Potential Filner Replacement Depends on the Ouster

Potential Filner Replacement Depends on the Ouster

Photo by Sam Hodgson

Mayor Bob Filner leaves a press conference with his chief of staff, Lee Burdick.

In 2005, former San Diego Mayor Dick Murphy resigned under threat of a recall.

“I now believe to be effective the city will need a mayor who was elected by a majority of the people,” Murphy said at the time.

Before the city’s pension woes buried him, Murphy had just won a narrow, disputed re-election with 34.7 percent of the vote in a three-way runoff over write-in candidate Donna Frye. But Murphy’s plea for a mayor that the majority of San Diegans wanted also fit his decision to leave office on his own rather than have voters throw him out in a recall.

San Diego and beleaguered Democratic Mayor Bob Filner could now face the same situation. If Filner, who’s accused of sexually harassing numerous women, leaves, how he goes matters a lot to determine who replaces him. And that could help explain some of the enthusiasm on the right and lack thereof on the left for the nascent Filner recall effort.

A resignation means the city will have a primary and likely a runoff special election, meaning someone will have to win a majority vote to become mayor. The mix of potential candidates on the left and right – Democrats Nathan Fletcher, Todd Gloria and Christine Kehoe and Republican Kevin Faulconer to name four – would most likely yield a Democrat vs. Republican runoff.

A recall means one election, meaning Filner’s replacement could win with the kind of vote share – or less – than Murphy got. For any candidate, it’s winner-take-all.

If you don’t think that distinction matters, look at what happened in 2005 after Murphy resigned. Frye finished first in the primary, but lost to Jerry Sanders in the runoff. Things would have been different had voters recalled Murphy, instead, said GOP pollster John Nienstedt.

“Donna Frye would have been mayor,” Nienstedt said.

The current recall-Filner effort received a boost this week when four campaign pros signed on to help it qualify for the ballot. Local GOP Chairman Tony Krvaric, who’s best known for insulting Democrats and laborites on Twitter, is all for it.

Krvaric said he’d love to have a unified message with the local Democratic Party and labor leaders to get the recall qualified.

“Call me a softie,” Krvaric said.

The local GOP won’t be financing the recall, Krvaric said, but will be volunteering to help it make the ballot.

“I don’t think any Republican who wants a petition will go without one,” he said.

Meantime, labor unions and the local Democratic Party are against a recall.

Labor remains the city’s most prominent interest group still backing Filner – “It’s an awkward situation, but we have a lot invested in him,” a labor leader recently told U-T San Diego. And while the local Democratic Party has asked for Filner’s resignation, it doesn’t support a recall. (Party head Francine Busby couldn’t be reached for comment.)

Democratic Assembly members Lorena Gonzalez and John Pérez share the party’s No-On-Filner, No-On-Recall message. Gonzalez, the first Democratic elected official to say Filner should go, has said she’s concerned about a small minority electing the next mayor in a recall. Pérez, the Assembly speaker, called on Filner to resign this week, but also said a recall would prolong Filner’s time in office.

No matter how Filner might leave, Democrats should feel nervous about retaining the mayor’s office, even if you put aside the damage Filner might be doing to the party. Filner was elected in November amid Democratic President Barack Obama’s victory and other big progressive wins fueled by young and minority voters. A special election without a big-ticket Democrat on the ballot won’t draw nearly the same turnout.

“Some kid from San Diego State who has never voted before is not coming down to vote in a special mayoral election before they go back to St. Louis next year,” said local GOP consultant Jennifer Jacobs.

But a recall could bring local Democrats’ bogeyman back to the stage. Former Republican City Councilman Carl DeMaio finished first in the mayoral primary after earning the support of hard-core Republicans before losing to Filner in November.

Jacobs, a longtime DeMaio associate, said DeMaio’s focused on running for Congress. But in a recall where he would only need a plurality of voters to win the mayor’s office, Jacobs said he’d be formidable.

“I don’t think there’s a single person in this town who could beat Carl,” she said.

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Liam Dillon

Liam Dillon

Liam Dillon is senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He leads VOSD’s investigations and writes about how regular people interact with local government. What should he write about next? Please contact him directly at liam.dillon@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5663.

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16 comments
Glenn Younger
Glenn Younger

With a recall we will learn about the leadership and management of the two parties. If a party can field one candidate they could win. If there are multiple candidates from one party that party will lose. The deeper bench for local democrats spells trouble if more than one of them want to run. The real majority in San Diego is made up of moderate democrats, independents, and moderate republicans. Whatever party figures that out and can manage their candidates has the best shot at wining the mayors office in a recall election. The ideologues won last time; not sure voters will let that happen again. .

