SAN DIEGO -- It was a busy lunch hour at San Diego City Hall today as both supporters and opponents of Mayor Bob Filner gathered at two separate news conferences, shortly after it was revealed that a 17th woman had come forward to accuse the mayor of sexual harassment.
Carl DeMaio, a former City Councilmember and a candidate for Congress, held an 11:30 am press conference outside the entrance to the City Clerk's Office to challenge local leaders to join in the effort to recall Filner. Shortly after that, a noon press conference was held in Civic Center Plaza where a coalition of community members called for "due process" for Filner.
DeMaio, who served on the San Diego City Council from 2008-2012, ran unsuccessfully against Filner in the runoff election for mayor last year, losing by about 22,000 votes. At the press conference, DeMaio said he is confident that the citizens will run a successful recall effort, but said that not enough elected officials and other community leaders have stepped up to get involved and show their support.
"There are a lot of local elected leaders, and a lot of candidates jockeying for various offices, and I hope they all set aside partisan politics and their own political races to help qualify the Recall of Bob Filner," DeMaio said.
DeMaio said that he is organizing several events at which he will personally help gather recall signatures. He invited his opponent, freshman Rep. Scott Peters (D-San Diego), to join him at the events. DeMaio is hoping to unseat Peters in the 52nd congressional district.
"Scott Peters is welcome to join me at these events, because even though he may be my opponent in 2014, removing Filner from office is too important to get caught up in partisan politics," DeMaio said.
Outside, a group of about 75 Filner supporters started gathering around 11 am in anticipation of the noon press conference. Led by longtime human-rights activist Enrique Morones, the group marched toward the gathered media singing "We Shall Overcome."
Morones opened the presser by saying that the coalition of people who support Filner include people of color, environmentalists, veterans, educators, women's rights activists, gays, civil and human-rights activists, communities of faith, labor unions, neighborhoods, immigration activists and more.
"We will be silent no more," Morones said. "Let's get back to business of moving the region forward with Mayor Bob Filner."
Bishop A.J. Currin led the group in a prayer, before longtime community activist and Filner For Mayor volunteer Cathleen Harmon spoke.
"What is the real reason [Filner is being targeted for recall]? Is it because he is standing up for the rights of everybody and not special interests?" Harmon asked. "To the media: You did not come to South San Diego [during the election], but it was us who elected Filner!"
Harmon also expressed disappointment in the amount of money that could potentially be raised and spent on a recall campaign.
"Let's take some of that recall money and bring it to Southeast San Diego," Harmon said. "We have youth looking for jobs!"
Anita W. Turner, who identified herself as a lifelong Democrat, told the crowd that the treatment of Filner is reminiscent of "the 1950s McCarthy era."
"In the '50s, all one had to do was point to someone and accuse them of being a Communist, and people's lives were destroyed," Turner said, noting that Filner deserves "due process" and should not be put on trial by the media.
A community activist who identified herself as Dr. Sherard said that due process must be acknowledged for Filner, and said "he is far more than sloppy kisses!"
After hearing this, a heckler yelled, "What will you do if he kisses you?"
Floyd Morrow, who served on the San Diego City Council from 1965-1978, was one of the final speakers in support of Filner, saying the media continues to "heap mud" on the mayor.
"There is an inner-conspiracy among those who rule San Diego as if they own it," Morrow said. "The downtown insiders don't own us in the suburbs!"
At the end of the press event, the supporters chanted "due process" and "Sí, se puede," holding up various handmade signs expressing support for Filner.
The effort to recall Filner moved into full swing this weekend. More information is HERE.
As a matter of full disclosure, SDGLN Publisher Johnathan Hale has a personal relationship with Carl DeMaio.