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Anger Management as Mayoral Race Strategy: Bob Filner and Carl DeMaio

by Ron Donoho, published
Carl DeMaio and Bob Filner at a recent mayoral forum at Co-Merge downtown.

Filner & DeMaio

In the slap battle that is San Diego’s mayoral race, councilmember Carl DeMaio would seem to have a powerful weapon in his arsenal in the form of his opponent’s demeanor.

To put it lightly, Congressman Bob Filner gets testy. His fuse is short. That smile Filner seems to force onto his lips out in public forums is easily wiped away in the face of even minor adversity.

But when it comes to DeMaio’s overly dramatic attack ads on the subject (sadly de rigueur in modern campaigns) it’s a big swing and a miss, where a jab might have been more poignant.

DeMaio has rehashed Filner’s Greatest Hits off the Anger Management album: "Filner once called an 11-year-old girl a 'truant' at a debate; Filner’s relationship with Mayor Maureen O’Connor when he was a San Diego city council member was labeled contentious; in 2003 he pushed his way past guards into a detention center in El Centro and reportedly uttered the infamous, 'I am a Congressman and can do whatever I want',” quote.

This year, at one of the seemingly daily debates between Filner and DeMaio (actually there were 20 debates scheduled between September 3 and November 6), Filner became enraged at the results of a…coin toss. That debate was sponsored by TV station CW5, and Filner was reportedly ready to leave just before moderator Heather Myers and DeMaio took the stage.

Neither is DeMaio a Zen master, though. He took special umbrage after Filner accused DeMaio’s domestic partner of being the source behind a midnight water gun fight in Balboa Park that damaged the park’s idyllic lily pond.



DeMaio’s campaign had a strong case against Filner’s temperament in the 2007 incident where Filner aggressively confronted a baggage worker at Dulles International Airport. Filner’s bag was late. He entered an employee-only area and refused to leave. The police were called. Charges were filed. Filner ultimately pleaded guilty to trespassing, paid a fine and wrote an apology.

But when DeMaio’s camp put out their attack ad, it stated that Filner was arrested. He wasn’t. And when the fact-checking articles came out, the over-reach by DeMaio was the focus.

If the DeMaio campaign had merely stuck to the basic facts, that story could have been a gut punch. Instead, they went for the knockout, and just grazed the body.

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