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Judge Ousts San Diego D.A. After Close Race

November 13, 2002|Tony Perry | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO -- Superior Court Judge Bonnie Dumanis was declared the victor Tuesday in her fight to unseat Dist. Atty. Paul Pfingst after one of the closest and nastiest election battles in county history.

After absentee and provisional ballots were counted, Dumanis had 50.3% of the vote to Pfingst's 49.6%.

Dumanis becomes the first female district attorney in county history and, according to a national gay political action committee, the first openly gay district attorney in the nation.

Dumanis, 50, served as a deputy district attorney for 12 years before being appointed a Juvenile Court referee in 1990 and then elected twice to the Superior Court bench. Pfingst, 51, a homicide prosecutor before going into private practice, was elected district attorney in 1994, defeating a six-term incumbent.

Pfingst's bid for a third term was undercut by a vote of no confidence by the deputy district attorneys association, controversy over his handling of two murder cases, and a last-minute accusation by one of his deputies that he had made anti-Semitic comments 17 years ago.

Pfingst fought back with accusations that Dumanis was a lackluster prosecutor and doesn't have the management skills to run a large organization.

"The people have heard our message, and our message is that it's time for a change," Dumanis said at a press conference at the headquarters of the San Diego Police Officers Assn., which had endorsed her.

County Supervisor Ron Roberts and City Councilman George Stevens, both veterans of decades of San Diego political fights, called the race one of the "dirtiest campaigns" they had ever witnessed.

Dumanis' campaign was helped by fund-raising done by local and national gay organizations. Her largest margins were in the Hillcrest and North Park neighborhoods of San Diego, known as gay enclaves.

Pfingst never mentioned Dumanis' sexual orientation, but a Christian political group distributed fliers mentioning that she is a lesbian, and former San Diego Mayor Roger Hedgecock, now host of a local radio talk show, referred to her as a "suicidal lesbian." Dumanis conceded that she had attempted suicide after her sister's death.

Dumanis won by 3,556 votes out of 581,166 cast.

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