SAN DIEGO — City Councilman Carl DeMaio conceded defeat Wednesday to U.S. Rep. Bob Filner in the hard-fought race to succeed Mayor Jerry Sanders.
DeMaio, 38, a conservative Republican, said he remains proud that he was a leader in the movement to reform the financial practices of city government, including curbing "runaway pension costs" and defeating a sales-tax increase.
In unofficial returns, DeMaio trailed Filner, 70, a liberal Democrat, 52% to 48%. DeMaio told supporters that he had called Filner with congratulations. He dodged a question about whether he would ever seek office again.
DeMaio leaves the City Council next month after one term. He said he remains confident that, after a series of fiscal reforms that he helped initiate, the city government would function effectively and become a "great city" through cooperation among various factions.
"There is no Republican or Democrat way to do that, there is no gay or straight way to do that," said DeMaio, who would have been the city's first gay mayor.
Sanders, a moderate Republican who succeeded Mayor Dick Murphy, who resigned amid criticism of his handling of the city's financial problems, was termed out. He endorsed DeMaio despite feuds between the two, particularly over DeMaio's opposition in 2010 to a half-cent sales tax boost that Sanders said was critical to maintaining city services. The tax was defeated.
Sanders said that he hoped that Filner "will continue to move our city forward with the kinds of reforms that have fueled San Diego's turnaround."
DeMaio outspent Filner, but Filner was helped by a large Democratic turnout and the fact that Democrats hold a 40% to 27% registration edge over Republicans, with 27% independents.
DeMaio said he will have to do a "deep dive" into the election figures to determine why he lost. But he said the fact that he is gay "wasn't an issue in this campaign."
He shrugged off suggestions that the campaign was particularly vitriolic. "Politics can be rough," he said.