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San Diego mayor's race is close contest in early returns

November 6, 2012 |  8:48 pm

PHOTOS: California voters head to polls

In the San Diego mayor’s race, Councilman Carl DeMaio was leading Rep. Bob Filner with about a third of the vote in.

DeMaio, a conservative Republican, held a slight lead over Filner, a liberal Democrat, in the early returns.

The two are competing to succeed termed-out Mayor Jerry Sanders, a moderate Republican.

LIVE RESULTS: California election | National election

Filner and DeMaio disagree sharply on key issues but share one characteristic: Both have assertive, some say abrasive, personalities, unlike the low-key, consensus-minded Sanders.

Filner, 70, has been a fixture in San Diego politics for more than three decades, serving on the school board and City Council and in Congress for 10 terms. His verbal combativeness is well known.

"Yes, I have passion, but I have leadership," he says.

VIDEO: L.A. voters discuss 2012 election

DeMaio, 38, arrived in San Diego a decade ago, determined to break into local politics.

First as a City Hall gadfly, then as a council member representing a suburban district, he has prodded the council to play hardball with labor unions, hold the line on taxes and outsource as many city jobs as possible.

DeMaio sponsored a voter-approved measure to end pensions for new city workers and cap pensions for current ones. Filner opposed the measure, calling it a "fraud" and an abusive way to treat hard-working employees.

PHOTOS: California voters head to polls

DeMaio supports the convention center expansion plan and a project to remove cars from Balboa Park. Filner says the two ideas are sellouts to private interests over the public good.

Filner would retain the police chief; DeMaio says he'll have to think it over.

Filner explains that he learned his political style of challenging authority from the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. His congressional website includes his 1961 booking photograph from his arrest in Jackson, Miss., where he was a Freedom Rider.

DeMaio's style comes from his experience as a consultant in Washington looking for ways to streamline government and make it more efficient. He says it is unfair for city workers to enjoy better salaries and pensions than those of private-sector workers.


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Photo: Rep. Bob Filner in 2007; City councilman Carl DiMaio in 2011. Credit: Lenny Ignelzi / Associated Press; Gregory Bull / Associated Press