San Diego Mayor Refuses to Resign as Political Brawl Gets Personal

Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Mayor Bob Filner

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, who admitted last week that he had acted inappropriately toward women who worked for him and told the media, “I need help,” won’t be getting it from his deputy chief of staff and communications director, who recently resigned, or his fiancée, who left him.

“I am embarrassed to admit that I have failed to fully respect the women who work for me and with me, and that at times I have intimidated them,” Filner said last Thursday in response to allegations. “I am also humbled to admit that I need help.”

Yes, he does.

Barely two weeks after a lawsuit (pdf) filed by a local watchdog group referred to the Democratic mayor being locked in a “political death spiral” with Republican City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, Filner seems to have spiraled out of control.

Filner, 70, has a reputation as a political brawler who does not back down, but he was issuing confessions (minus the specifics) and apologies hours after three former political allies called for his resignation amid accusations of sexual harassment. Ex-city councilwoman and unsuccessful two-time Democratic mayoral candidate Donna Frye wrote in a public letter to Filner that she had “received credible evidence of more than one woman being sexually harassed by you.” 

The three renewed a call for Filner to resign on Monday, recounting tales of alleged sexual harassment and in-office staff references to “the Filner headlock” and “the Filner dance.” Filner’s ex-fiancée also called for him to quit, although, she said, she knows nothing about his office behavior. She told KPBS that he dated other women during their engagement and sent some sexually explicit emails.  

He refused to resign.

His tenure as mayor—the first elected as a Democrat in the historically Republican city since 1986—has been marked by sharp personal and political exchanges. Filner heckled Goldsmith at the city attorney’s press conference in February and took over the podium for his own improvised press conference afterward. There is a wide gap between the city’s conservative power structure and the progressive mayor on policy and political issues.

Filner, at 18, was a civil rights Freedom Rider who spent two months in the Mississippi State Penitentiary in 1961. He got involved in politics after a career in education. Filner was a chemistry major at Cornell and picked up a Ph.D in the history of science. He taught history at San Diego State University for 20 years before getting elected to the San Diego school board and serving on the city council. He is a former 10-term member of Congress, where he chaired the Committee on Veterans Affairs.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Bob Filner Scandal: Mayor Comes Under Swift, Heavy Scrutiny amid Sexual Harassment Allegations (by Elliot Spagat, Associated Press)

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner Accused of Forcibly Kissing, Groping Women (by Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times)

Ex-Fiancée Urges Filner to Submit Resignation (by Anita Sharma, KPBS)

San Diego Politicians, Journalists Abuzz over Mayor Filner’s Troubles (by Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times)

Lawsuit Highlights “Political Death Spiral” between San Diego Mayor and City Attorney (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

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