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When San Diego’s mayoral candidates released their latest fundraising totals this week, one number jumped out. Because it was so low.

Democratic Congressman Bob Filner reported about $26,000 in available cash at the end of 2011, a figure nine times less than his next closest competitor, Republican District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, and almost 30 times less than the money leader, Republican City Councilman Carl DeMaio.

“I need to have more money,” Filner said after a mayoral forum at a downtown condominium complex Thursday night. “I mean, that’s pretty clear.”

The conventional wisdom has been that Filner can make it to June’s primary election with less cash because he’s the lone major Democrat in the race. He already has the endorsement, and presumably financial backing, of the local Democratic Party. But Filner said he needs more Democrats giving to him directly:

Part of what’s going on is that the Republicans do need more money because they gotta hit each other. They wanna have me win so they’re going to fight each other. Second, I think the Democrats took it for granted that I was going to get into the runoff. They said, “You don’t need money.” I think they’re wrong. I hope this is a wakeup call that says, hey I can get screwed on here. I could be the odd man out. They’ve gotta come through and not just assume I’m going to make it. Because I don’t assume I’m going to make it.

Filner’s take was a bit surprising because he’s the one who has said his party affiliation alone should be enough to guarantee he’ll make the November general election. To wit, here’s a Filner quotation from an August CityBeat Q&A: “In a way, I’ve already won the primary.”

Told about his past comments, Filner said he still believed his party should allow him to finish in the top two in June. And even though the cash he had now wasn’t enough, he’d get there.

“I will have enough money,” he said. “We aren’t at Election Day yet.”

Filner Opposes the Convention Center Expansion

So far during the campaign, Filner had been mum on the city’s proposed $520 million Convention Center expansion. Not Thursday night.

“The expansion is wrong,” he said.

Filner had a litany of reasons for opposing the current plan. He doesn’t believe:

• The city should increase hotel-room taxes without a public vote. The current financing package calls on San Diego hoteliers to decide on the tax hike themselves.

• The California Coastal Commission, a powerful board that regulates waterfront public access and environmental issues, will approve the plan.

• Hoteliers should control the Convention Center’s board. Hotel owners have said theywon’t support the tax increase without more sway over the Convention Center’s management.

Filner said he isn’t convinced the city needs to expand its Convention Center at all. But he said he’s intrigued by plans to combine an expansion with a new Chargers stadium. Both the team and U-T San Diego have proposed this idea in recent months. Filner dismissed the contention made by supporters of the current Convention Center proposal that any expansion needs to be contiguous.

“The assumption of contiguousness is just bullshit,” he said. “That’s what they’re arguing. It’s been proven wrong in dozens of cities. People like to go outside.”

Fletcher’s Blast From the Past

Thursday night’s mayoral forum also included Republican Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher (but not DeMaio or Dumanis). The budding relationship between Filner and Fletcher has been one of the most unexpected developments of the campaign. They’ve been speaking to groups for months longer than DeMaio and Dumanis and have developed a jocular rapport.

The 35-year-old Fletcher continued to hammer away at his campaign theme of bringing new blood and new leadership into City Hall. It turns out, though, some old faces could return in his administration. During the forum he said he wanted to retain the city’s best employees, bring in new ones, but also re-hire “people who may have left who were frustrated and want to come back.”

After the forum, I asked if he had anyone in mind.

“Yeah, but I’m not going to tell you,” Fletcher said.

He continued: “There have been some people that have left who have said, ‘Hey, I left really frustrated. It was a mess. I loved public service, but I didn’t like the environment. If you were mayor I’d be willing to go back.’”

Fletcher wouldn’t confirm any names, but said they included former high-level officials.

The highest-profile ex-staffer for Mayor Jerry Sanders who supports Fletcher is Ronne Froman. Froman served as Sanders’ top deputy when he first took office. Froman, a former Navy rear admiral, functioned as Sanders’ running mate during the 2005 campaign. Froman left the city after 18 months following struggles with the mayor’s political operatives.

I called her to ask if she would come back to City Hall.

“Hell no,” Froman replied. Then she laughed.

Liam Dillon is a news reporter for 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 or 619.550.5663.

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Liam Dillon

Liam Dillon was formerly a senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He led VOSD’s investigations and wrote about how regular people...

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