Three Ways This Mayoral Election Will Be Different

Three Ways This Mayoral Election Will Be Different

Photo by Sam Hodgson

A polling station at the University of California, San Diego.

It’s time for election season again.

San Diego’s next mayoral election began at 4 p.m. Friday when ex-Mayor Bob Filner resigned after an avalanche of sexual harassment allegations. In November, Filner became the city’s first Democratic mayor in 20 years. But the dynamics in this election won’t be anything like the last one.

Start Your Engines Yesterday

This race will move at a breakneck pace. The first election has to happen, per the City Charter, between two to three months after Filner officially leaves on Aug. 30. A runoff election, assuming no candidate wins more than half the initial vote, would occur 49 days later. (A statewide political consulting firm has a good rundown of possible dates.)

The speed of the election will benefit candidates who can raise money quickly and get major institutions like the local political parties, labor unions and GOP-friendly Lincoln Club on board early.

“I think the serious candidates will have raised $100,000 in the first week,” said Democratic political consultant Jennifer Tierney.

Tierney expected all the big interest groups to have made their choice known within two weeks.

We should also expect to see fewer debates. Filner and his opponent Carl DeMaio met a staggering 29 times during the runoff campaign because Filner would debate any time and anywhere, and DeMaio had to sell a more moderate image of himself. With Filner gone and election timeline sped up, this should change.

Turnout Favors the GOP

In the last five citywide elections, a rule has emerged. If you’re a Republican, you can get anything you want (City Council candidates, killing a sales tax hike, pension reform), except in a presidential general election.

Barack Obama or any other Democratic presidential contender won’t be on a mayoral special election ballot, either in a primary or runoff.

Voter turnout in the November election was 69 percent. In a special election, Tierney said turnout could plummet to about half that.

Lower turnout helps explain why even though Democrats have a more than 13-point registration edge over Republicans in the city, a GOP candidate would be competitive or even the favorite in a special election.

“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,” Republican consultant Jennifer Jacobs said earlier this month.

Even if you assume residual distaste for Filner won’t hurt Democratic candidates in the special election, the turnout will.

Time to Clean Up City Hall Again

After San Diego’s last major mayoral political scandal in 2005, the “Clean Up City Hall” message reverberated for the next seven years, through the unceasing financial and political problems with city pensions. With the passage of a pension reform initiative and the ultimate defeat of its champion DeMaio, the last mayoral election cycle was seen as pension politics’ last hurrah.

Now the scandal that forced Filner from office will hang over the election and require candidates to have their own plan to address sexual harassment, or city credit card usage or other Filner-related weaknesses in City Hall.

“I think we’re going to go right back to that message,” Tierney said.

We should also expect to see more public scrutiny on the mayoral candidates’ character. Rumors of Filner’s treatment of women had been known for years, but nothing came out publicly prior to the election. Issues that might have been considered irrelevant personal issues before likely will become fair game post-Filner scandal.

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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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13 comments
richard brick
richard brick

Character issues? The only thing that will matter in this so called election will be which candidate is most beholding to the downtown overlords. The overlords have been stymied the past couple of years with Brown dissolving the center city development group,(corporate welfare) and Filner being elected mayor. The overlords pushed through the expansion of the convention center, no public vote on room tax. Then slice the rent paid by Comic- Con by half so as to make sure they don't move to another city, all the while your tax money was used to support this. The candidate will also tip toe around the stadium issue, pre election but when elected it will be full speed to give the billionaire owner his new digs, with the taxpayer picking up most of the tab.

richard brick
richard brick subscribermember

Character issues? The only thing that will matter in this so called election will be which candidate is most beholding to the downtown overlords. The overlords have been stymied the past couple of years with Brown dissolving the center city development group,(corporate welfare) and Filner being elected mayor. The overlords pushed through the expansion of the convention center, no public vote on room tax. Then slice the rent paid by Comic- Con by half so as to make sure they don't move to another city, all the while your tax money was used to support this. The candidate will also tip toe around the stadium issue, pre election but when elected it will be full speed to give the billionaire owner his new digs, with the taxpayer picking up most of the tab.

Lucas OConnor
Lucas OConnor

We don't want to maybe go with "Jennifer Jacobs, DeMaio Spokesperson" like she's identified in DeMaio's emails?

Lucas OConnor
Lucas OConnor subscriber

We don't want to maybe go with "Jennifer Jacobs, DeMaio Spokesperson" like she's identified in DeMaio's emails?

Richard Ross
Richard Ross

The last persons we need in the mayor's office are any currant city council members who are in the vest pockets of the city's developers like former mayor Sanders.

Richard Ross
Richard Ross subscribermember

The last persons we need in the mayor's office are any currant city council members who are in the vest pockets of the city's developers like former mayor Sanders.

Derek Hofmann
Derek Hofmann

Runoff elections are better than first-past-the-post elections, but they're still wasteful the way they're done today. Instant Runoff Voting would let us combine the main election and the runoff (in fact, multiple runoffs instead of just one) into a single election and still guarantee that the winner comes away with more than 50% of the votes. Saving taxpayers money and improving the democratic process are both good things, right?Instant-runoff voting - Wikipedia, the free encyclopediahttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instant-runoff_votingInstant-runoff voting ( IRV), alternative vote ( AV), transferable vote, ranked choice voting, or preferential voting is an electoral system used to elect a single winner from a field of more than two candidates. It is a preferential voting system in...

Derek Hofmann
Derek Hofmann subscribermember

Runoff elections are better than first-past-the-post elections, but they're still wasteful the way they're done today. Instant Runoff Voting would let us combine the main election and the runoff (in fact, multiple runoffs instead of just one) into a single election and still guarantee that the winner comes away with more than 50% of the votes. Saving taxpayers money and improving the democratic process are both good things, right?Instant-runoff voting - Wikipedia, the free encyclopediahttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instant-runoff_votingInstant-runoff voting ( IRV), alternative vote ( AV), transferable vote, ranked choice voting, or preferential voting is an electoral system used to elect a single winner from a field of more than two candidates. It is a preferential voting system in...

Liam Dillon
Liam Dillon memberadministrator

Hi Kevin- Jen T. told me she was unaligned when we spoke on Friday.

Kevin Klein
Kevin Klein

Did Jen say whether she will be working for KF or TG in the special election?

Derek Hofmann
Derek Hofmann

I agree. Freeways ought to be paid for 100% from gas taxes (and tolls, if available), not from property taxes or sales taxes like the TransNet half cent sales tax.

Derek Hofmann
Derek Hofmann subscribermember

I agree. Freeways ought to be paid for 100% from gas taxes (and tolls, if available), not from property taxes or sales taxes like the TransNet half cent sales tax.

Liam Dillon
Liam Dillon

Hi Kevin- Jen T. told me she was unaligned when we spoke on Friday.