SAN DIEGO – Bob Filner won election as mayor of San Diego early today, defeating Carl DeMaio, whose election would have made history as the first gay Republican to take the reins of one of America’s largest cities,
DeMaio conceded the close race was over during a news conference at this morning. Filner won with 51 percent of the vote, according to preliminary results.
Surrounded by a group of teary-eyed supporters, DeMaio said at the conference that the city needs to begin the healing process after this tumultuous election.
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“It’s time for all sides to come together,” DeMaio said. “We have to support our next Mayor-elect Bob Filner.”
Bob Filner, 70, a Democratic congressman from the San Diego area since 1993, defeated DeMaio, 38, to become mayor of the nation’s eighth-largest city.
San Diego, growing increasingly blue over the years and with a penchant for electing Democrats to the California Legislature and Congress, bucked its tradition of electing moderate Republicans as mayor. Filner will replace the termed-out Jerry Sanders, a popular Republican with a lesbian daughter who became a hero of San Diego’s sizable LGBT community when he came out in support of marriage equality.
Like many Democrats around the country, Filner likely got a bump from President Barack Obama’s re-election, and he benefited from a last-minute endorsement from former President Bill Clinton.
DeMaio had endeared himself to many voters because as a City Councilmember he led efforts for pension reforms so that the city could pull itself from the brink of bankruptcy. His fiscal conservatism, however, made him the enemy of municipal employee unions and liberals, who embraced Filner after a bruising primary that included District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, a Republican, and Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, who switched from Republican to Independent during the race. Dumanis later endorsed DeMaio, and Fletcher stayed out of the fray.
Also, DeMaio got key endorsements from Mayor Sanders and a prominent local Democrat and Obama supporter, Irwin Jacobs, founder of technology giant Qualcomm Inc. The U-T San Diego, owned by the controversial Doug Manchester, also endorsed DeMaio and that angered many in the LGBT community because of Manchester’s support for Proposition 8 that took away marriage rights in California for gay and lesbian couples. DeMaio, however, supports marriage equality like Mayor Sanders and Mayor-elect Filner.
For voters, including many Republicans, DeMaio’s sexual orientation was basically a non-issue except for those who are homophobic. DeMaio and Hale Media publisher Jonathan Hale are partners and they often appeared together at campaign events in the past year. DeMaio acknowledged Hale during a live telecast at 11:15 pm Tuesday, and his partner showed his emotions as he wiped away tears.
Hale had become something of an issue in the campaign, and he was vilified by the unions, LGBT Weekly and indeed by Filner himself. Filner could not resist the gay-baiting tactic of constantly reminding voters that DeMaio had a homosexual partner who ran Hale Media and published San Diego Gay & Lesbian News and SD PIX magazine, hoping to peal away voters who might have an issue with supporting a gay candidate. Filner also falsely accused Hale of criminal activity involving the so-called Lilygate vandalism at Balboa Park, and then refused to apologize to Hale or his employees for defaming them.
A reporter at this morning’s press conference asked DeMaio why he rarely appeared with his partner during the campaign, but now is standing side-by-side with him.
“I think you’ve missed a lot,” DeMaio told the reporter. “Johnathan and I have been together in my district and throughout the city for three years now.”
DeMaio continued noting the many occasions that Hale appeared with him publicly, including at parades and festivals throughout the city, at campaign events, and even at signature gathering sites during the Proposition B campaign.
In a brief phone call to Filner this morning, DeMaio said that he offered his help.
“I’m willing to help Bob’s administration in anyway possible to move our city forward,” DeMaio said, noting that matters of policy were not discussed during the call.
After thanking his family, campaign staff and supporters, DeMaio, whose City Council term will end next month, said that his involvement with the city is not over.
“We must reform the city’s finances,” DeMaio said. “I intend to stay fully engaged.”
DeMaio’s first order of business? Getting 8-10 hours of sleep tonight.
When he takes over, Filner will become San Diego’s 35th mayor.