Tim Nader will soon gavel his term on the governing board into adjournment and has called to order a campaign for Superior Court judge.
Nader, 60, a California State Attorney and UC Berkeley law school graduate announced that he is a candidate for Superior Court judge on the June 2018 ballot. His current term on the governing board ends December 2018.
In addition to serving a pair of four-year terms on the SWC Governing Board, Nader is the former mayor of Chula Vista and a former member of the city council. He was elected to the college board in 2010 along with former SWC President Norma Hernandez in an election that changed the dynamic of the board and the direction of the college.
Nader has served in the State Attorney office for 22 years as a prosecutor, family law attorney and civil law attorney.
“One of the things that set me apart from most traditional candidates is the breadth of legal experience I’ve had,” he said. “But most importantly, I have a background in the community.”
A graduate of Hilltop High School, Nader was a Chula Vista Youth Commissioner prior to his election to the city council at age 29. He was elected mayor in 1991 when he was just 33 years old.
Nader said he is proud that the police department was expanded and programs for at-risk-youth were opened during his time as mayor.
In 2001 Nader became a foreign aid volunteer for a private contractor in Turkmenistan. Under this program, American lawyers assist former communist countries transition to democracy. For six months Nader worked in Turkmenistan’s only law school to help Turkmen law students.
Nader recalled the oppression he witnessed in Turkmenistan where the news media was controlled by the government and citizens had to be careful of expressing their thoughts in front of the secret police.
“I certainly gained a deeper appreciation than ever for the freedom that we have here in the United States,” he said.
He returned to Chula Vista in 2002. He ran for the Southwestern College Governing Board in 2010 when the college was in turmoil and threatened with closure. Former superintendent Raj K. Chopra, vice president of fiscal services Nicholas Alioto, ASO Adviser Arlie Ricasa and other employees and trustees were engaged in large-scale corruption related to construction bond money granted to the college by voters.
SWC’s accreditation body was also threatening to close the college due to incompetent management and “a culture of fear.”
“There were some disturbing similarities in the regime that was in place here and the regime that I experienced and lived under in Turkmenistan,” he said. “We made sure things got cleaned up and the college is on a much more positive track.”
After Nader, Hernandez and former trustee Nick Aguilar forced out several administrators, six current or former Southwestern College employees, the college architect and two construction contractors were charged with nearly150 felonies, including extortion, bribery and corruption. All pleaded guilty to lesser charges to avoid prison.
Nader supporter Elizabeth Stillwagon said she believes in him and the work he has done to save Southwestern College.
“He’s never changed his focus, he’s always pro everybody, pro get better and do things for the country by the concensus of the people, not his own opinions,” she said.
Campaign volunteer Freda Hernandez said Nader will need volunteer and fund raising help.
“This is a very tough campaign, it covers the entire county of San Diego, so we’re going to need a lot of bodies,” she said.
“This is going to be an expensive campaign,” he said. “We’re thinking we need to raise about $175,000.”
Nader has been endorsed by the mayors of Imperial Beach, National City and Chula Vista, as well as prominent lawyers and elected officials.
Superior Court judges run for a six-year term. To be eligible for the position, a candidate must have been a practicing attorney in California for at least 10 years.
Nader is running against first-term San Diego County Superior Court Judge Gary Kreep, who has been accused of racist and sexist remarks to attorneys in the courtroom. He was found guilty of the charges that came after an investigation into his judgeship, but was reprimanded instead of removed.
“The functioning of our judiciary is a critically important part of our democratic system,” said Nader. “If we don’t maintain a politically independent judiciary and a competent and fair judiciary, the rest of the system is in deep trouble.”