Glenn Younger
Glenn Younger subscribermember

With a recall we will learn about the leadership and management of the two parties. If a party can field one candidate they could win. If there are multiple candidates from one party that party will lose. The deeper bench for local democrats spells trouble if more than one of them want to run. The real majority in San Diego is made up of moderate democrats, independents, and moderate republicans. Whatever party figures that out and can manage their candidates has the best shot at wining the mayors office in a recall election. The ideologues won last time; not sure voters will let that happen again. .

Mark Giffin
Mark Giffin subscribermember

They don't care. They have become zealots that simply don not care as long as it supports their agenda. "Meantime, labor unions and the local Democratic Party are against a recall." Speaks volumes. They would rather the city be bogged down as a whole rather than risk loosing labors hold on the city.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

You can't automatically assume that people would vote the same in a winner take all as they do in a primary, where they are more likely to vote strategically rather than for their direct choice.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

You can't automatically assume that people would vote the same in a winner take all as they do in a primary, where they are more likely to vote strategically rather than for their direct choice.

Bill Bradshaw
Bill Bradshaw

Let's have a show of hands of those who think Filner will resign. OK, looks like three out of the hundred gathered here say that's what will happen. So, let's wait wait to see what he does. I'll tell you what's going to happen. Filner will return from his two week counseling session, announce he's cured and say it's time to get back to his "progressive" agenda. Any takers?

Bill Bradshaw
Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

Let's have a show of hands of those who think Filner will resign. OK, looks like three out of the hundred gathered here say that's what will happen. So, let's wait wait to see what he does. I'll tell you what's going to happen. Filner will return from his two week counseling session, announce he's cured and say it's time to get back to his "progressive" agenda. Any takers?

Ken Brucker
Ken Brucker

The Dems want Filner out but don't want a recall: that seems like they still don't want to do the thorough kind of work that they should have done last year with Filner that would have avoided this debacle in the first place.

Karen Grube
Karen Grube

I hope no one even thinks about considering Carl DeMaio for ANY public office. EVER! His direct ties to pornography should preclude him from even the slightest possibility of being elected. His unacceptable support for abortion should shock any Republican into not endorsing him. We simply cannot trade bad for worse in the mayor's race. I call on the Republican party to begin recruiting a better candidate for this job NOW! Don't wait. I'm sure you can find a truly gifted leader with common sense and common decency to help guide this city. You failed last time. Don't fail this city again . . . PLEASE. Find a decent candidate and help that person win with everything you've got. Go all out for this city for a change.

Karen Grube
Karen Grube subscriber

I hope no one even thinks about considering Carl DeMaio for ANY public office. EVER! His direct ties to pornography should preclude him from even the slightest possibility of being elected. His unacceptable support for abortion should shock any Republican into not endorsing him. We simply cannot trade bad for worse in the mayor's race. I call on the Republican party to begin recruiting a better candidate for this job NOW! Don't wait. I'm sure you can find a truly gifted leader with common sense and common decency to help guide this city. You failed last time. Don't fail this city again . . . PLEASE. Find a decent candidate and help that person win with everything you've got. Go all out for this city for a change.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

"The real majority in San Diego is made up of moderate democrats, independents, and moderate republicans" Not really, as the overwhelming support for prop B shows, and the fact that the two who got into the finals were the furthest left and furthest right. San Diego is not made up of moderates, it is made up of right wing libertarians and union beholden left wingers, with a smaller but significant number of people who have no particular belief system and are generally easily lead.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

"The real majority in San Diego is made up of moderate democrats, independents, and moderate republicans" Not really, as the overwhelming support for prop B shows, and the fact that the two who got into the finals were the furthest left and furthest right. San Diego is not made up of moderates, it is made up of right wing libertarians and union beholden left wingers, with a smaller but significant number of people who have no particular belief system and are generally easily lead.

Joshua Brant
Joshua Brant

Filner has not given even a whiff of a hint that he's considering resigning. We'll see if he changes his tune after his 2-week intensive therapy, but like you, my money is on Filner saying everything is fixed now back to work.

Joshua Brant
Joshua Brant subscriber

Filner has not given even a whiff of a hint that he's considering resigning. We'll see if he changes his tune after his 2-week intensive therapy, but like you, my money is on Filner saying everything is fixed now back to work.

Mark Giffin
Mark Giffin

They don't care. They have become zealots that simply don not care as long as it supports their agenda. "Meantime, labor unions and the local Democratic Party are against a recall." Speaks volumes. They would rather the city be bogged down as a whole rather than risk loosing labors hold on the city.

Mike Churchill
Mike Churchill

Filner is in a bit of a bind here. Rehab is all well and good for restoring public good will to celebrities, but thus far the best route for American politicians is a well-publicized mea-culpa "private" session with an extremely telegenic and famous Protestant preacher, followed by the tearful joint press conference. With supportive family members on display. I could see Filner penciling in some time with a televangelist at this point, but he'd never pull off being tearful at the press conference. And then there's the "supportive family" part ...