Mayor Bob Filner’s story is a mix of extremes: professional and social triumph combined with self- admitted personal failure. Considering the nature of the accusations, Filner’s personal problems will more than likely overshadow any success he has achieved politically, thereby bringing his political career to an end. In recent days, the Republican Party has attempted to capitalize on this disturbing and pathetic story. On 2 August 2013, the online site for “The Hill” quoted a joint statement by five official Republican committees as follows: “Democrats hypocrisy is appalling, and with their silence, they are sanctioning the actions of Bob Filner and Anthony Weiner and numerous others who have assaulted, harassed, and preyed on women.” Such a criticism is clearly an opportunistic attack by the Republican Party, who is still recovering from the trouncing it received during the 2012 election. This trouncing was due in no small part to its anti-abortion and anti-contraception stances. Despite its self-serving motivation, however, the Republican Party has actually raised a valid question as to why the Democratic Party has allowed the apparently known misogynistic and predatory behavior of Bob Filner to continue unchecked for years.
Nevertheless, Filner’s personal short-comings do not diminish the validity of his political views and goals, or have any bearing on the ideology put forth by the Democratic Party. But the reality of politics is that a party will take advantage of whatever weakness or vulnerability it perceives in the opposition, especially when it cannot easily attack the latter’s governance policies. As only two Democrats other than Filner have been elected mayor of San Diego in the last 41 years, it is difficult to pin the City’s financial woes, especially those of the late 2000s, on misguided Democratic principles. Thus, it seems reasonable to assume that Filner’s majority win over a Republican in the main election indicates that most San Diego voters are looking for a change in policy from that which was offered by his seven Republican predecessors. Voters had a chance to select Carlo DeMaio, a Republican whose priorities include big business, severe fiscal cuts, and dramatically increased individual responsibilities for securing retirement and healthcare. Instead, San Diegans voted for Filner, whose Democratic priorities include an emphasis on small business, job development, infrastructure, social services, community development, and increased relations with Tijuana.
With a Filner recall and a special election becoming increasingly likely, candidates certainly are scrambling even now to attempt filling the mayoral position, and many of the contenders will be Republicans. It would do an injustice to San Diegans to lose the mayoral office to a Republican simply because of Filner’s bad behavior, no matter how horrific. San Diegans voted not just for Filner, but for the Democratic principals he championed to improve both the City and the lives of its citizens. Yet, another Democratic loss to Republicans can very well happen. Thus, it is critical that the Democratic Party show conviction, strength, and decisiveness now, and with high visibility, to counter the Republican rhetoric. If the Democrats at the local, state, and national levels do not take immediate and strong action to clearly separate their Party ideology from the base behavior of Filner, the San Diego mayoral seat will likely fall back into Republican hands, where it can remain for decades.
Donald C. Dunbar is a Professor of Anatomy & Neurobiology at the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine in San Juan, Puerto Rico, but also an Ocean Beach homeowner with his sister.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Point Loma Democratic Club of which he is a member.