GOP’s Sanders Elected Mayor

Times Staff Writer

Jerry Sanders, a former police chief and favorite of this city’s business establishment, was elected the city’s next mayor, defeating Donna Frye, the self-described “surfer chick” who almost won the office last year.

With nearly complete returns, Sanders had just over 54% of the vote, while Frye had roughly 45%.

Sanders, 55, was a San Diego police officer for 20 years and police chief for six before retiring in 1999. He left to become president of the local United Way and later joined the board of the American Red Cross.

Frye, 53, is in her second term representing a beach district. She is often the lone dissenting vote on the council on environmental issues and was the first City Council member to warn that the city’s pension system was in trouble.


In a primary last summer, Frye placed first, ahead of Sanders and Republican business leader Steve Francis. But Francis immediately endorsed Sanders, his fellow Republican, who never thereafter relinquished his lead in the race.

Last year, Frye was nearly elected mayor as a write-in against then-Mayor Dick Murphy and county Supervisor Ron Roberts.

She outpolled the two Republicans, but a judge ruled that thousands of her votes were invalid, giving Murphy the victory. Murphy resigned seven months later.

This year’s campaign was dominated by discussion of the city’s unprecedented fiscal, political and legal problems. For a city dubbed America’s Finest City, San Diego has fallen on hard times and become the butt of jokes by late-night comedians.


The city’s pension plan has a deficit of more than $2 billion, the result of a risky plan to pay for increased benefits with stock market investments. When the market fell after the dot-com stock bubble burst, the deficit ballooned.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the city’s failure to disclose the deficit to bond investors. The district attorney has charged six pension board members with having conflicts of interest, and a federal grand jury is also considering charges.