Photo by Sam Hodgson
Democratic mayoral candidate Bob Filner has spent two decades in Congress.
Plenty of media coverage from his long tenure helped when I put together my Tuesday profile on Filner’s Washington D.C. record.
Read these articles if you want to know more. I separated them into five categories, all of which I touched on in the piece.
Filner’s biggest policy issue in Washington D.C. is veterans. The most comprehensive piece on Filner’s tenure on the House Veterans Affairs’ Committee appeared in the Capitol Hill publication Roll Call last December (subscription required):
Veterans’ groups generally agree that Filner’s brash and abrasive in-your-face style of politics helped secure the significant funding increases the VA has enjoyed over the past several years. They also agree they need an advocate, such as Filner, to protect their interests as budget realities begin to catch up with programs once considered untouchable.
Despite Filner pushing for increases in veterans benefits and other initiatives, the waves of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans returning to the U.S. are overwhelming the VA bureaucracy. This summer, Reuters took an in-depth look at President Barack Obama’s promises to veterans, many of which Filner supported and takes credit for, and how the system is struggling to keep up.
It took six years for Shiggy Yamada’s private bill to become law and give the undocumented immigrant a path to American citizenship. Filner was the first sponsor of the bill and a 2004 U-T San Diego story describes what happened when Border Patrol agents arrested Yamada and how Filner got involved.
Filner also was linked to the recent high-profile immigration case of Ayded Reyes, the nation’s top-ranked junior college cross-country runner, who attended Southwestern College in Chula Vista. Reyes was threatened with deportation after Harbor Police stopped her when she was in a park after closing time and asked for her identification. Reyes was an undocumented immigrant who was brought to America as a 2-year-old.
Filner sponsored a private bill for her, too. The bill didn’t pass, but a federal judge dismissed her deportation case in the winter:
“It didn’t hurt to have a U.S. congressman supporting her,” Reyes’ attorney told ESPN.
Filner began getting noticed for his advocacy on behalf of Filipino veterans early in his tenure. A 1997 Los Angeles Times story described his appeal:
By all indications, it looked like it was going to be a Wednesday afternoon session of vacation slides from hell. There we were, holed up on a lovely spring day in the Capitol Hill office of Rep. Bob Filner, San Diego Democrat, while he described snapshots of his recent trip to the Philippines. Everybody got their own set.
“Bob and Jane Filner enjoy breakfast with the Sons and Daughters of World War II veterans. … Bob Filner discusses trade with the president of the Philippine National Oil Co. … Bob Filner studies concrete map of World War II battles at the Manila American Cemetery. . . .”
The only American reporter in attendance (who shall remain nameless but whose initials are Yours Truly), sat quietly, plotting her escape, when suddenly she noticed that the handful of Filipino dignitaries and journalists in the room were utterly rapt. Even two who were enjoying this pictorial trip down memory lane over the phone not only requested their own personal set of snapshots, but suggested that someone please take a snapshot of Bob Filner describing the snapshots.
Bloomberg wrote a thorough history of the Filipino veterans benefits issue when Filner won his biggest legislative victory on the matter in 2009, securing a $198 million lump sum payment for the veterans.
Filner has had numerous run-ins with his colleagues in Congress, including powerful Democrats as detailed in the 2006 book Fight Club Politics by Washington Post reporter Juliet Eilperin. Filner is quoted chafing at the authority of House leaders:
Bob Filner, who taught history for two decades at San Diego State University, described the House as “a feudal institution. The only way you can get anything done around here is through personal relationships, lord-vassal relationships … You kiss the ring, or kiss the rear end of your chairman. If they don’t like you you’re finished. It’s not about issues.”
Bob Filner versus Juan Vargas was the most significant battle in South Bay politics for 15 years. Filner beat Vargas for the congressional seat three times between 1992 and 2006, and the rivalry between the two forced everyone else to take sides between the two Democrats. The elections cemented Filner’s reputation as a fanatic campaigner because he repeatedly outpolled an impressive Latino candidate in a Latino-majority district. From U-T San Diego, June 8, 2006:
If Vargas was banking on ethnic politics to lift him to victory, he miscalculated Filner’s capacity to expend sweat and burn shoe leather.
“He works for his constituents, and I think it has paid off,” said Alejandra Mier y Teran, executive director of the Otay Mesa Chamber of Commerce.
That played out in Imperial County.
Filner was weak there in 2002, his first outing after the redistricting, when he was outpolled there by Democrat Danny Ramirez. He won the overall district.
Filner learned Spanish and became a frequent visitor to the valley.
Vargas, now a state senator, finished first in the June primary for Filner’s abandoned congressional seat and is the heavy favorite to replace him.
Lastly, nonprofit Investigative Newsource examined Filner’s record in the fall. It focused on his penchant for private bills, such as the ones he sponsored for Yamada and Reyes. And it did an overview of his recent legislative history, earmarks and campaign contributions finding that many of the bills he sponsored benefitted those who have donated or lobbied him.
Liam Dillon is a news reporter for Voice of San Diego. He covers San Diego City Hall, the 2012 mayor’s race and big building projects. What should he write about next?
Please contact him directly at email@example.com or 619.550.5663.
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