SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - Two politicians viewed as potential front-runners to replace disgraced former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, who resigned in the face of a sexual harassment lawsuit, said Tuesday they would not run, leaving the race wide open.
At least 16 candidates have filed their intention to run in the November 19 election, with more expected before the September 20 deadline.
But Democrat Todd Gloria, president of the city council and interim mayor, said in a statement released via Twitter that he would stay in his current role in order to fix a mess he said was left behind when Filner left office.
“In the few days since I assumed the duties of mayor, it has become clear to me that the problems left by Bob Filner are substantial and serious,” Gloria said.
“San Diegans can count on me to lead our city with honesty and integrity,” he said. “Together we will resolve the problems left behind by the previous administration.”
Meanwhile Carl DeMaio, a Republican who lost to Filner in the race for mayor just last year, said at a press conference that he would instead focus on his congressional race against freshman Democratic Representative Scott Peters.
“I believe I can be a part of great change in Washington, just as I’ve been part of a team that has achieved great change in San Diego,” DeMaio said.
Filner, a former Democratic congressman elected to lead California’s second-largest city last year, announced his resignation last week as part of a settlement with the city over how to handle a lawsuit filed by his former press secretary.
The press secretary, Irene McCormack Jackson, was among 19 women who have accused the 70-year-old politician of making unwanted sexual advances toward them.
City Councilman Kevin Faulconer, expected to announce his candidacy on Wednesday, is now considered the presumptive Republican nominee.
“He represents the center right which is the tradition of mayors that we’ve had in the past,” said San Diego Republican Party Chairman Tony Kravic, who expects Faulconer to be endorsed by the committee at its meeting on Monday.
Former U.S. Marine Nathan Fletcher, who was a moderate Republican before switching parties after finishing third in the 2012 mayoral primary, is the presumptive Democratic nominee with the backing of two major labor unions, the Municipal Employees Association and San Diego Firefighters.
Both are considered centrists, courting their share of business interests, including downtown development interests, with Fletcher garnering more support from moderate Republicans and Independents, say analysts.
“This is not going to be a polarizing election like we had before,” said Steven Erie, a political science professor at the University of California at San Diego. “We had the most conservative and liberal candidates in San Diego modern history last time. We don’t have that with these two. We’re back to the old San Diego pattern of centrist mayors.”
Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Lisa Shumaker