San Diego votes for new mayor

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Voters in the city of San Diego, California went to the polls Tuesday to pick a mayor to lead the financially-troubled city. Officially mayor-less since Dick Murphy resigned on July 15, the city of San Diego also lost two councilmen to convictions on charges of corruption. The largest issue facing the next mayor of this major bio-tech hub and military town on the U.S. border with Mexico, however, is the paralysis and red ink produced by two years of underfunding the pension fund for city employees. The municipal employee unions had pushed for massive benefit expanion during the booming '90s, but once the dot-com bubble burst, San Diego, home to high-tech corporate players like Qualcomm Corp., rapidly lost revenue. The result was a $2bn pension deficit, "junk" status for the city's bonds on Wall Street, and the dubious designation of "Enron-by-the-Sea" from The New York Times.

Incredibly, 11 candidates are on the ballot to lead the city that calls itself "America's Finest". The front-runner is Councilwoman Donna Frye, 53. She is expected to win a plurality of all votes cast, at the least. The city's former chief of police, Jerry Sanders, and businessman Steve Francis are dueling for the second place slot. The winner of that would face Frye again, in a run-off election slated for Nov. 8.

As of 10 pm Pacific Daylight Time July 26, Donna Frye led with 43.32%, and Jerry Sanders was leading in the contest for second place, with 27.01% to Steve Francis' 23.50%. No other candidate broke into the double-digits.