Dueling efforts to recall Mayor Bob Filner may become a race to gather signatures.

The city attorney’s office is reviewing whether two recall campaigns can go on at once but two election law attorneys told Voice of San Diego city rules don’t appear to prevent two groups from gathering signatures simultaneously.

The first to turn in the 101,597 required signatures to the city clerk is likely to be the one that ends up on the ballot, the lawyers said.

“It becomes a race to the altar to see who files first,” said Jim Sutton, a San Francisco-based attorney.

And it’s not shaping up to be a close competition.

Image via U-T San Diego

LGBT Weekly publisher Stampp Corbin began his campaign Friday with a notice in U-T San Diego, though he almost immediately faced accusations that his effort was a ruse to derail another recall campaign. He’s said he won’t rely on paid signature gatherers, a decision likely to doom his ability to gather 100,000-plus signatures in just over a month.

Meanwhile, land-use consultant Michael Pallamary produced his own newspaper ad, as well as formal filings with the mayor and city clerk’s office. He also reportedly has more than 1,000 volunteer signature gatherers.

At a Monday press conference, Pallamary said he’d file a complaint with District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis’ office if Corbin doesn’t withdraw his campaign by the end of the day Tuesday.

Corbin told Voice of San Diego he has no such plans.

“Ultimately, the city can judge me on how well I do in helping to collect signatures,” said Corbin, who admitted Monday he’d joked about starting his own recall effort to aid Filner.

Pallamary’s group appears to have a clear advantage in the signature-gathering war but Sutton, who did some legal work for a Filner political committee during the 2012 campaign, said legal action is possible regardless.

Santa Monica-based attorney Colleen McAndrews agreed.

“It’s always fraught with peril because it’s political,” she said. “Politics is an adversarial sport so you always have litigation.”

Filner defenders may find a way to raise questions about the dueling efforts, and recall supporters will likely scrutinize Corbin’s actions going forward.

For example, McAndrews said, Pallamary backers may accuse Corbin of a crime if there’s any appearance of his volunteers trying to dissuade San Diegans from signing the other campaign’s recall petition.

Deceitful signature gatherers can be charged with a misdemeanor if they’re found to have misrepresented their intentions.

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Lisa Halverstadt

Lisa is a senior investigative reporter who digs into some of San Diego's biggest challenges including homelessness, city real estate debacles, the region's...

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