The Race for Mayor, 2012 – Dear Congressman Bob, Don’t Count Your Chickens…

by on August 20, 2011 · 14 comments

in Election, Media, Popular, San Diego

There were more than a dozen activists in the room, gathered for conversations that had nothing to do with the Mayoral race.  None-the-less, the campaign for San Diego’s next Mayor did come up. After all, these were activists, progressive activists, many of them with long political pedigrees, all of whom should be excited about the prospect of a democrat running the show at City Hall.

We went through the list of candidates; DeMaio = Disaster, a mean spirited collection of ambitions, willing to tell any lie to sell his program, Dumanis = Jerry Sanders redux, Fletcher = Willing to smile while he hands out cigarettes (he’s collected over $30K from big tobacco in recent times) to City workers in lieu of a pension…. then there was the Democrat of the bunch, Congressman Bob Filner—the resulting conversation, given that many of these folks have known Filner for years, was shocking.

Adjectives like “thin-skinned”, “hot tempered”, “out of touch” made the rounds of the group, who by all accounts should be amongst Filner’s strongest supporters. Nervous laughter erupted when one participant let this rip: “You know, sometimes that guy (Filner) talks like he thinks he’s good looking”. Another: “I just wish another democrat would run”.

To be sure, Congressman Filner had people willing to defend him in the room. His political history goes back to the civil rights movement, and, unlike County Supervisor Bill Horn, Filner’s got the mug shots to prove it. He’s acquired a reputation in Congress as a Democrat with a Backbone(TM), one willing to go against his party’s centrist leadership on matters of principle, which include a track record of supporting legislation that benefits people over corporate profits. The discussion grew heated at times: “Are you willing to throw this election to DeMaio over his (Filner’s) disposition?”

Bob Filner, Freedom Rider

As it turns out, nobody in the room thought another Republican as Mayor was a particularly good idea. So I opened my big mouth and said something like this: “Hey y’know, I’m writing a series on the Mayoral contests for the OB Rag, how about a ‘Dear Bob’ letter?” People thought that was a pretty good idea; so that’s what this post is ultimately about.

At this point I should jump in and point out that I’ve left out the names and organizational affiliations of the individuals involved here; and I’ve fuzzed things up a bit (kinda like when the TV stations put pixilated patches over people’s faces). The people at the event in question weren’t there to pass judgment on Filner, nor did they have any reason to expect that they’d end up being quoted. And the thought of providing ammunition to the assholes over at the GOP wasn’t appealing to me.

Me and my big mouth. So here goes:

Dear Bob,

I’ve been observing your campaign for a few weeks now, and, frankly, I’m concerned that you’re endangering a perfectly good opportunity to be the next Major of our fair city. Some of your statements to the media have left me wondering—aghast, really—if you understand how much you’re hurting your cause.

Let’s start with the obvious: You’re the only Democrat running against three Republicans in a non-partisan primary. Democrats have a double digit edge in voter registration in San Diego. As Lucas O’ Connor over at Two Cathedrals pointed out, “the city of San Diego is not only willing to elect Democrats, it voted for every possible Democrat in the November 2010 election by almost the exact same margin as the state overall.  …Since then (1992), it has gone Democratic every time, and there’s never been a Democratic mayoral candidate on the ballot to see what that means.”

That’s great news for your candidacy, no doubt. It means that you can lay low in the early part of the campaign and let the GOPer’s draw each other’s blood.  It means that you can work on building a positive image of yourself to voters in San Diego, as your Congressional races largely established your reputation largely outside the city limits.  It means that you can work to overcome the infrastructure issues that plague the Democratic party in San Diego.

It doesn’t mean that you’re a sure thing, though. And you certainly don’t energize your base by telling the world in your recent interview with City Beat that:

“In a way, I’ve already won the primary. I mean, there’s no Democrat or Republican primary, but there’s probably going to be a Democrat and a Republican. So, I’ve already won the Democratic one, assuming I have any kind of campaign.” 

Ever heard about the fable of the tortoise and hare?

Let’s move on to specifics: The Republicans and their friends in the media have made Public Employee Pensions the defining issue in this, and just about every other local race in the country. Why? It’s certainly not the fiscal issues that threaten local budgets everywhere, although those concerns are real.

You and I both know that the GOP is using the pension issue as a means to attack public sector unions because of their ability to fund Democratic Party campaigns and as part of a larger strategy to privatize services. In doing so they have vilified people that have chosen to work in the public sector; those people need a voice. And that voice should be you.

I’m really happy that you chose to elaborate on this in your City Beat interview:

“The [comprehensive pension reform] proposition [proposed for the 2012 ballot] is terrible. Aside from being unfair—I mean, I don’t care if it’s public or private, you don’t want people to face insecurity in their old age. A 401(K) is insecure, and they don’t have Social Security as a city employee. That’s just ridiculous. Even in the way the proponents want, it doesn’t save any money, at least for a decade.”

I’m thrilled that you want the City Council to place your alternative plan on the June ballot. So go stand in front of a mirror and practice saying a 15 second sound bite to the effect that this DeMaio plan is a scam on the taxpayers and an unjust attack on public servants. My point here is that you need to capture this issue in a way that translates to television.

