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Filner Leads DeMaio In Tight Battle

Congressman Bob Filner and City Councilman Carl DeMaio square off at the KPBS mayoral debate on Oct. 1, 2012.
Congressman Bob Filner and City Councilman Carl DeMaio square off at the KPBS mayoral debate on Oct. 1, 2012.

Democrat Bob Filner holds a slight lead over Republican Carl DeMaio in the race for San Diego mayor. The two are separated by about 2,200 votes out of nearly 3000,000 counted.

Supporters of San Diego mayoral candidate Rep. Bob Filner (D) at Golden Hall on November 6, 2012.
Spark Photography
Supporters of San Diego mayoral candidate Rep. Bob Filner (D) at Golden Hall on November 6, 2012.

KPBS reporters tweeting on Election Day.
DeMaio vs. Filner In Mayor’s Race

Filner appeared shortly before midnight to thank supporters and express confidence that he thinks "we're going to win yet."


He cited the Democratic victory nationally with President Obama defeating Mitt Romney and the City Council remaining in Democratic hands with Sherri Lightner's win over GOP challenger Ray Ellis.

DeMaio thanked his supporters and reiterated his goals for the city.

"The ballots are still being counted, we don't know the final outcome," DeMaio said. "But I know how hard everyone in this room, and the thousands listening at home, have worked to move this great city forward."

DeMaio said his campaign was about eliminating labels based on party affiliation, race, union support and sexual orientation.

"When we strip away the labels, we find one label remains, one label that is strong," he said. "And that is that we are all San Diegans."

If elected, he pledged to govern without labels.

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 candidates sit 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.

DeMaio and Filner have been embroiled in a tense and sometimes nasty race since June, 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.

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

DeMaio is an Orange County native. The 38-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.

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 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.

Sanders has held the mayor's office for eight years and could not run again because of term limits.