Bob Filner may be here to stay—unless he quits

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, follows his newly appointed Chief of Staff, Lee Burdick, as he makes his way to the podium after an audio malfunction at a news...
San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, follows his newly appointed Chief of Staff, Lee Burdick, as he makes his way to the podium after an audio malfunction at a news...
Gregory Bull/AP

It seems just about everyone wants Bob Filner to quit. Everyone, that is, except Bob Filner.

And the reality is: Filner’s opinion may be the only one that matters.

Efforts are underway to recall the Democratic San Diego mayor, who has now been accused of sexually harassing 13 women. But even those organizing to force his resignation admit they have an obstacle-filled road ahead of them.

The first step is to gather signatures from 15% of registered voters, or about 101,000, in just 39 days.

“It is daunting,” said April Boling, a certified public accountant who is helping with the effort. “To do a city-wide recall and to gather that number of signatures in that short amount of time frame has never been done in the city.” She added, however, that “never before has there been an issue that has ignited the general populace like this.”

The intent to recall has been filed with the city clerk, and actual petitions will begin circulating in the country’s eighth largest city on Aug. 18. Filner has a chance to issue a response (which he has not yet done) that would also be printed on the petition.

The next step is to have the signatures verified by the city clerk, making sure there are no duplicates and those signing are indeed registered voters. If there are not enough legitimate signatures, those in charge of the recall would then have 30 days to supplement the roster.

Finally, if there are enough signatures, a special election would be held. A simple majority is required to oust the mayor. Residents would also have to vote for the candidate of their choice—the one with the most votes would then be mayor.

Maybe that doesn’t sound that hard. But it’s easier said than done, primarily because of funding. It costs money to print petitions and to hire paid signature gatherers – something that’s a necessity because of the tight time frame. Boling said the group leading the recall effort has also made an internal hire to oversee the signature validation.

Rob Stutzman, who served as communications director for former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger during the successful recall of Gov. Gray Davis 10 years ago, estimated the recall effort would cost approximately $600,000-$700,000.

Boling said organizers of the recall have brought on a professional fundraiser but would not reveal how much the effort has raked in.

“It’s not easy,” said Stutzman, adding it would be virtually impossible without paid signature collectors. He added that San Diego is particularly difficult because at public venues, there’s high tourism traffic and a lot of non-residents around. San Diego is also more geographically spread out than many other big American cities.

“I think it’s unlikely that ultimately there’s a recall. More likely Filner will resign,” he said, adding that local unions standing behind Filner are becoming very isolated. “Everybody is calling on him to resign, and it will be hard for him to withstand that.”

Filner has admitted he has a problem since the accusations began piling up last month, but is refusing to step down. Instead, he’s enrolled himself in a 2-week “intensive therapy” program, which began this week.

The 13 women who have come forward have lobbed a slew of unsettling allegations, including unwanted touching, wanting to be seen in public with the women, and in one case demanding a date in exchange for helping an injured veteran.

Even the San Diego County Democratic Party Central Committee voted to call on the mayor and 10-term congressman to resign. Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz also called on the mayor to step down calling his alleged actions “reprehensible and indefensible.” And on Friday, Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California sent an open letter to Filner asking him to call it quits immediately. “Bob, you must resign because you have betrayed the trust of the women you have victimized, the San Diegans you represent and the people you have worked with throughout your decades in public life,” she wrote.

Francine Busby, chair of the county’s Democratic Party, said, “It’s up to the citizens of San Diego” to decide if Filner is recalled. “We have already made it clear we think he should go. But we’re not taking a position to support or oppose the recall.”

The bottom line, she warned, is that “this is extremely difficult unless it’s extremely well-funded.”

Bob Filner may be here to stay—unless he quits