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By Miriam Raftery

July 25, 2021 (La Mesa) – Candidates have until August 6 at noon to file papers to run for La Mesa’s City Council in a November special election. The field is growing crowded, with eight candidates who have pulled papers to run so far, though one told ECM he has decided to drop out.

The candidates are vying to fill a vacancy left by Dr. Akilah Weber's election to the state Assembly. The election follows a turbulent year that included civil unrest and the COVID-19 pandemic.

In alphabetical order, the eight candidates who have thus far filed papers to run  are:

Mejgan Afshan, daughter of Afghan refugees, grew up in La Mesa and City Heights, according to her bio.  She is cofounder of Borderlands for Equity, a civil rights nonprofit, and a founder of the East County Justice Coalition. She has worked for the International Rescue Committee, CAIR San Diego, and is Treasurer of the San Diego Refugee Forum.  She also worked for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, then-San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, and the San Diego County Democratic Party.

Letitia Dickerson is running on a platform of rebuilding La Mesa including “faith, community and public relations.”  Formerly homeless, she went on to own two businesses, according to her website.  She is vice president of SoCal Day of Hope, an ordained minister and President of Floodwaters Ministry,  doing outreach to people in need. A long-time East County resident and African-American, she previously ran for El Cajon’s City Council and was a registered Republican at that time. Her focus would include helping the homeless and veterans, affordable housing, and aiding residents and businesses emerging from the pandemic.

Patricia Dillard says she is running to provide all La Mesans with access to economic opportunities, healthy neighborhoods, and high quality education. Her campaign website states that she has lived in La Mesa since 1996 with her family. A registered Democrat and minister’s wife, she works with Western Capital Mortgage and holds a master’s degree in organizational leadership. She currently serves as Vice Chair of La Mesa’s Community Police Oversight Board.

Laura Lothian, a realtor with a business in the La Mesa Village, has run on a pro-business platform multiple times in the past for council and mayor, but did not win.  In 2020 she was endorsed by the county Republican party. She also serves on the La Mesa Village Association Board, the merchants’ group representing the downtown area, and has called for beautification of the village. She supports police and opposed formation of the Community Police Oversight Board.

Jose Fernandez previously pulled papers to run for La Mesa May in 2018 but ultimately did not run. He told ECM at that time that he worked in procurement for an aerospace contractor, is an immigrant who lived in La Mesa since 1989 and hoped to get the Republican party endorsement. 

Michelle Louden is among the latest to announce her candidacy. She has not yet returned ECM’s email or phone messages and an Internet search turned up no information as yet on her candidacy. 

Tony Orlando  pulled papers to run, but later told East County Magazine that he has decided not to run and instead will endorse Lothian. He serves on La Mesa’s personnel appeals board and is pastor of Lifepoint Church.

Jim Stieringer former La Mesa City Treasurer and Treasurer of Grossmont Healthcare District, has also served on the Grossmont High School District Board. Stieringer lost his reelection bid on the GHSD in 2020 after redistricting, drawing criticism for a flyer identifying himself as part of a “progressive team” though he was registered as a Republican.  Stieringer is a retired U.S. Air Force captain and retired contracts manager for Teledyne Ryan.

How to run:  There’s still time for more candidates to file to run. The deadline to file is August 6 at noon. A candidate must be a resident and registered voter in La Mesa, a U.S. citizen, and over 18 years old by election day, November 2  Appointments are required in advance with the city clerk. For more information, visit