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Monday, August 12, 2013

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner - The Decline (and Fall?) of a Far Leftist

Bob Filner

  • Former Democratic member of Congress
  • Former Member of the Progressive Caucus
  • Active member of the American Civil Liberties Union, Common Cause, the NAACP, and the Sierra Club
  • Son of a Communist Party USA member
  • Current mayor of San Diego

Bob Filner was born in Pittsburgh in September 1942 and grew up in New York City. His father, Joseph Filner, was a member of the Communist Party USA.

In 1961 Bob Filner spent two months in a Mississippi jail as a result of his activities as a civil-rights Freedom Rider. He earned a B.A. in chemistry in 1963 and a Ph.D. in history in 1973, both at Cornell University.

From 1970-92 Filner taught history and served as director of the Lipinsky Institute for Judaic Studies at what today is San Diego State University. In 1974 he spent some time working as a legislative assistant to U.S. Senator Hubert Humphrey (D-Minnesota), and the following year he worked for U.S. Representative Don Fraser (D-Minnesota).

From 1979-83, Filner served on the San Diego city school board. From 1987-92 he was a member of the San Diego city council. In 1992 Filner was elected to represent the newly created 50th congressional district—stretching from south San Diego eastward nearly 300 miles to the Arizona border—which the Democrat-dominated state legislature had carefully gerrymandered to conjure a Democratic congressional seat out of one of the most Republican regions of California. The ethnic makeup of this district (which was renumbered as the 51st after the 2000 Census) is more than 53% Hispanic, more than 9% black, 12% Asian, and 21% white. Filner was re-elected to this seat every two years thereafter, serving in Congress until 2012.

From his earliest days in the House of Representatives, Filner was a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. According to Americans for Democratic Action, he voted on the left side of legislation 95 to 100% of the time. For an overview of Filner's voting record on a variety of key issues, click here. For Filner's various interest-group ratings, click here.

Since at least the mid-1990s, Filner has had a close relationship with the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). He has attended a number of DSA events (including its 1999 national convention in San Diego), and the organization actively supported his congressional campaigns in 2004 and 2006.

In February 2002 Filner was part of a delegation of California congressional Democrats who paid a friendly visit to Fidel Castro in Havana, in an effort to soften U.S. policy toward Cuba. Other delegates included Sam Farr, Diane Watson, and entertainer Carole King.

On October 26, 2009, Filner spoke alongside fellow Representatives Jared Polis and Jan Schakowsky at a national conference held by J Street, an organizations that urges Israel to negotiate with Hamas and contends that “Israel’s settlements in the occupied territories have, for over forty years, been an obstacle to peace.” In February 2010, Filner was one of five members of Congress to participate in a J Street-sponsored congressional mission that toured Israel, Jordan, and Palestinian-controlled regions.

On December 22, 2009, Filner was one of 33 U.S. Representatives who wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, urging her to press the Israeli government to lift its ban on Palestinian student travel from Gaza to the West Bank. Five weeks later, Filner was one of 54 members of Congress to sign a letter asking President Barack Obama to push Israel to end its blockade of Gaza, which was enacted to prevent the flow of weapons into that region.

In August 2010, Filner spoke at a Veterans For Peace event in Portland, Maine.

Throughout the course of his congressional career, Filner received large sums of campaign cash from organized labor. Among his major donors were the AFSCME, the Air Line Pilots Association, the American Association for Justice (formerly known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America), the American Federation of Teachers, the Machinists & Aerospace Workers Union, the National Education Association, the Service Employees International Union, the Teamsters Union, the United Auto Workers, and the United Food & Commercial Workers Union.

On June 8, 2011, Filner announced that he would not be seeking re-election to Congress in 2012, but instead would run for mayor of San Diego. He won that election over his Republican rival, city councilman Carl DeMaio, by a margin of 52.5% to 47.5%.

On July 11, 2013, allegations began to emerge that Filner had sexually harassed “numerous” women during his tenure as mayor. Later that day, Filner issued a video statement apologizing for his bad behavior and pledging to seek professional counseling. By August 9, fourteen women had come forward with allegations. At that point, California Senator Barbara Boxer exhorted Filner to “step down immediately.” Other high-profile Democrats like Senator Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz also asked the mayor to step down. But Filner refused, opting instead to undergo two weeks of psychotherapy and then return to his political post.

Filner is an active member of the American Civil Liberties Union, Common Cause, the NAACP, and the Sierra Club.

For additional information on Bob Filner, click here.