San Diego Mayor Bob Filner has served in elected office since 1979, including school board, city council and Congress. In 2012, Filner gave up his safe congressional seat to successfully run for mayor – his crowning achievement.
Filner is a passionate champion of progressive issues. He often personally deals with constituent concerns. His allies are among labor, minorities and environmentalists. He’s at his best when fighting for the “little guy” against big business and the Republican establishment.
At the same time, Filner will admit that he doesn’t suffer fools gladly. He’s known for his brusque and combative personality. He has a history of demeaning his staff and others. Elected officials and public servants either like him or hate him.
Nevertheless, it caught seemingly everyone by surprise when former Filner allies alleged the mayor had sexually harassed a number of women and called for him to resign. When pressed, the erstwhile supporters refused to say how many women allegedly had been harassed, who they were or what the allegations entailed.
Later, Filner’s office provided a videotaped message to the media in which he apologized, acknowledged his behavior as “inappropriate” and said he would undergo sexual harassment training. He rejected calls for his resignation and said that a full investigation of the charges would exonerate him.
The next week, those speaking for the alleged victims went before the media again. While still not disclosing any names, they read excerpts of what they claimed some of the women had disclosed, which included inappropriate comments, forcibly kissing and groping.
Most elected officials in this situation would trot out a group of women who would all say they worked for and with him, never felt threatened and trust him implicitly. However, there was no group of women to step up for Filner. Instead, many former colleagues joined the call for him to step down.
At this point, many politicians would bring in advisors to spin the allegations. Instead, Filner hunkered down and avoided the media. When he did emerge, there was no spin. It was just Bob, playing rope-a-dope with reporters.
Filner is not genetically engineered to resign. A “Freedom Rider” at 18, he spent two months in a Jackson, Miss., jail rather than post bond for a bogus charge.
Now, San Diego Democrats are torn between a progressive mayor who champions their issues and an alleged sexual harasser who seems to have driven his friends and supporters away.
Chris Crotty is a San Diego-based Democratic political consultant who has worked with local, legislative, congressional, statewide and national clients for almost 25 years. He’s known Bob Filner since 1987.