Showdown Between DeMaio, Filner In SD Mayor's Race
Councilman Carl DeMaio, a Republican, will advance to a November contest against Democratic Congressman Bob Filner, who beat Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, an Independent, for the second spot in the race for San Diego Mayor.
DeMaio won 32 percent of Tuesday's vote, followed by Filner with 30 percent. Fletcher won 24 percent of the vote in his independent bid. San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, a Republican, finished with 13 percent.
The top two vote-getters will head to November's runoff election.
DeMaio declared victory in front of supporters, saying it was a "great night."
"San Diegans once again have renewed the call for reform with election results," he said.
"In my administration, on this journey we are going to leave no San Diegans behind," he added.
DeMaio will face perhaps his polar opposite in November. Democrat Filner did not support DeMaio's pension measure and is backed by labor unions. Some accused Filner of running a lackluster campaign during the primary. And Filner raised far less money than DeMaio. But Filner says that won't be an issue in November.
"Money is not going to be a problem in this election," Filner said, acknowledging he was short of cash for TV ads in the campaign's final days. "This is the eighth largest city in the country. It's going to get national attention.
"You have two different views of the way government should go and everybody is going to be looking at it and there's going to be money enough for both of us, believe me."
Before 11 p.m., Fletcher thanked supporters and asked them to continue to wait for results. But he said it has been a great campaign that they can be proud of because they followed "the road less traveled."
Dumanis told reporters at Golden Hall that she was "proud of the results we had."
"We have been a team together and I appreciate that," said the district attorney with a smile of resignation.
Turnout was expected to be shy of just 40 percent, according to San Diego County Registrar of Voters Deborah Seiler.
DeMaio consistently led in the polls and won the endorsement of the local Republican Party.
DeMaio paints himself as champion of taxpayers and has had a contentious relationship with labor unions. City workers fiercely oppose DeMaio’s desire to put some city services out to bid, though DeMaio points out voters approved the idea back in 2006. DeMaio also led the charge to get Proposition B on the June ballot. It seeks to freeze current city worker’s pay for five years and would eliminate pensions for most new hires, replacing them with 401(k)s. DeMaio said he won’t apologize to the unions or other city hall insiders who don’t like his tactics. And he said he’ll continue to use them if elected mayor.
"If I can’t get the council to stand up to the labor unions and do the right thing, then I will turn to the public and I will entrust in their hands the fiscal reform agenda that our city needs to implement through ballot initiatives," he said.
DeMaio is an Orange County native. The 37-year-old moved to San Diego from the Washington, D.C. area in 2001. In 2008, he sold his companies, which provided management training to government, non-profit and private sector employers. He made millions from the sale. DeMaio said he wanted to focus on fixing San Diego’s financial problems. DeMaio maintains he has no political ambitions beyond becoming the city’s mayor.
"If we can fix the city of San Diego government, the sky’s the limit for San Diego. And that’s what I’m really excited about," he said. "So I think it’s a no-brainer. San Diego offers just the best quality of life and has the greatest potential if we can get the city government to match the other strengths that our community has."
Seeking to broaden his appeal, DeMaio is also putting out plans to create more jobs in San Diego, promote volunteerism and fix the roads, always a popular subject with voters. He has raised more than a million dollars for his campaign, though much of it is his own money.
But it’s a more experienced politician who says he’s the man to change the political tide in San Diego. Filner, the only Democrat in the race, may have expected to glide into a November run-off. But, according to the polls, he’s locked in tough race with Fletcher for the second run-off spot. Filner’s been criticized for running a lackluster campaign and he’s acknowledged that perhaps he could have been better prepared. But he maintains he’s the one truly independent candidate in the race.
"People know I’m an effective leader and nobody controls me. I’m in nobody’s pocket. I’m an independent person and everybody knows that," he said. "Yes I have the support of labor unions and I’m proud of that because those are the working people of our city. But nobody tells me what to do."
Filner 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 is now 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. He has made expanding the port a centerpiece of his campaign and is the only candidate to oppose Proposition B. Filner said he has his own plan for pension reform, including capping pensions.
"I could put caps on the first day I’m mayor. I could negotiate a five-year labor agreement,” he said. “If the council agreed with me, we could issue pension-obligation bonds."
Filner said pension-obligation bonds would allow the city to pay its pension debt over a longer period of time. He said that would lower the payments and free up money to be put in the city’s General Fund.