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This is an archived article published in November 2004
San Diego mayoral election revives
memories of the 2000 Florida count
By Nick Swift

5 November 2004: The election of the US president on 2 November 2004 was accompanied by local elections to a large number of positions throughout the country, including that of mayor. One of the largest American cities to have been deciding its mayor that day was San Diego. However, one month later it was still unclear whether incumbent Richard (Dick) Murphy or Democrat Donna Frye, who entered the elections only five weeks before polling day, would be the city's next mayor. A re-run of the mayoral election was also being discussed. In Baltimore, incumbent Mayor Martin O’Malley was re-elected with 88 per cent of the vote.

November 2005 election results

The San Diego mayoral election has turned into an epic battle between a city charter and the same city’s municipal code, between the businesswoman wife of a famous surfer and a scandal of unfilled-in o’s.  Until Mrs. Frye announced her candidacy as a write-in, the contest was between Mr. Murphy, a Republican, and city supervisor Ron Roberts, another Republican and an evangelical.  San Diegans who wanted her to be their next mayor wrote her name under those of Mr. Murphy and Mr. Roberts. 

The initial results showed Mrs. Frye with a clear lead; but, as November progressed and the counting continued, the issue of the legitimacy of a write-in candidate arose.  A city charter provision has it that the outcome is a question of the winner of a runoff between the two with the most votes, if none wins a majority; there is no room for a write-in candidate.  San Diego’s municipal code, on the other hand, does allow write-ins.  It was known all along that the county registrar would have to certify the decision at the end of the month.

In the last week of November, a San Diego Superior Court judge decided that the four to five thousand votes for Mrs. Frye where her name had been added by hand but where the oval space next to it had not been filled in were not to be allowed.  That relocated Mrs. Frye to second place, with some 2,100 fewer votes than Mr. Murphy.

Then the county registrar’s decision was prevented by a state appeals court after lawsuits were brought alleging that the city had violated its own charter by allowing Mrs. Frye as a write-in.

Mr. Murphy’s supporters say that there was nothing to stop anyone who objected to Mrs. Frye’s candidacy before the election saying so, and that a new runoff would be extremely costly to both the city and to Mr. Murphy and Mr. Roberts. 

A previous attempt to have a federal judge block certification of the 2 November results failed.

A Democrat many see as a future presidential candidate, Martin O’Malley, the incumbent Baltimore mayor, defeated Republican Elbert (Ray) Henderson, his only rival, by getting 88 per cent of the vote. Mr. O’Malley’s varied interests, seen by his supporters as evidence of a healthily versatile personality and a fertile mind, were turned by Mr. Henderson into a focus for criticism. Mr. Henderson also declined to advertise. An attorney and former Assistant State’s Attorney, Mr. O’Malley is a popular figure, credited with reducing the rates of homicides and of infant and drug related deaths and, especially, with saving Baltimore vast sums with the CitiStat accountability program.

In Portland, a city commissioner for six years, Jim Francesconi, who had succeeded in amassing a large financial base, was beaten by Tom Potter, a former Chief of Police, by a margin wide enough to surprise many. Mr. Francesconi’s campaign emphasized services, improved policing, especially community policing, business expansion and education, but was also the subject of finance complaints, and the candidate’s style was perceived as contrasting strongly with that of the new mayor, who at first placed a $25 limit on contributions, so that Mr. Potter was seen in some quarters as too highly principled to be realistic. In terms of issues, his platform was not very different from Mr. Francesconi’s.

In San Juan, Puerto Rico, Jorge Santini was also re-elected, defeating (for the second time) Eduardo Bhatia of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) by a margin of less than three per cent. The contest was sometimes heated, with the rivals hurling insults at each other during press conferences held at the same time and place, and even seeming to come close to violent physical exchanges. Mr. Santini belongs to the National Progressive Party, whose aim is for Puerto Rico to become a full US state; the PDP, on the other hand, prefer to continue with Puerto Rico as a commonwealth. The other major party, the Puerto Rican Independence Party, also had a candidate, Fernando Martin, who won four per cent of the vote.

The favoured candidate in Honolulu, Duke Bainum, a doctor whose campaign slogan was ‘Prescription for Honest Change’, lost by only 1,300 votes to Mufi Hannemann, a former White House Fellow and US Representative to the South Pacific Commission, business executive, and Honolulu councilman. Dr. Bainum used his considerable inherited wealth to finance his campaign, and it appeared to have been effective, with the extent of Mr. Hannemann’s support, possibly reinforced by the endorsement of former mayor (and former candidate in the election in question) Frank Fasi, only becoming apparent over the course of the election night. There was little controversy over the nature of the issues, which included homelessness, strengthening the Ethics Commission and infrastructure challenges.

San Diego councilmember Donna Frye not ready to concede defeat

No final results yet in San Diego elections
2 December 2004: The outcome of San Diego's mayoral election is still too close too call. According to the latest announcement, Councilwoman Donna Frye, the write-in candidate in the mayor's race, has 155,254 of the 157,155 write-in ballots being counted. The write-in ballots represent around 35 per cent of the vote and are assumed to be almost entirely for Ms Frye. Incumbent Mayor Dick Murphy has 157,459 votes, while Supervisor Ron Roberts has 141,505 votes.

Introducing Donna Frye
Councilmember Donna Frye brings many things to her job as the elected official representing San Diego’s 6th District: an activist's passion, a keen understanding of the community and its needs, and a belief that government should be open and accessible to its constituents. Elected by special election to complete an unexpired term in June 2001, she was re-elected to a full, four-year term in March 2002 with a resounding 65 per cent of the vote.

Grass-roots politics often end with a campaign, but Ms Frye has brought them into office with her. Her style of governing is all about openness, and she spends as many hours meeting with constituents as she does at city council meetings. An environmental activist since the early 1980s, her commitment to clean water issues is unquestioned. She worked to strengthen San Diego City policies related to polluted runoff, including the initiation of the posting of warning signs in front of storm drains, the monitoring of discharges at storm drain outfalls, and the diversion of dry weather low-flow runoff into the sewer system. Frye played a central role in obtaining millions of dollars for the clean up of Mission Bay.

As a Councilmember, Donna has worked to increase public participation in local government, ensure that city resources are allocated to the communities of District Six, repair and replace aging infrastructure, ensure that development in District Six complies with Community Plans, expand Branch Library services, expedite undergrounding of utilities, protect and preserve the canyons, open space and public parkland, reduce sewage spills and prevent polluted runoff, and slow down traffic in the city’s neighborhoods.

Councilmember Frye grew up in the community of Clairemont, where she attended area primary and secondary public schools. She received her Associate of Arts from Cosumnes River College and her Bachelor of Business from National University. Donna currently lives in Clairemont with her husband, the legendary surfer Skip Frye; her mother, Laura and dog, Diogenes.