board of Education from 2008 through 2012, and president of Chula Vista Chamber of Commerce in 2013. The other was Pamela Bensoussan, who had been a member of the Chula Vista City Council since 2008.
In the first round, Salas placed first and Rindone second, thus the two advanced to the second round.
In the second round, Salas carried the endorsements of the San Diego County Democratic Party, Chula Vista Democratic Club, Eastlake-Bonita Democratic Club, Chula Vista Police Officers Association, and Chula Vista Firefighters Local 2180. Rindone carried the endorsements of the San Diego County Republican Party, Chula Vista Chamber of Commerce, Chula Vista Bonita Republican Women Federated, Latino American Political Association of San Diego, and U-T San Diego.
Salas won the November 4 general election.
Salas ran for reelection in 2018.
Salas' pledge for a second term as mayor was that she would work to bring a four-year university to Chula Vista, complete the multi-billion dollar Bayfront development, address infrastructure concerns, and hire more police officers and firefighters.
Salas had three opponents. One was Hector Gastelum, a Republican serving as a member of the Otay Water District and working as a realtor with the firm Big Block Realty. The other two were Chula Vista Parks Supervisor Daniel Schreck and educator Arthur Kende.
Schreck, who had worked in Chula Vista's government for twenty-five years and was currently the Chula Vista Parks Supervisor, was the only challenger with municipal government experience. He positioned himself as a government insider but a political outsider. Arthur Kende, who had taught at San Diego Jobs Corps for the previous eight years, was the youngest candidate, at age 36, and the only one without government experience. Kende campaigned as a candidate who wanted cut through bureaucratic "red tape".
Castelum campaigned as a conservative opposed to "big government" and "political correctness", and an enemy of the organization Planned Parenthood. Gastelum also campaigned against the city's status as a sanctuary city. Anti-muslim tweets by Gastelum from 2017, which he refused to apologize for, attracted attention. The tweet in question read, "Let's pressure our legislature to create a list of so-called #MuslimBan to prevent #SubHuman #Scum from #USA to #MAGA". Of those challenging Salas, Gastelum had the strongest name recognition, largely due to the controversy that this 2017 tweet had generated.
An issue in the race was thr city's growing pension costs.
Salas' opponents all criticized the economic problems of the city. Chula Vista generated the second-lowest per capita tax revenues in San Diego County due to population growth having occurred faster than revenue growth. Consequentially, city services had not kept in pace with demand.
Salas went into the first-round of the election having vastly out-fundraised her opponents.
Having, respectively, placed first and second in the first-round of the election, held June 5, Salas and Castelum advanced to the second round. Salas had received 62.48% of the first-round vote and Gastelum had received 16.98%. Both Schreck and Kende were eliminated.
Salas won the second-round of the election by a landslide, receiving 71.86% of the vote to Gastelum's 28.14%.
Salas' husband is Sal Salas. They have two children. Salas and her family reside in Chula Vista, California.
|1996 Chula Vista City Council seat 4 election|
|Scot William Davenport||2,304||10.1|
|2000 Chula Vista City Council seat 4 election|
|Mary Salas (incumbent)||16,517||66.17|
|2012 Chula Vista City Council seat 4 election|
|Democratic||Greg R. Sandoval||6,388||26.9|
|Democratic||Mary Salas (incumbent)||17,865||86.8|
|Democratic||Mary Salas (incumbent)||74,051||69.50|
|Republican||Derrick W. Roach||32,526||30.50|
|2002 Chula Vista mayoral election|
|Peter E. Barajas||996||4.4||7A||0.0|
- ^A Barajas received 7 votes as a write-in in the runoff
|2014 Chula Vista mayoral election|
|Candidate||Primary election||General election|
|Jerry R. Rindone||8,638||38.82||17,827||47.13|
|2018 Chula Vista mayoral election|
|Candidate||Primary election||General election|
|Mary Salas (incumbent)||24,572||62.48||54,062||71.86|
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Of the largest 100 cities two have a Latina mayor: Corpus Christi, TX and Chula Vista, CA. Despite the trends and political implications, previous studies of minorities and women in politics have failed to include Latina officeholders.
- "Mary Salas: 'First elected Latina mayor' of Chula Vista | fox5sandiego.com". webcache.googleusercontent.com.
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| Mayor of Chula Vista
December 9, 2014 – present
| Chula Vista City Councilmember
| Chula Vista City Councilmember
| California State Assemblywoman
December 4, 2006 – November 30, 2010