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Filner Is San Diego’s New Mayor After DeMaio Concedes

San Diego's next mayor, Bob Filner, talks to KPBS.

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Bob Filner shares his plans as San Diego's next mayor in a KPBS interview. Carl DeMaio concedes in a wistful press conference.

'Don't Be Disappointed'

At times wistful, gracious and proud, Councilmember Carl DeMaio today conceded the mayor's race to Democrat Bob Filner during a press conference.

DeMaio said that as recently as last Friday, he thought he was going to win. But he said a nationwide trend over the weekend spelled doom for his campaign.

"We wish we were here celebrating a victory," DeMaio said. "But I feel really good. I am so proud of what we were able to accomplish at the city and we are handing over to Bob Filner a city government that is on the right path."

DeMaio said he plans to stay in San Diego despite losing the election.

“I anticipate finding a good role to serve our city, so that we can move forward on the issues that I care passionately about; finishing the job of fiscal reform, restoring our services, moving our economy forward,” he said.

Beyond that, he wasn't specific about his future plans.

“Sleep and a lot of reflection," he said. "And thanking a lot of people. I’ve already made calls to Mayor Sanders. I’ve talked to Bonnie Dumanis. I have so many people to thank. I am so grateful for thethousands of San Diegans who stepped forward across party lines. A lot of Democrats that said hey, you’re my first Republican that I’ve ever voted for. That means so much. Because, I believe. I believe what it shows is that we can reach beyond labels. And it’s very, it made a big impact on me, as you can see.”

“For those that voted for me. Don’t be disappointed,” he added. “Look how far we’ve come. Look at what we have accomplished. Do not become cynical.”

Filner shared some of his plans as San Diego's next mayor on KPBS' Midday and Evening Edition.

“To be entrusted with the leadership of one of America’s great cities is a humbling experience," he said. "But I’m excited to get started and to really get the city involved in a way that most of the neighborhoods have never been involved before.”

Although the City Council will be made up of a majority of members of Filner's own party, Filner said, “we’re going to work with everybody, as I’ve done before.”

He pledged to be accessible to members of the media and the public, saying he'd sit in the City Hall lobby most Saturdays to answer the public's questions. He also said former City Councilwoman Donna Frye would be his director of open government.

The race between the Democrat Filner and the Republican DeMaio has been tight since the June primary, when two other candidates were eliminated. Republican District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis endorsed DeMaio the week before the election. The Republican-turned Independent state Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher did not make an endorsement.

The polarized DeMaio and Filner sat at opposite ends of many issues, including the Convention Center expansion, replacing city employees' pensions with 401(k)-style retirement plans, and the Plaza de Panama project for Balboa Park. They both believe a new Chargers stadium should be built without public financing and support desalination to increase the city's water supply.

On KPBS Midday, Filner said he would implement Prop B, the pension reform measure, if it is approved by the courts.

DeMaio and Filner's race was tense and sometimes nasty, with accusations and attack ads flying. DeMaio attacked Filner for missing votes in Congress, assaulting a baggage handler at an airport and for his plan to use city bonds to pay off pension debt.

Filner attacked DeMaio for what he said were connections to "downtown insiders" including U-T San Diego owner Doug Manchester. Filner also called DeMaio's partner Johnathan Hale a criminal and suggested he was connected to the group that organized a water gun fight that destroyed the lily pond in Balboa Park.

On Midday, Filner would not say he regretted anything that was said during the campaign.

“It's over," he said. "You’re always going to second guess a whole lot of things. Let’s look forward and build this city into an exciting kind of a thing. I think I’m going to have an exciting time as mayor.”

Both the conservative DeMaio and the liberal Filner attempted to vie for moderate voters since the June primary. DeMaio scored endorsements from current Mayor Jerry Sanders, Democratic philanthropist Irwin Jacobs and many local business groups. Filner was endorsed by California Gov. Jerry Brown, Frye and groups like the San Diego police officers and the San Diego firefighters.

Filner, 70, has served on the San Diego Unified School Board and on the San Diego City Council. He was first elected to Congress in 1992 and ever since has held the seat representing South San Diego and Imperial County. He’s served as chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee and was the ranking member.

But Filner said Congress has become too dysfunctional and he saw an opportunity to be San Diego's first Democratic mayor in nearly 30 years.

Mesa College political science professor Carl Luna talks to KPBS after the November 6 election.

KPBS' Maureen Cavanaugh, Peggy Pico, Patty Lane and Claire Trageser contributed to this report.

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