July 27, 2005

San Diego, Calif. heads to runoff in mayor’s race

By Marty Graham

SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - A maverick city-council member who
owns a surf shop took the largest share of votes in a San Diego
mayoral election on Tuesday and headed into a November run-off
against a former police chief.

The special election was held after the former mayor
resigned under pressure and his replacement was convicted on
corruption charges, and it came amid a deepening financial
crisis in the seventh-largest U.S. city.

Donna Frye, a Democrat in a city long governed by
business-friendly Republicans, drew 43 percent of the votes
with all precincts counted, city election officials said early
on Wednesday. Former police chief Jerry Sanders, a Republican,
won 27 percent.

Republican businessman Steve Francis was third, with almost
24 percent of the vote. A field of eight other candidates split
the remainder.

Frye is a community activist and co-owner of a surf shop
with her husband, surfing legend Skip Frye. She said her style
had resonated with voters eager to break with business as

"We appreciate the support of San Diegans and we'll work
hard to get the votes we'll need by November," Frye told an
impromptu rally of about 40 supporters after she had opted not
to rent a ballroom for a formal event.

Frye had captured the most votes in a mayoral race last
November, when thousands of San Diegans wrote in her name on
the ballot.

However, more than 5,000 votes for her were disqualified as
improperly cast, giving an election victory to former Mayor
Dick Murphy.

Murphy, a Republican, announced his resignation in April,
after Time magazine named him one of the nation's three worst
big city mayors. Murphy was at the helm when a decade's worth
of underfunding the city's pension fund came to light.

The underfunding and resulting liability of at least $1.7
billion was never disclosed to bond investors, prompting an
investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
and a criminal probe by the U.S. Attorney's office.

The city remains unable to complete its fiscal audits for
2003 and 2004, deepening the uncertainty around its ability to
pay for services and finance new investments.

Six current and former trustees have pleaded not guilty to
felony conflict-of-interest charges. Four of the unindicted
current trustees have also resigned from the 13-member board.

In a separate scandal, two other council members resigned
last week after they were convicted on federal charges related
to contributions from a strip-club owner who wanted a change in
the city's ban against contact with dancers.

One of the council members had just been sworn in as
interim mayor the three days before his conviction.

Analysts caution that the next mayor will have few options
to deal with the problems of a city that has been widely dubbed
"Enron by the sea."

"Whoever wins will just have to steer the city through the
crisis, and won't have much control over how it goes," said
University of California San Diego political scientist Thad