Mayor Filner to step down Friday; special election in the works

Bob Filner
San Diego Mayor Bob Filner addresses the audience in council chambers last Friday after agreeing to resign in exchange for the city paying his legal bills in a sexual harassment lawsuit.
(Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

SAN DIEGO — Under his resignation deal with the City Council, Bob Filner will remain as mayor until the end of business hours Friday, complete with a police security detail and a relinquishing of his keys to his office.

But planning has already begun for a special election to find a successor to fill the unexpired three years of his term. Would-be candidates are assessing their chances at becoming the city’s 36th mayor.

Council President Todd Gloria, who will become interim mayor when Filner leaves, has asked the city clerk for a timeline on when a primary and, if needed, a runoff could be held. The council may set the election dates when it meets Wednesday.

Under the City Charter, a special election must be held within 90 days of a vacancy. If no candidate gets more than 50%, a runoff will be held between the two top vote-getters within 49 days.


Gloria and Councilman Kevin Faulconer each say they are considering a run. The same is true of former Councilman Carl DeMaio, who lost to Filner in November. To make a second run at being mayor, DeMaio would have to drop plans to run for Congress.

Gloria is a Democrat; Faulconer and DeMaio are Republicans.

Nathan Fletcher, a former member of the state Assembly and a former Marine who served in Iraq, has signed up with the city clerk to establish an exploratory committee.

Fletcher placed third in last year’s mayoral primary. In the Assembly, he was a Republican. When he started his mayoral campaign last year, he dumped the GOP and became an independent. Now he’s a Democrat.


Dist. Atty. Bonnie Dumanis, also a loser in last year’s primary, said she will not run again for mayor. City Atty. Jan Goldsmith also said he will not be a candidate to succeed Filner.

Other names being floated include former State Sen. Christine Kehoe and former Councilman Tony Young, now chief executive of the local Red Cross.  Both are Democrats; Kehoe also served on the City Council.

On Sunday, Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins, a former council member, said she will not be a candidate for mayor. “The simple truth is that I love the job I have now - being able to advance San Diego’s interests and concerns in the state legislature,” said Atkins, a Democrat.

Filner, 70, was San Diego’s first Democratic mayor elected in two decades. But that fact can be misleading as an indicator of San Diego politics.

Democrats hold a growing edge in voter registration within the city. Democrats make up 40% of registered voters, compared with 26% Republicans and 27% decline-to-state.

Democrats hold five of nine spots on the City Council and have a lock on most San Diego seats in the state Legislature and Congress.

But the county Republican Party is well-organized and funded and has the staunch support of the conservative editorial page of the San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper.

The editorial page blasted Fletcher for switching from Republican to independent last year, then endorsed DeMaio for mayor, and battled Filner on an almost daily basis even before the sexual harassment allegations surfaced that drove him from office.


The city has experience with special elections to fill mayoral vacancies. Filner will be the fourth of the last seven mayors to leave office in mid-term.

Under the deal with the council — in which the council agreed to pay his legal expenses from a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a former staffer — Filner is set to remain as mayor until 5 p.m. Friday.

After that, Gloria plans to move into the mayor’s offices and, under the City Charter, assume most of the mayoral duties as the special-election campaigning begins.

“The city of San Diego needs and deserves a mayor,” Gloria said.


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