When Floyd Morrow hears people suggest--as most do--that his mayoral candidacy faces seemingly insurmountable odds, he smiles with the satisfaction of a man who knows that he has conquered tougher obstacles.
"I know a little bit about tough odds," Morrow says. "That doesn't bother me at all. In fact, that's a situation that I rather relish."
Indeed, for Morrow, being seen as number three in what is widely regarded as a two-candidate race--despite the fact that there are 13 on the Feb. 25 ballot--is a problem that pales by comparison to others that he has encountered in his personal and political life.
Born in a tent in Texas during the Depression, abandoned by his father and adopted at age 4 by an oil-pipe liner whose frequent job moves produced a nomadic existence, Morrow grew up to become a successful lawyer with a six-figure income, a former three-term San Diego City Councilman and local Democratic Party chairman. To win his first council race in 1965, Morrow borrowed $1,000 against his GI life insurance and, with "a lot of hustle and a little luck," won an 11-candidate election in which "the experts picked me to finish seventh or eighth."
Morrow is at once proud and modest about his version of the American success story.
"Maybe I didn't get the best possible start (in life) . . . but I got the opportunity to move up, the chance to take advantage of options before me," said the 53-year-old Morrow, a medium-built man with black hair that is streaked with gray, and a well-tanned complexion.
"My story really isn't any different than literally tens of thousands of other people who grew up in that period. That's the beautiful thing about our country. This country has been very good to Floyd Morrow. This city has been very good to Floyd Morrow. And I'd like to give something back."
The prospect of voters awarding Morrow the opportunity to "give something back" from the 11th floor at City Hall, however, appears remote as the mayoral primary campaign enters its final 10 days. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote in the primary, the top two vote-getters will compete in a June 3 runoff.
In most polls, Morrow runs a distant third behind his two major opponents, San Diego City Councilman Bill Cleator and former Councilwoman Maureen F. O'Connor. Although Morrow initially projected spending about $100,000 in the race, campaign finance reports filed this week listed contributions totaling $45,763, with $38,190 of that being his own money. The fact that, as of Feb. 8, he had received only $6,573 in donations raises questions about the depth of his support.
Another major hurdle facing Morrow is that his eight-year absence from the City Council, combined with the frequent turnover in San Diego's population, means that he is largely unknown even to many voters in his former council district.
"Morrow is a person from the past," said Robert Meadow, a pollster who worked on Councilman Ed Struiksma's aborted mayoral campaign. "The people he represented in the 1970s live somewhere else, and the people living there now don't know him."
Morrow, however, is undeterred by those bleak statistics and scenarios and has gone about his campaign with the faith of a true believer who senses that he knows something about the electorate that does not show up in the polls or campaign finance reports.
"I think there's an awfully, awfully good chance of my being mayor," Morrow said. "I'm campaigning on the basis of beliefs. Primarily, of course, I believe in myself. That shouldn't sound arrogant. I just feel I'm the most experienced candidate in this race, by far . . . That's not an idle boast. It's a matter of public record.
"I think the people are looking for a change, for someone who hasn't been involved in the problems we've seen at City Hall lately. But they also want someone with experience. That description matches me perfectly."
Consistently upbeat in his campaign appearances, Morrow has waged a candidacy focused more on himself and his personality than perhaps any other candidate in the race. While he talks about specific issues as much as the other mayoral contenders, Morrow's standard stump speech and television ads deal more with the man than with his vision for the city's future.
In particular, Morrow emphasizes that he and his wife, Marlene--whom he never fails to point out, with visible pride, to voters at candidate forums--have been married for 32 years and have lived in the same Kearny Mesa house for 26 years. The message that Morrow hopes voters will get from his remarks is that personal stability could translate to political tranquility at a City Hall that has been wracked by various scandals over the past two years.