A lesbian, a Jew, a gay guy and a Marine walk into a bar….
There’s a joke in there somewhere. But for now that’ll have to remain a wishful thought— a dream ending to what’s going to be a bloody fight for the mayor of San Diego’s seat in 2012.
When Rep. Bob Filner announced Wednesday he was running to be San Diego’s next mayor, he brought to four the number of people who want to lead the country’s eighth largest city. The only Democrat in the race so far, Filner joined District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, San Diego Councilman Carl DeMaio and California Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher in their quest to be number one.
What’s it all mean? Nothing really. Not now. At least not to the average voter.
Between today and November 2012 there are summer vacations, back-to-school sales, winter holidays, Olympic Games and presidential debates to get through. The global catastrophes of the week, celebrity scandals and mini-dramas of our own lives will preoccupy those of us who don’t live, eat and breathe politics.
For those who watch and cover the political game the way some sports fanatics monitor their favorite teams during the off season, however, the next few months will be a time to immerse themselves in the minutiae of their team’s behind-the-scenes moves. They’ll analyze the strengths and ponder the weaknesses and gab incessantly about the “what ifs” of individual match ups.
The players, on the other hand, are going to spend the coming days honing their message, campaign strategizing and, of course, raising money. Lots and lots of money. After all, to make it to November they have to survive next year’s June primary elections. In a crowded field of relatively well known brands, it’s going to take a lot of money to set their product apart from the rest.
But once the dust settles and the melee is over, San Diego’s mayoral election takes on minor historical significance. The changing of the guard in San Diego could mark a first in the city’s political history. It certainly will signal a change in that city’s attitude.
When Bonnie Dumanis was elected District Attorney in 2002 she became the first openly lesbian DA in the country. Her election was a political milestone for San Diego county, given its conservative leanings. If Dumanis were to come out on top in November 2012, she would be the city’s first openly gay mayor.
Likewise Carl DeMaio. San Diego’s first openly gay councilman would also be the city’s first gay mayor. Though he wouldn’t be the county’s first homosexual man in the mayor’s office (that distinction belongs to former Chula Vista mayor Steve Padilla), DeMaio’s promotion would signal that military-friendly San Diego has a so-what-who-cares policy when it comes to service in the mayor’s office. What’s more, given his relationship with the publisher of San Diego Gay and Lesbian News, DeMaio would be one of half of the city’s first power couple.
Just how military friendly San Diego is could bode well for Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher. He wouldn’t be the first Marine elected to office—former governor and mayor Pete Wilson did his time with the Corps—but he would be the youngest candidate to be elected mayor.
As for Filner. He wouldn’t be the first Jew to be mayor of San Diego. That honor is Susan Golding’s. He also wouldn’t be the first Democrat, though you have to go back more than two decades and recall the tenure of Maureen O’Connor
before you find a Democrat in the mayor’s office. He also wouldn’t even be the first former council person to leave and then come back to the mayor’s seat (again look to Maureen O’Connor in that regard). But if elected, Filner could very well be the only candidate with a criminal record ushered into the mayor’s office, having been arrested in 1961 for his part in the Freedom Rides. Of course, he has also been cited for civil disobedience and assault on an airline employee . So if Filner does become San Diego’s next mayor, he may very well be the first one to have such a demonstrated disregard for “The Man.” Kind of ironic, if you think about it.