Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Filner Resignation Affects House Race

In Mayor on August 23, 2013 at 10:21 am

It appears that the San Diego City Council and scandal-ridden Mayor Bob Filner have reached a tentative resignation agreement, but the ensuing mayoral replacement process will probably adversely affect Republican chances of unseating freshman Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA-52).

Apparently Filner’s lawyers have prepared a document that outlines their client’s departure terms. The council is dealing with the situation in closed session, so the public is not yet privy to what’s contained in the settlement. Attorney Gloria Allred, representing one of the women that the mayor and former congressman allegedly sexually harassed, is saying that the proposal includes a provision for the city to pay Filner’s legal fees. Allred is voicing opposition to such an arrangement and it is likely that she won’t be the only one to object. Therefore, the end of the Filner tenure may not be as close as media reports suggest.

Regardless of when the mayor leaves office, a special election will be conducted for voters to choose a replacement. The legal calendar dictates that the special primary be scheduled within 90 days of the vacancy occurring, followed by a run-off contest between the top two finishers within an additional 49 days if no candidate receives an outright majority in the first election.

Former city councilman Carl DeMaio (R) lost a close 52-48 percent election to Filner last November, after placing first in the primary election. Upon absorbing the loss, DeMaio began taking steps to challenge freshman Rep. Peters, citing 2012 precinct vote totals. The figures prove that he out-polled Filner by 12 percentage points in CD-52’s overlapping city portion. The district area outside the city is even more Republican, so to argue that DeMaio, or any other Republican candidate, would do better outside San Diego than inside is reasonable.

The budding congressional race was developing into a major campaign and one of the best Republican conversion opportunities in the country. Both candidates reported robust fundraising in late June – Peters more than $621,000 raised with $525,890 cash-on-hand; DeMaio an impressive $487,983 raised with $469,644 in the bank – while two early polls staked the challenger to a sizable lead. The Tarrance Group, for Mr. DeMaio back in April, posted their client to a 49-39 percent advantage over the new incumbent. In June, Survey USA confirmed the spread, reporting a 48-39 percent Republican edge.

But all of this may be for naught, as DeMaio will certainly jump into the new mayor’s race whenever it is held. Even if the Filner resignation deal takes more time to finish, the special election will certainly come before the next general election. Should Filner decide not to resign, a recall effort is already underway virtually guaranteeing that the mayor will be forced out in a matter of weeks, at the very least.

Win or lose the mayor’s race, DeMaio will assuredly not run for Congress. Either he will be mayor or a loser for the second time in a year, which is obviously not a strong position from which to launch another campaign.

Republicans have other possible candidates, consultant Kirk Jorgensen and physician Fred Simon Jr. to name a pair already either running or considering entering the race, but they won’t have DeMaio’s name ID, resources, and political experience. Thus, the party’s path to denying Peters a second term is not as smooth.

California local elections are always run on a non-partisan basis, so party labels do not appear on the ballot. Several strong candidates, such as former Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher who switched party registration from Republican to Independent to Democrat during the last year, possibly city Council President Todd Gloria, and several others are expected to join DeMaio in the citywide campaign. Aside from the city residents themselves, Rep. Peters may prove to be one of the big winners emerging from Filner disastrous ending.

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