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When another local blog came out with information earlier this week saying that former Congressmember and San Diego Mayor Bob Filner had been accused of sexual harassment, my reaction was to say that I’d wait for confirmation from a more credible news source. Sadly — except in the “justice must be done” sense (from which perspective it’s a good thing) — that confirmation has come. (Not specifically an admission of sexual harassment, but what sounds like an admission of pretty much that. Remember, sexual harassment doesn’t have to involve sexual battery or sexual extortion.) From Scott Lay:
The short tenure of San Diego mayor Bob Filner is on perilous terms as the weekend begins following his admission yesterday….
Late yesterday, Filner chief of staff Vince Hall, a well-liked former Assembly candidate who has held many public and private appointments, quit over the accusations. Hall stated “As a lifelong activist for women’s rights and equality, I feel I must resign effective today.” Shortly thereafter, a “Vince Hall for San Diego” meme started.
I’ve heard good things about Filner — but no one has ever talked to me about a proclivity for sexual harassment. That’s a significant oversight. Again, as I said when Ron Calderon’s office was raided in what seems like an exploration into campaign finance misconduct with respect to a Water District, “let the chips fall where they may.” Some people — not just Democrats, which makes it worse — may have known what was going on. They had a responsibility to speak up before Filner won his race — hell, before her entered it.
Relying on the kindness of fate — “maybe no one will find out!” — doesn’t work for Democrats (at least not reformist ones.) We can’t get away with wrongdoing that others — such as many Orange County Republicans during the “Rackauckas as District Attorney” regime — can. We have to conduct ourselves accordingly and make that a selling point.
So far, to paraphrase, Filner has said that he’ll just heal himself and declare himself OK to return to work — a procedure known (or at least one that should be known) as a “Gavin.” I don’t think that that will work this time. With his Chief of Staff and new Assembly Member (and former Labor leader) Lorena Gonzales already off the train, it’s hard to see how he survives. (One of the California Democratic Party’s two annual Executive Board meetings takes place next weekend in Costa Mesa; it’s a good time for people to discuss things like this.)
If he doesn’t resign, a recall campaign seems likely – and Democrats will want him to be replaced by a Democrat. If he campaigns against a recall, it will be confusing to have a Democrat run to replace him just in case he loses, which means that his running may well elect a Republican and further besmirch his record — which means … why not just get it over with resign? (Here’s why not: because you’re innocent! But he’s already admitted that he’s not.)
The irony that someone in this situation exactly doing what we’d want them to do — frankly admit to and apologize for what they did — seals their fate is not lost on me. But let’s not kid ourselves: Filner isn’t doomed because he release this video; it’s the first step to his redemption. He’s doomed because of what he did that made it necessary.
Republicans would likely have Carl DeMaio, whom Filner beat; Democrats would likely be able to field recent party convert (and Assembly member and Mayoral candidate) Nathan Fletcher and Vince Hall. After Filner gets some help — not just declares himself fit, but gets some help — I expect that Gov. Brown will be able to find a place for someone of his talents.
Meanwhile, I’d like to know who should have pulled Filner long before this — as it has apparently been known for some time — and had a long frank talk with him about what he was doing. We need more of that — so we don’t see more of this.