High-profile Dems reluctant to weigh in on San Diego mayor groping claims
Democrats who accused Republicans of being anti-women during last year’s campaign are strangely silent now that one of their own -- San Diego Mayor Bob Filner -- is accused of groping and sexually assaulting women.
"Don't identify him as my former colleague," an agitated House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi reportedly said Thursday night when asked about the claims against Filner.
Pelosi worked alongside Filner for 10 years in Congress. The two were founding members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and Filner was a loyal foot soldier for the House leader, having spent 20 years in Congress. On Friday, however, Pelosi said, "What goes on in San Diego is up to the people of San Diego. I'm not here to make any judgments."
Compare that to the scandal involving Florida Rep. Mark Foley. Republican Foley was accused of sending sexually explicit emails to a congressional page. On the very same day the story broke, Pelosi took to the House floor to demand an investigation.
Or consider the case against Oregon Sen. Bob Packwood, accused of unwanted sexual advances in November 1992. Two days later, the Oregon Democratic Party called for his resignation, followed by a call from California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Twelve days after the story broke and before any investigation, Feinstein said Packwood should resign if the allegations were true. A month later, California's other senator, Barbara Boxer, said Packwood should resign immediately. That was January 1993. Packwood did not resign until September 1995, after a Senate Ethics Committee investigation.
On Friday, Boxer did call for a probe of Filner. “These are shocking allegations that should be fully investigated and I think resignation should be on the table,” she said.
The “due process” many of Filner's supporters are demanding can take a long time, putting his party in a tough spot. On Thursday night in a closed door meeting, the San Diego County Democratic Party was deadlocked 24-24 on asking Filner to resign.
"We feel somewhat betrayed that we have to deal with these allegations," party Chairwoman Francine Busby told reporters. "We all condemn it. It's abhorrent and we stand with these women. If the mayor has done this and it is proven to be true, we will ask for his immediate resignation."
A conclusion in the case, however, could be weeks or months out. Attorneys representing the three women say they are preparing their cases. Legally, the two alleged victims who are not city employees have two years to file a case against Filner. The former head of the criminal division of the City Attorney's Office says Filner could face criminal charges.
"If the descriptions we heard are accurate, that isn't workplace sex harassment -- it supports a charge of sexual battery," said Chris Morris, now in private practice. Morris says all of the mayor's alleged victims, employees or not, must still file a claim with the city's risk management division prior to filing a lawsuit in Superior Court. The city has 60 days to pay, negotiate or deny it.
And while Filner says he is not resigning, the case is progressing on another political front – an effort to demand a recall.
"Mr. Filner knows me, he knows when I say, ‘He did wrong. When I tell him I'm coming I'm coming,'" said Mike Pallamary, who is leading the recall effort.
Pallamary is holding a recall rally Friday night. He expects to begin gathering signatures in about three weeks to recall Filner. He estimates the effort will cost up to $500,000 to collect 107,000 signatures from San Diego registered voters. Once he files with the city clerk, Pallamary has 69 days to collect the requisite number.
A local newspaper poll indicated 59 percent want Filner to resign.
Filner is the first Democrat to be San Diego mayor in two decades. His supporters say Filner deserves the benefit of the doubt and time to straighten out his life.
"We will not endorse a public execution," said Enrique Morones. "Bob Filner, you deserve due process -- you have earned it more than most."
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