After 18 months of intense campaigning, the San Diego mayor’s race will continue on for at least another day.

Democratic Rep. Bob Filner led Republican City Councilman Carl DeMaio 50.37 percent to 49.63 percent with 78 percent of precincts reporting early Wednesday morning. Filner led by just more than 2,000 votes.

DeMaio had close to a 2-point lead in the first batch of results, but Filner gained as the evening wore on. He pulled ahead for the first time at 12:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Why It’s So Close

Democrats re-elected President Barack Obama and made other national pick-ups, but in a city where the party holds a 13-point voter registration edge, Filner didn’t do himself any favors.

Filner messed up simple facts on issues vital to his platform, antagonized potential allies and released few specifics about how he’d implement his vision for San Diego.

DeMaio also did his part to keep things close. Long a fiery fiscal conservative populist, DeMaio cloaked himself in moderation during the general election. He emphasized bipartisan deal-making and embraced more progressive causes.

San Diego hasn’t had a Democratic mayor in two decades.

What They Said On Election Night

Both candidates spoke after 11 p.m. Filner gave a more rousing speech.

Filner emphasized the defining theme of his campaign. He represented a break from San Diego’s past:

People in this city have realized that I’m on their side and this city has got to change. This city has changed demographically. It has changed business-wise. It has changed with the kind of people and the way they look at the world. They want a liveable, bikeable, walkable city. But the political structure has not kept up. The political structure has not kept up. The same people who were at the seat of power … The same people are at that table. And I said to them, we’re just going to move you way over and we’re going to have new people at the table.

DeMaio continued with his party-doesn’t-matter message that he detailed during the general election campaign:

When you strip away all the labels that have been too often used in politics, you find one label remains. One label is strong, and that is that we are all San Diegans. If the results continue as we expect them to, if I’m elected mayor, I pledge to govern without labels. And I will work with everyone for the best interests of our city. That is my pledge to you here tonight.

Who Are These Guys Again?

Here’s how we summed up each of their pitches to voters in our Reader’s Guides on each candidate.

Filner:

As the city’s first Democratic mayor in two decades, Filner would bring a new direction to City Hall. He would focus on neighborhood priorities instead of large downtown projects and public services rather than initiatives that support private interests. His 30-plus years in local politics show that he has the experience and passion to advocate aggressively for San Diegans.

DeMaio :

DeMaio’s led overwhelmingly successful campaigns to cut pensions, competitively bid city services and oppose a tax increase. He has detailed plans to address city finances and promote economic development. He’s shown during the general election campaign that his temperament matches the kind of mayor San Diegans like to elect.

What’s Next

There should be greater clarity Wednesday morning and both candidates should speak again. If Tuesday night’s trajectory holds, it will be Filner in the Mayor’s Office. We’ll have a full story on the campaign and the state of the city that the winner will inherit.

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.

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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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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