Rep. Bob Filner is poised to become San Diego’s first Democratic mayor in two decades, though remaining absentee and provisional ballots give his Republican opponent, Councilman Carl DeMaio, reason to keep hope alive.
The 10-term Congressman has opened a lead of 3.06 percent, or 9,816 votes, over DeMaio, but county election officials say there are still 475,000 ballots left to be counted in the following days.
Filner leads 51.53 percent to 48.47 percent with 100 percent of precincts reporting.
Speaking to a crowd of raucous supporters near midnight Tuesday, Filner not only predicted his victory — he was trailing by nearly two points at the time — but also celebrated a slate of other Democratic victories locally and nationally.
“Tomorrow when we wake up, we’re going to have a new city, a new City Hall, a new nation under President Obama, and we’re moving us forward!” Filner said.
Filner overcame an early election night deficit, after absentee ballots — the first results announced and which tend to favor Republicans — showed him trailing DeMaio by 2,818 votes. Among the 148,126 pre-Election Day ballots, Filner trailed 50.95 percent to 49.05 percent.
But Democrats embraced the situation, confident that they’d make up the difference when Election Day votes were counted. The San Diego County Registrar had announced 57 percent of Republicans voted prior to Tuesday, compared to 50 percent of Democrats.
DeMaio, speaking to a crowd of his supporters while he was still ahead in the polls, foreshadowed what would follow as more ballots were counted.
He told the crowd they wouldn’t know the results for hours or days, but in an emotional speech suggested his campaign knew the numbers would be difficult to overcome.
“And for my part, whether as mayor or in another capacity, I pledge I will continue to serve this great city that we all love,” he said.
DeMaio, who would have been the city’s first gay mayor and the first gay Republican mayor of a major city, also thanked his partner, Johnathan Hale, before the two embraced and Hale fought back tears.
“You know, we’ve been out and proud this whole time, and that hasn’t really mattered, and that’s what I love about San Diego,” DeMaio said.
DeMaio himself fought back tears when he thanked his sister, with whom he was separated following the death of his mother while he was a child.
If Filner’s lead holds through the counting of provisional ballots, he’ll assume control of City Hall with the benefit of a City Council that maintained its Democratic majority. Councilwoman Sherri Lightner defeated her Republican opponent, businessman Ray Ellis, preventing Republicans from assuming a council majority.
Filner, who represented the county’s southernmost district for the last two decades, won with his promise of a neighborhood-focused administration, a distinct change from what he said was a City Hall that had been run by the downtown developers who supported his opponent.
He has promised to mandate all city buildings are solar powered in five years, expand operations at the Unified Port of San Diego to produce middle class jobs, and transfer the city’s 2 percent tax on hotel rooms that currently funds the Tourism Marketing District instead to complete the police department’s five-year staffing plan.
DeMaio is a one-term councilman who built his reputation in San Diego as a fiscal watchdog who led the opposition to Proposition D, Mayor Jerry Sanders’ 2010 attempt to raise sales taxes, and the support of Proposition B, the voter-approved pension reform initiative that switches most new hires to a 401(k)-style retirement. He sold his company for $2.5 million in 2007.
DeMaio out fundraised Filner throughout the election, bringing in $3.63 million (including $700,000 of his own money), compared to Filner’s total of $990,000. Outside groups ate into DeMaio’s advantage, with Filner-affiliated SuperPAC’s bringing in $2.1 million, and conservative groups spending $1.5 million for DeMaio.