There's no way to predict how long it'll take for the legal mediation process in the scandal surrounding Mayor Bob Filner to play out.
But if and when Bob Filner's chapter in the history of San Diego politics ends, there'll soon be new plot lines.
It's expected that a power vacuum in the mayor's office will attract a big field of replacement candidates, vying in a special election within 60 to 90 days – the top two finishers in a runoff, if no one gets an outright majority.
Cost for each election is pegged at between $3 million and $6 million, roughly.
The winner inherits a demoralized staff and a municipal government that City Hall insiders say is in a state of chaos.
"Quite frankly, we've had 12 department heads, I think it is, leave the city," said Councilman Scott Sherman. "And trying to recruit people from other cities to come and work in San Diego under these circumstances is virtually impossible. So, I think people are really going to start seeing the ramifications of this sideshow six, eight, 12 months down the road."
Council President Todd Gloria, who has been a participant in daily mediation efforts over a sexual harassment lawsuit that could lead to Filner's resignation, would become acting mayor under the city charter.
Political consultant John Dadian says he does not forsee the possible new council make-up as preventing the city from moving forward against the backdrop of election-cycle politics.
"I think they're all going to be smart enough not to -- for example -- snipe at Todd because he's acting mayor. And vice-versa, he's not going to snipe at them as acting mayor," Dadian said. "You're going to see, I think, an actual -- what we always like to see -- a policy discussion."
Meantime, mayoral spokeswoman Lena Lewis said the mayor was back in his office today and "hard at work."
NBC7 caught up with Filner briefly as he was leaving his office on his way to mediation efforts at 101 West Broadway.
"Nice to see you guys," he told reporters who have camped out for weeks outside City Hall and other downtown buildings waiting to speak with him.
The mayor has not been glimpsed in public since leaving to enter therapy, and then taking a week of personal time.
A source within the mayor's office says he met with staff this afternoon, encouraging them to keep up their good work.