No matter who wins the seat for San Diego’s next mayor on Tuesday, the city’s moderate path seems sure to converge in one of two partisan-driven directions.
If the fiscally conservative Councilman Carl DeMaio wins, he promises to reform the city’s finances. If his opponent, liberal Congressman Bob Filner is elected, he says he will be an activist for San Diego communities, particularly those that have been neglected over the years.
Both candidates toured the city Tuesday, getting last-minute support from constituents.
Asked if he had any regrets about the campaign, Filner said "The tone was pretty negative, I regret that. I think the people of San Diego deserve a positive vision."
On the other hand, DeMaio said he does not regret the tone of the race, and that his team’s attacks on Filner’s temperament showed voters how important that trait is for the next mayor.
“I’m thrilled with the campaign this team has run to lay out our vision,” DeMaio said. “And I’m confident about the issues we’ve raised about temperament and how the next mayor needs to be someone with a level head and treat people with respect."
In the end, this much is clear: Both Filner and DeMaio would break a decades-long pattern in San Diego of electing a moderate mayor. And it won’t have come cheap. From start to finish, candidates spent approximately $13 million in their campaigns. The money has helped amplify the attacks on television and in mailers.
“The fact that it is a race at all is interesting because San Diegans typically chose between jovial, moderate candidates. This election, we’re seeing two candidates for whom the term jovial is not attached,” said political science professor Carl Luna, who is not affiliated with either candidate.
PERSONALITY AND POLITICS
Though the race is non-partisan, the political divide has been the driving factor in the race. It also may ultimately determine the winner. San Diego’s electorate, according to the county’s final voter registration figures for this election cycle, comprises 40 percent Democrats and 27 percent Republicans and a slightly higher 27-plus percent bloc of independent voters.
Some pundits say this will result in a win for Filner. However DeMaio has spent the time since the primaries reaching out to moderate voters. At one debate, he described himself as a “pro-choice environmentalist who takes on the downtown establishment time and time again.”
In conversations about his electability, he consistently describes reaching across the table of the council to work with Democratic members. He also avoided endorsing his party’s nominee Presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
“We have an opportunity to finish the job of fiscal reform,” DeMaio said in a recent taping of Politically Speaking, “to move our city forward, to bring Democrats, Republicans and independents together to get things done.”
But his fiscal reforms and background as a conservative politician have stuck with those he will work with on the city council. Many have gone on to endorse Filner – who isn’t necessarily known for his warmth.
“The one thing DeMaio and Filner do have in common is that they have a competitive, abrasive personality,” Luna said.
This has been the major attack on Filner in the weeks leading up to the election. His former opponent in the race, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, said he is erratic, combative and disrespectful toward women.
In an interview with NBC 7, Filner said Dumanis’ criticism was unwarranted. He said his behavior is passionate, not erratic, but that one of his weakest qualities is that very few people understand his sense of humor.
“I plead guilty to being passionate,” he said. “Leaders have to be passionate, and that’s how you get things done.”
ON THE ISSUES
Both candidates will spur job growth but in different ways. Filner plans to expand port operations, which he estimates will create 50,000 jobs in the city by 2020.
DeMaio released his “Roadmap to Recovery” economic plan a full two years ago, before he even announced his candidacy. Many of the items on his agendas have already been accomplished by the mayor and council, with and without him.
More recently, he says he will create an “aqua economy” in which San Diego's green economy would combine with the budding "blue sector" of maritime trade.
Both candidates have committed to repairing San Diego’s $2.1 billion pension fund shortfall, but the repair work has been a long time coming. Years of shortchanging contributions to the pension fund spawned the city's nickname, "Enron-by-the-Sea" in 2004.
In June 2011, DeMaio introduced what would become Prop. B, the pension reform initiative he helped craft. The measure, approved by voters in June, transitions city employees except for police officers from the current pension system to a 401(k) type of retirement contribution.
The reform vows to save at least $1.2 billion through 2014, but that savings depends on a 5-year pay freeze for new city employees.
Filner was initially opposed to Prop. B, but when voters approved it, he reluctantly climbed on board.
Luna said both candidates will have a difficult time negotiating the pay freeze, and regardless of who wins, San Diego may see strikes and unrest during those talks.
“Union leaders don’t have any intention of making DeMaio look good,” Luna said. “Filner might get a better deal with labor unions, but he’s going to have to get municipal workers to swallow larger pay cuts than they may want to.”
Education has mostly stayed outside of City Hall until recently, but with the state’s school system in such disrepair, both have taken on the issue.
DeMaio’s “Clean and Safe Schools” initiative has three goals: to make every school “clean and safe,” to restore after school programs and generally to make the city more involved in education discussions.
Filner’s 8-point plan would establish connections between city social services for children and the services that the district already provides. He would establish a youth development office to serve as a liaison between services from the city and district, he announced Wednesday at a press conference.
Throughout the 17 months of campaigning, there is hardly an issue that went untouched. The two explained their positions on community plans, keeping San Diego an attractive place for public safety jobs, how the candidates might fund a new stadium, and potential state challenges to the city's pension reform plan.
You’ll know which direction San Diego is headed by staying with NBC 7 on election night. We’ll be broadcasting results and posting them on our website throughout the night. You can also watch from your mobile device or computer. Browse our Decision 2012 page for all issues related to this election.