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By David Gaddis Smith, MexicoPerspective
Democratic Congressman Bob Filner won the San Diego mayor's race on Tuesday, and Republican Carl DeMaio conceded the race late Wednesday morning.
On Monday, at a get-out-the-Latino-vote rally outside the Logan Heights Library, Filner had said the Latino vote would deliver the mayor's post to him. "The Latino community will be the margin of victory in this election, as they will be in the national election," he said.
Filner won 51.5% of the vote to 48.5% for DeMaio in a city where Democrats hold a 13-point registration edge over Republicans. In San Diego County, President Barack Obama had a 51% to 47% advantage over Republican Mitt Romney.
Filner says more Latinos will serve on commissions and win city contracts
Filner also said that under his administration, there would be many more Latino faces on community boards and more Latino-run companies winning city contracts. "We're going to see Latino faces on all the boards and commissions," Filner said. "We're going to see Latino faces in the mayor's office, in the staff. We're going to see Latinos and other groups who have not been represented getting the contracts." He also said Asians and African-Americans, and in fact everyone, will be represented. "We're going to make sure the neighborhoods own City Hall," he said.
According the 2010 Census, San Diego is 28.8% Latino, 15.9% Asian, 6.7% African-American and 45.1% white (not including Hispanic whites). The Census said 1,326,179 lived in the city.
Former rival Vargas leads charge for Filner
Monday's rally was another striking example of how politics makes strange bedfellows. Juan Vargas, who for years tried to wrest the Democratic nomination for the 51st Congressional District from Filner, led the chant "Bob sí puede!" ("Yes Bob can!"). Vargas won the congressional nomination this year when Filner decided to run for mayor, and won the federal seat handily Tuesday.
Also at the Filner rally Tuesday was Denise Ducheny, the former state legislator whom Vargas knocked out in the primary in part by providing support to the Republican in the race.
Much of what Vargas said Tuesday was in Spanish. "Estamos aquí para apoyar a Roberto Filner. Él siempre ha estado con nuestra comunidad," Vargas said. ("We are here to back Roberto Filner. He has always been with our community." He said Filner knows the border and Latinos.
Switching to English, Vargas said, "I want to thank Bob Filner, Roberto Filner —
Vargas was interrupted at that point by border activist Enrique Morones, who interjected, "The first Latino mayoral candidate!"
Vargas then repeated Morones's words, and added, "for bringing us all together, and he has, and what's nice about Bob is, when you tell him he's going to come to this area, he knows where it is! DeMaio got lost somewhere else." Making a reference to the Latino community, Vargas said, "He (Filner) knows where it is."
Vargas then, with the aid of young girl, led those present in a chant, "¡Bob sí puede! ¡Bob sí puede!" That is a version of the Cesar Chavez slogan modified by Barack Obama four years ago that essentially boils down to, "Yes we can!" or "Yes he can!" or, in this case, "Yes Bob can!"
Asked after the rally what he thought would happen in the presidential and mayoral races, Vargas said he thought both Obama and Filner would win narrow victories.
Filner also used a lot of Spanish in his talk, although he does not speak nearly as well as Vargas. He introduced his fiancee, Bronwyn Ingram, as his "prometida," and said she would be the next "primera dama" (first lady) of San Diego.
Update: She said Wednesday that no wedding date has been set, but that they have been thinking about October. In an interview with KNSD-TV Channel 7/39, Filner said she is a disability analyst for the Social Security administration in Los Angeles and that they have known each other three years. She said she has been working with the disabled community for 20 years and said she met Filner because he was the only member of Congress who would meet with a group she was with advocating for the disabled. She also was an activist against the Iraq war.
Juan Vargas, now a U.S. congressman-elect, leads a chant for Bob Filner. At far left is state Rep. Ben Hueso, who may run for Vargas's state Senate seat. Next to Hueso is Filner's fiancee, Bronwyn Ingram. Filner is to the left of Vargas; Enrique Morones is to the right of Vargas.
Also attending Monday's rally was Assemblyman Ben Hueso, who may run for the state Senate seat that Vargas is vacating.
Filner also addressed the importance of the border and Mexico. The border, he said, "should be the center of attention, not the cul-de-sac. That is, the border should be the most vigorous, active, exciting, dynamic place to be.... We should be celebrating this binational culture."
He said, "We are going to change that. You know, I read the state-of-the-city speeches for the last 30 years. Mexico was mentioned four times, and usually in a sentence or two. Nobody thinks it's politically correct or politically advantageous to talk about a good relationship with Mexico." He said it was in San Diego's best interest to do so.
It should be pointed out, however, that even if Mexico may not have gotten much mention in Mayor Jerry Sanders's state-of-tjhe-city addresses, Sanders has had a good relationship with Tijuana Mayor Carlos Bustamante and has strongly encouraged San Diegans to cross the border.
Filner, 70, will take office Dec. 3.
Another key to Filner's win, besides the Democratic registration advantage and the Latino vote, was organized labor. He introduced labor leaders at Monday's rally and San Diego firefighters' union members brought two non-city-owned firetrucks to serve as a backdrop. At a debate at the San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce in September, Filner strongly reiterated his opposition to the labor-opposed North American Free Trade Agreement, which he voted against in 1993.
Also narrowly ahead Wednesday was Democrat Scott Peters over Republican Rep. Brian Bilbray in the 52nd Congressional District. Peters had 50.2% to Bilbray's 49.8%. Bilbray is famous for once getting behind the wheel of a skiploader to block Tijuana River sewage from entering San Diego County. Bilbray also has sought to have U.S. law changed or reinterpreted so that people born in the United States do not automatically become citizens.
Update, Nov. 16: Bilbray concedes to Peters. Story, U-T San Diego.
Update, Nov. 8: Mayor-elect Bob Filner, at a Trolley Barn Park appearance in University Heights on Wednesday after Carl DeMaio conceded in the race, gets a high five from a little girl.
Frontera newspaper (PDF) reported that he said the U.S.-Mexico border will be one of the top priorities in his administration.