Click to view the Filner interview by Dave Maass, SDCityBeat

Then there’s the issue of your media presence. I hoped you watched that video clip on City Beat’s website where you talked about being called a ‘shit’ on twitter. As the video proves, no such thing happened. But you did come across as pretty damn smelly in that video and the latter one where you were asked about Juan Vargas. And touching your face on camera is almost always a non-starter. Some people might think you were even picking your nose.

A significant part of the job that you’re seeking is being the head salesman and cheerleader for the City of San Diego. Say what you may about his other shortcomings, that’s something Mayor Sanders has done a good job at. Can you imagine what the local press would be saying if you were currently Mayor and took off on a three city tour seeking options for a stadium deal?  It’d make the sniping about Obama’s current vacation in Martha’s Vineyard look like child’s play.

And for Christ’s sake, do your homework. The community based policing program that you’ve touted doesn’t even exist any more. The police have moved on to a new reality, which is NOT to say that they’re reverted to the Gestapo mentality that prevailed in the 60’s and 70’s.

You don’t have to like the news media, or the social media but you do need be a lot smarter in the future about how you are perceived by the public through those windows.

Your message (and it’s a good one, I think) must predominate. Save your irritation with those media dweebs on the other side of the microphone for the Republicans. Embrace the social media, use it early and often—and don’t be single minded like DeMaio. Understand that success in utilizing the social media means respecting the intelligence and broader interests of your audience. Got some great pictures? Put ’em up. See an article about another City’s success in dealing with an issue? Put it up. Be positive.

The point of this story is that I think you’d be a good Mayor. But you’ve had a safe seat in Congress, and while you re good at pressing the flesh, you’d better start doing your homework, lest these crafty weasels on the other side of road get the opportunity to turn your personality and foibles into the issue surrounding your candidacy.


Doug Porter

Okay readers, it’s your turn. Remember that we have a fairly strict moderation policy that says it’s fine to disagree, but keep it polite.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar barbara August 20, 2011 at 4:29 pm

That bad, huh? I like Bob, and he has been good to his constituents. But I get that liking doesn’t translate into votes. so Bob, we love you, listen up here!


avatar Dorothy Lee August 20, 2011 at 10:28 pm

Bob, I would totally trust you to be an honest, excellent mayor. Please get into polished campaign mode. We desperately need you.


avatar Sstu August 21, 2011 at 8:29 pm

You’ll be agreat mayor if you can get there and it is going to be bloody with the young gun from the northern district. So please practice your local politics and then go gunning I know you got it in you


avatar Jettyboy August 22, 2011 at 9:46 am

ANYBODY but DeMaio! Let him wallow in his own lies and distortions.
I think Filner would be the best choice of many not so good choices.


avatar john August 23, 2011 at 1:23 pm

Why the omission of Loch David Crane from the poll on the Mayoral race? Of course his candidacy may not be considered serious, in fact amounting to a “none of the above” ballot being cast, but he was the first thing that came to my mind when I saw the poll.
Have I been in OB too long?


avatar Frank Gormlie August 23, 2011 at 2:26 pm

John, seems you answered you own question, his is not a “serious” campaign.


avatar john August 23, 2011 at 2:42 pm

I’d have checked it before the none of the above I chose and he’d probably be better for OB than most.
I don’t really know the man though, having met him just once when he approached me in my hearse, apparantly indicating my membership in the “OB unique vehicle club” (which if I get my corvette on the road again I’ll still be a member of I guess.)
If he does toss his hat in you gonna give him a little space here?


avatar Frank Gormlie August 23, 2011 at 3:18 pm

No, sorry John. As far as we’re concerned, LDC blew his “welcome” years ago. Don’t think he’d be a good choice for anyone in OB.


avatar john August 23, 2011 at 4:20 pm

Say no more, I half suspected that was the case anyway.


avatar Frank Gormlie August 24, 2011 at 9:03 am

Some of us remember Bob Filner when he was on the School Board; some of us remember when Bob Filner was the lone liberal on the San Diego City Council; and some of us recall that he was one of the most liberal members of the US Congress. Some of us never stopped supporting him, despite the inclinations of faux liberal weekly magazine editors and newly-baptized out-of-town journalists.


avatar barbara August 24, 2011 at 9:12 am

Yes, all during the Bush years, when so many of us were hangin out in DC, he was always available, his staff helpful and friendly. Bob always made it clear his constituents were his first priority. He would take the time to greet each of us by name and often sat down for a bite with us in the cafeteria. He is one of the good guys.


avatar John P. Falchi August 25, 2011 at 7:48 am

I agree with Barbara that Rep. Bob Filner has always been there for San Diegans, particularly his constituents, but not limited to those living in his C.D. A friend of mine put me in touch with Frank C. a career Army man in Florida whose wife was being threatened with deportation. His own Congressman would not give him the time of day. Bob referred me to Manny on his staff, an expert in immigration law. The information which he shared helped Frank, tremendously. At the same time, Bob spoke with his Congressman, who immediately opened his door to Frank. Unfortunately, the time delay was too much and Frank’s wife was deported to Ecuador. Nevertheless, what Bob did was greatly appreciated.


avatar editordude August 29, 2011 at 3:04 pm

There was a very decent interview of Bob Filner in Sunday’s U-T.


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