Originally published May 14, 2012 at 10:30 a.m., updated May 14, 2012 at 5:06 p.m.
According to the latest polls, Congressman Bob Filner is running neck and neck with state Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher for second place in the San Diego mayoral race, behind front-runner City Councilman Carl DeMaio. Although Fletcher's polling numbers went up after he left the Republican Party, Filner said he does not think Fletcher's move stole votes from him.
"I think it was a last gap maneuver by Mr. Fletcher," Filner said. "He did not get the Republican endorsement, which he wanted and he tried very hard to do, and he outlined how long he had been a Republican, what he did, and all of a sudden he throws a 'Hail Mary' pass, says, 'I'll be an independent.' You can't change your record when you change your name."
As the only Democrat in the race, Filner was at one time expected to easily pass the primary to face a Republican in the general election. But although Filner is now lagging in the polls, he said his campaign has not made mistakes.
"Each person runs a campaign based on their strengths, the dynamics between the candidates and their experiences," he said. "I've won 25 elections in San Diego, I've been through this many times, I think I know how to do it and I think it will come out victorious at the end."
Filner was criticized on a previous episode of KPBS Television's "Evening Edition" for having incorrect information on the Port of San Diego. But he defended what he said.
"I was not wrong on the Port stuff, in that I said a few years ago, I probably meant 10 years ago, I have a wider framework than most people do here because I've been dealing with these issues a long time," he said.
He said the "fact of the matter" has not changed, which is that the Port has room to expand.
Filner is the only mayoral candidate who does not support Proposition B, which would replace pensions for new city employees with 401(k)-style retirement plans. He said the city is "stuck with a mess," but that it needs to find a solution that's fair to taxpayers and employees.
"The current mayor has done major reforms," he said. "But we have to go further."
Filner said Proposition B is not fair to employees because it gives them 401(k)s, which are subject to the stock market, but city employees do not receive social security benefits.
"That's just wrong," he said.
Filner added that if passed, Proposition B would cost $100 million to set up and "would not save a nickel."
That's because the savings that come from Proposition B require a five-year salary freeze for city employees, Filner said.
"That can't be done by the initiative," he said. "That has to be done by collective bargaining. Why aren't we at the table rather than in the courtroom, which is what this will result in?"
Filner said pension reform supporters are focusing on "horror stories" of city employees who received $250,000 pensions.
"Well that's a few management employees who have gotten phony pay raises from the city, and bonuses in their last year, so their pension is twice their salary," he said. "That's wrong. So I put a cap - no more six-figure pensions - which I could do as mayor right away."
Filner said we also have the "lowest interest rates in the history of this nation," and that he wants to take advantage of that by refinancing the city's pension debt. Opposing mayoral candidates criticized Filner's refinancing plan, with District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis saying it "kicks his rusty pension can down our crumbling roads."
Filner added that previous mayors Dick Murphy and Susan Golding "literally stole the money" from the city's pension funds to finance Petco Park and a Republican Convention in San Diego.