Why this matters
The winner will represent 700,000 residents living in two cities and several neighborhoods in San Diego County while helping oversee the county’s $8 billion budget.
To learn more about the opposing candidate in the special election for San Diego County Supervisor, read about Amy Reichert’s background and policy positions here.
Now a leader on San Diego’s city council, Monica Montgomery Steppe says she’s ready to lead the county with experience.
Montgomery Steppe is running in the closely watched race for a seat on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors in District 4, which opened up for special election after former supervisor Nathan Fletcher resigned amid sexual assault allegations.
Monica Montgomery Steppe’s background
Hometown: San Diego
Political Party: Democrat
- Bachelor’s degree in political science from Spelman College
- Law degree from California Western School of Law
- Current San Diego Council President pro Tem
- Helps oversee City of San Diego’s $5 billion budget
- Once a policy advisor to former San Diego councilmember Myrtle Cole and current San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria
- Former criminal justice advocate for the American Civil Liberties Union
- Former lawyer defending tenants from eviction
The district is home to about 700,000 residents and includes the cities of La Mesa and Lemon Grove and several central and southeastern San Diego neighborhoods.
If she wins the election on Nov. 7, she would take over the rest of Fletcher’s term, which ends in January 2027, and tip the five-member board to Democratic control.
Montgomery Steppe would also become the first Black woman to serve on the board if elected.
Montgomery Steppe’s candidacy has been backed by a coalition of San Diego labor unions, which have spent roughly $1 million on flyers and other advertisements supporting her. She outperformed three other candidates in the primary election in August with 42% of the vote and will face Republican Amy Reichert in the November runoff.
Born and raised in San Diego, Montgomery Steppe has represented the city’s District 4 since late 2018. She unseated former Councilmember Myrtle Cole after she learned of Cole’s controversial comments suggesting racial profiling by law enforcement was justified in communities of color.
Current City Council President Pro Tem Montgomery Steppe said her priorities have focused on a list of issues including the region’s ongoing homelessness crisis, affordable housing, wages and changes to local criminal justice systems.
inewsource asked each candidate questions about pressing issues in San Diego County and the causes they are focusing on in the leadup to the election. Montgomery Steppe’s answers have been summarized below.
Montgomery Steppe said she believes homelessness is a multifaceted problem with many causes, including unaffordable rent, discrimination in the workplace and mental illness.
The county’s homeless population is “not a monolith,” she said, and because there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution to this crisis, the county needs to tackle homelessness from the roots of the problem.
Montgomery Steppe said homelessness is a public emergency that warrants a “rapid response” to get unhoused people into shelters.
The councilmember said she wants to give people an opportunity to be sheltered, and if they refuse, then the county can take “other steps to deal with that.”
Criminalization, however, is not the answer, she said. Montgomery Steppe has opposed the controversial public encampment ban that the San Diego City Council recently enacted. Part of the reason she voted against the ban, she said, was because a lot of resources for unhoused people have historically been centered in downtown San Diego, and the ban displaced people from the area.
“I did not think that it was fair that developers came into downtown and wanted to make a certain part of downtown what they wanted it to be,” she said. “And they kicked folks out and displaced people, without having a plan for where people would go.”
Instead, Montgomery Steppe said she supports more access to transitional and permanent housing, health care and job training programs. She also proposed creating a registry of people willing to house those on the verge of homelessness.
She called this taking a “holistic” approach that looks at the full picture of what causes and exacerbates homelessness.
“I truly believe that we have to monitor the implementation of the programs and also lead with the compassion that is going to be needed to resolve these issues.”
Expensive housing can result in homelessness, and Montgomery Steppe said the county needs to help make living in San Diego more affordable. She agreed that the county needs to build more housing, but she described it as a long-term solution. Right now, she said, her constituents need immediate action to relieve ongoing housing struggles.
“We do need to at least explore what rent stabilization looks like because the rent keeps increasing,” Montgomery Steppe said, “and then we keep seeing more people become homeless than we can actually support and we can actually serve.”
Other policy solutions she supports include making it easier to obtain permits for new home construction, relying on the county’s Innovative Housing Trust Fund to fill funding gaps for housing projects and using the state’s density bonus law, which funds the development of market-rate and affordable housing units to increase density. Using these functions, she said, could help build a middle class of homeowners in San Diego County.
Montgomery Steppe said she supports raising the minimum wage and wants wages to match increases to the county’s cost of living. She did not specify what minimum number she would support, but her campaign spokesperson Eva Posner said in a follow-up email that Montgomery Steppe would need to meet with stakeholders, see data and spend more time on the issue to come up with a number.
“Once elected, she looks forward to diving into the issue to ensure the County gets it right,” Posner wrote.
Criminal justice system
Holding law enforcement accountable is something Montgomery Steppe doesn’t hold back on, she said, whether it’s challenging racial profiling by police or speaking out against deaths in county jails.
While county supervisors do not manage local police agencies, the councilmember said her “reputation has shown I just want everyone to feel protected and everyone to feel safe by our law enforcement departments, and I want the rules to be administered fairly and equitably.”
The supervisors do, however, control the budget for the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department. The department has faced years of criticism, investigations and lawsuits for its operation of the county jails due to the high death toll among incarcerated people.
Montgomery Steppe pointed to an instance when the Sheriff’s Department refused to provide information to the Citizens’ Law Enforcement Review Board about where jail deaths are occurring and said she would push for more answers if elected. Her hope, she said, is to reduce jail deaths and improve conditions in the county jail system through increased oversight and transparency.
One bigger solution Montgomery Steppe said she supports is changing policies to create a “culture of accountability” in law enforcement.
Controversial decisions made by the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office have caught Montgomery Steppe’s attention. Those include the DA’s office requesting to hold residents who have not been convicted of a crime in jail, clearing officers of wrongdoing when they kill a resident and demanding people who take plea bargains sign away their rights to future reductions in prison sentences.
“The best way to get accountability is for everyone to understand that there are consequences for doing something that is wrong,” she said.
Type of Content
News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.