Mayoral candidate Bob Filner said Wednesday he’d support philanthropist Irwin Jacobs’ $45 million remodel of Balboa Park, ending his high-profile opposition to the project. Filner’s campaign sent a response to questions we asked about his position, saying:

1. In retrospect, I wish the tenor of objections raised at that hearing had been different – less personal.

2. It is not the plan I would have proposed, but it has now been adopted by the City Council.

3. Part of my job as Mayor will be to implement the policies adopted by the City Council, and I will do that.

Last month, Filner headlined a rally against the plan before the City Council voted to approve it. During the council hearing, Filner questioned the project’s financing by wondering what would happen if Jacobs died. The candidate brought up an impersonator of Balboa Park maven Kate Sessions to amplify his argument that the proposal would damage the park’s historical character.

Filner’s Balboa Park change continues a theme we’ve seen with him since the primary. Filner now says he supports Proposition B, the pension initiative he called a “fraud” before voters approved it in June. (Though, it’s still unclear exactly what he wants to do with pensions.) He also backs the proposed $550 million Convention Center expansion’s financing plan, assuming a court signs off on it. Previously, he compared the deal to the city’s pension fiasco and the Chargers ticket guarantee.

All of these reversals fall under the heading of Filner saying he’ll abide by the will of the voters and City Council, even if he opposed the idea in the past. And it’s an effort to show that he’s softening some of his rougher edges, trying to look more like the even-tempered mayors San Diego is used to electing.

On Monday, Filner expressed regret about how he had handled the Jacobs plan during an interview with me about an unrelated subject. He said he didn’t behave the way someone running for an executive position should.

“I think I would have done it differently on Balboa Park, by the way … ” Filner said. “That is, I can be against the issue without say taking on Irwin. I’ve learned that.”

“Running for an executive position is much different that running for a legislative position,” he continued. “I hadn’t internalized that to the extent that I should have. I’ll put that. It’s a different level of learning, I will say. That is, running for Congress or the City Council, that (City Council) speech would have worked. Running for mayor it may not have, you know? People expect different things. You’re trying to stress different things. You’re trying to show a different kind of leadership. People are judging you differently. That I think I’ve begun to internalize.”

Update: Our original headline and intro emphasized that Filner had flipped or reversed on Balboa Park. After some reflection, we decided that wasn’t the best way to characterize his statement. So we’ve updated the headline and intro and fourth paragraph.

Kelly Bennett contributed reporting.

Disclosure: Irwin Jacobs is a major supporter of Voice of San Diego.

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 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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