Walters: Weird politics at play again

  • Former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, left, stands with counsel in court and takes an oath before he pleads guilty on state charges of felony false imprisonment Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013 in San Diego. Filner pleaded guilty to one criminal count of false imprisonment by violence, fraud, menace and deceit and two misdemeanor counts of battery. The charges involve three unnamed women victims. Filner, 71, resigned in late August, succumbing to intense pressure after at least 17 women brought lurid sexual harassment allegations. (AP Photo/UT-San Diego, John Gibbins, Pool)

San Diego is a beautiful and prosperous city, but its politics can be downright weird.

Case in point: Former Mayor Bob Filner pleaded guilty Tuesday to crimes arising from multiple complaints of sexual harassment on the same day that mail voting opened to decide who would succeed him.

For decades, a business-oriented power structure largely decided who would fill the city's major offices, but liberals thought they had finally achieved parity when Filner, a liberal firebrand congressman, won the mayoralty last year.

However, Filner was infected with the same scandal virus that had afflicted several of his conservative predecessors. Within months of his inauguration, a bevy of women stepped forward with sordid tales of sexual harassment, eventually forcing Filner to resign.

A special election to fill the office will culminate on Nov. 19, and San Diego's underlying political dynamics again are in play.

Carl DeMaio, a conservative city councilman who lost the 2012 mayoral contest to Filner, was clearly interested in running again, even though he had already segued into a 2014 bid for Congress.

But the power structure opted, instead, for Councilman Kevin Faulconer, a moderate in the ideological mold of most pre-Filner mayors.

The union/liberal opposition immediately splintered.

Many true-believers backed Councilman David Alvarez, but more pragmatic politicians and union leaders settled on Nathan Fletcher, a one-time Republican state legislator who had also run for mayor in 2012, as their best chance to win.

Meanwhile, former City Attorney Mike Aguirre's quixotic candidacy fragmented the left even more.

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