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When you’re in a business that puts a premium on sound bites, you’re bound to say some provocative stuff.
Over the past 16 months, San Diego’s mayoral candidates have said plenty about themselves and each other. And when longtime political foes became new political bedfellows during the campaign the compliments can tend toward the backhanded variety.
We’ve compiled five quotations by or about City Councilman Carl DeMaio and Rep. Bob Filner that touch on childhood, marriage and beer. They’re in chronological order, and we added a bonus explainer of a line that’s received a lot of attention in the campaign.
1. “We didn’t have time to slow down and see the emotions. I brought a similar approach to how I tackle problems. I’m always Mr. Serious and No Nonsense. But I guess people also want to see kind of more of the context and the history of folks that they would like to evaluate if they’re running for mayor.” — Carl DeMaio
When the mayoral campaign began in June 2011, DeMaio told me he wasn’t comfortable opening up about his background. His uneasiness grew out of his difficult childhood. His mother died from cancer when he was a teenager, two weeks after his father left the family.
DeMaio realized, however, that he would have to reveal more of himself if he was going to have a chance at winning. It took a while for him to get there. At one point, DeMaio created a virtual reality version of himself, who answered more personal questions than the real DeMaio.
DeMaio eventually began talking about his background so much that it became a talking point. He consistently referred to his childhood, for instance, when responding to questions about medical marijuana and how he would have provided it to his mother.
DeMaio’s first television ad for the general election featured childhood photos and talked about him overcoming obstacles.
2. “But, as a heterosexual person who’s been married, you can take quite a cynical view of marriage and wonder why would you want to — the last one took all my money; all my property. I mean if it doesn’t work out; then you’ve got to get divorced. As someone who’s been divorced a couple of times — and I don’t mean to make light of it — but I took it as … like why would you want this? I didn’t (consider) it deeply enough.” — Bob Filner
Filner’s has a strong LGBT record except for one vote 16 years ago. That’s when he supported the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as the union between a woman and a man. Filner’s since apologized for his decision.
But in an interview with LGBT Weekly, Filner gave a curious response for why he voted for it.
3. “I’m worried about San Diego.” — District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis
Dumanis finished fourth in June’s mayoral primary. In third place was the race’s other moderate, Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher.
Their losses left the race without the typical slightly right-of-center, pro-downtown candidate San Diego voters have favored for the last four decades.
That concerned Dumanis, who made her comment in the days after the primary. “I think we have two extremes that are running for election,” she said.
It’s not an uncommon worry. Our former editor Andrew Donohue explained why you can’t write in a mayoral candidate after receiving numerous questions from those not satisfied with the two choices.
Since the primary, much of the politically involved slightly right-of-center, pro-downtown folks have lined up behind DeMaio, who has actively courted them. (One notable exception is Filner’s campaign consultant, Tom Shepard.)
Even Dumanis herself endorsed DeMaio this week, saying that he’s changed and praising his temperament.
4. “People don’t change unless there’s tension. Status quo. Nobody thinks about anything, right, if you don’t create the tension. But if you don’t do it creatively, then they hit you or they shoot you. You gotta make them think about it.” — Bob Filner
For good and bad, Filner’s combative personality has shaped his political persona. DeMaio has attacked Filner on his temperament more than any other issue in the last days of the campaign, and one old Filner enemy referred to the congressman as “the Grand Canyon of assholes.”
Filner contends his political philosophy and tactics were born during the Civil Rights movement. Filner helped end legalized segregation as part of the Freedom Rides in 1961. He adapted Martin Luther King Jr.’s position on change to make people think and make them uncomfortable — all without resorting to violence.
In essence, Filner’s a political fighter and fighters have to bruise to win.
Filner said the evocative quotation while explaining his political approach for our July profile on his personality.
5. “Carl and I don’t have lunch together. We’re not in a bridge club together. I respect Carl. But I like beer.” — Mayor Jerry Sanders
Like Dumanis, Sanders hasn’t always had kind words for DeMaio. A couple weeks before the primary, Sanders, who had endorsed Dumanis, went off on DeMaio at a press conference because the councilman was taking credit for financial reforms accomplished during Sanders’ tenure.
“He probably takes credit for my weight loss,” Sanders said. “Probably takes credit for the weeds I pulled in the yard last week. It’s all bullshit.”
Yet in late September, there was Sanders, backing DeMaio’s mayoral bid. Sanders received numerous questions at a press conference on this about-face. The mayor eventually responded with a classic I-don’t-like-him-but-I’m-backing-him-anyway line.
6. Bonus Quote! “I’m a congressman and can do whatever I want.” — (attributed to) Bob Filner
If you’ve paid any attention to the mayor’s race, you’ve seen this quotation attributed to Filner. DeMaio and his allies use it every chance they get to build their narrative that Filner’s an entitled bully.
But the story behind the quotation, which stems from a 2003 incident at an El Centro immigration detention center, shows that the line was less of a clear-cut case of Filner asserting congressional privilege for personal gain than aggressive advocacy for a constituent.
The quotation came from a 2003 Justice Department memo. The actual quotation in the memo is: “I am a Congressman and I can do what ever I want, I want to see my constituent and I am not moving from here until I do so.”
Filner denies making the remark and a former newspaper reporter who was there doesn’t recall him saying it.
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 email@example.com or 619.550.5663.
Disclosure: Voice of San Diego members and supporters may be mentioned or have a stake in the stories we cover. For a complete list of our contributors, click here.
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