La Jollan James Rudolph in the race for District 1 San Diego City Council seat


A relative late-comer to the 2020 San Diego City Council District 1 race, La Jolla resident and Democrat James Rudolph filed last week to join the race for the seat to be vacated by current Council member Barbara Bry, who is running for mayor.

With political experience dating back to the Clinton Administration and legal experience after that, Rudolph said the time has come for him to serve in his local elected office.

“This decision has been building for many years,” he told La Jolla Light. “I’ve been in politics since my freshman year of college. I was a political science major and worked in Washington, D.C. and always considered elective office, I just didn’t know where or when. Now I’m back in my hometown and my children are here and it seemed like the right time to make a move.”

Rudolph worked at the U.S. Agency for International Development under the Clinton Administration, focusing on democracy development in developing countries such as India. Because the position was politically derived, his position ended with the administration.

From there, Rudolph moved to London to work for a Member of Parliament, but came back to San Diego for law school. He returned to D.C. for a non-partisan Franklin Fellowship at the State Department under the Obama Administration, where he focused on human rights law in the Bureau of African Affairs.

Now living in Windansea — just a few blocks from where he grew up — and with three children going to school in Carmel Valley, Rudolph said he sees the San Diego City Council as a way to use that legal and political experience to best serve the District 1 communities.

“So much of City Council members’ time is spent in closed session reading contracts and trying to make sense of them, and also assessing litigation against the City. So having a legal background would be an asset for some of those issues,” he said. “I also spent many years studying the economy and how to strike a good balance between imposing laws and being market friendly.”

Broadly speaking, Rudolph said his priorities are similar to some of the other candidates in the race: job creation, housing, infrastructure, implementing the City’s Climate Action Plan and managing the growth of the San Diego economy.

He also said he considers human trafficking to be a major issue to be addressed citywide.

The son of Harry Rudolph Jr., owner of Harry’s Coffee Shop, Rudolph said he is one of nine children who grew up working at the restaurant, and so he understands the importance of customer satisfaction.

“The sons were busboys and cooks, and the daughters tended to be hostesses,” he said. “We all grew up in the restaurant and had an introduction to small business and how it successfully operates; how you connect with people and create a lasting impression. My dad liked to say you never get a second chance to make a first impression. So it’s important to me to bring that customer service to that political campaign. Some people call it ‘retail politics’ or ‘glad-handing,’ but it’s about being out there and making connections with people. That’s why one of my goals is to make City Council as accessible as possible so people aren’t feeling excluded from the process, which many people feel today.”

He added: “As someone born and raised in a small business in La Jolla,” making La Jolla more attractive to small businesses is a chief priority. “We all know there are still many vacancies in La Jolla and people complain that the rents are too high and that other issues get in the way of their success. So this is a major issue for me.”

That, he said, “and finding a solution to the permanent gridlock along Torrey Pines Road.”

The Democrat said he would also draw from his experience to work with those across the political aisle.

“I have always considered myself to be a moderate Democrat,” Rudolph said. “My relatives are on the moderate conservative side, my mother is a Republican … so I have an interest in working with everybody. My goal is focusing on policies that make sense and are not beholden to one party over the other. I’m flexible and accessible, which hopefully, encourages more dialogue between the two parties.

“Sometimes people get tied up with political affiliations and being typecast that way. Then assumptions are made about who you are as a person and your beliefs, and I would like it to be a little more fluid.”

Over the next few months, Rudolph said he will visit as many places as possible within the District to meet his potential constituents and learn what the local issues are.

A website is coming soon, but Rudolph can be reached at

Election season has begun. In less than one year, residents of District 1 will have the opportunity to vote in the San Diego City Council primary election (March 3, 2020). District 1 includes La Jolla, Carmel Valley, Del Mar Mesa, Pacific Highlands Ranch, Torrey Hills, Torrey Pines and University City.
All of the candidates who have filed so far have been interviewed by La Jolla Light and their profiles can be read at