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Democratic Congressman Bob Filner hasn’t lacked for confidence on the mayoral campaign trail.

When he first announced he was running, he talked up his aggressiveness and fundraising prowess. He predicted a simple path to November’s general election because he was the lone Democrat in the race.

Now with just more than two weeks to go before the June 5 primary, Filner’s displaying a newfound humility. The race, he said, is much closer than he thought it would be.

“I think everybody underestimated (Assemblyman Nathan) Fletcher,” Filner said in an interview last week. “He’s a very attractive candidate.”

Fletcher saw his visibility rise when he announced in March he was leaving the Republican Party to become an independent. Fletcher has raised almost $1 million to spread his message and recent polls now him battling with Filner for the second spot in the general election, behind Carl DeMaio.

Filner hasn’t been able to fend off the assemblyman by himself. At least in part, that’s because Filner has struggled to fundraise.

The congressman said raising money wasn’t his top priority. Filner instead decided to spend his time courting community groups north of Interstate 8, which is outside his current congressional district.

“I saw my problem as not being known in the north,” he said. “I spent a lot of time with community groups and with all the opinion leaders and that kind of stuff where I probably should have devoted more time to raising the money.”

Filner added that he underestimated the difficulty of fundraising with smaller individual contribution limits at the city than he faced in Congress.

“I just thought it was going to be easy,” he said. “It wasn’t as easy as I thought. I could work a whole day of phoning and get a couple thousand. Whereas if I work a whole day in Congress, I get $50,000.”

Filner said Republicans are willing to give the maximum $500 contribution to Republican candidates just because they share the same party. But Democrats, he said, won’t.

“Republicans, they line up: ‘Who’s a Republican?’ They give $500,” Filner said. “Democrats: ‘Oh well, I’m not sure.’ Then they give $50.”

But it’s also clear that Filner hasn’t picked all the low-hanging fundraising fruit until recently. Evan McLaughlin, a top official at the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council, tweeted that he didn’t receive a fundraising call from Filner’s campaign until last week. The Labor Council is one of Filner’s biggest supporters.

Filner is hoping it isn’t too late to make a big money push. Last Thursday, He sent out an email solicitation asking donors to contribute the maximum $500 to the campaign. The fundraising request said the campaign needed to raise $100,000 in the next week to run television advertisements all the way until Election Day. For now, Filner remains the only candidate without a TV ad.

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Last month, Filner handed a U-T San Diego reporter a fist full of his annual economic disclosure forms from Congress, saying it provided the public all it needed to know about his personal finances.

But the public won’t know the most recent information about Filner’s finances until after the primary.

The financial disclosure forms, which detail outside sources of income, assets, travel payments and other information for members of Congress, are due each year on May 15. This year’s deadline has passed without Filner filing his form. The congressman said he requested a two-month extension.

All of his personal financial records, he said, are in Washington and he didn’t have time to fill out the form now.

“They give you two months,” he said. “I take it.”

Filner’s three opponents, however, have had to follow a California law that requires elected officials to disclose similar personal financial information by April 1. They all did.

I asked Filner if it was unfair that he could postpone his own financial disclosure until after the election when state law forced everyone else to do it before.

“I’m not governed by that,” Filner said. “I’m governed by federal law.”

Filner added that the information on the form won’t be much different than what he disclosed last year. It showed Filner had a net worth between $353,000 and $1.1 million.

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 liam.dillon@voiceofsandiego.org 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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