IMAGE: Donna Frye
Denis Poroy  /  AP
San Diego mayoral candidate Donna Frye gets a kiss from a supporter Tuesday night as she arrives at a San Diego restaurant where supporters had gathered.
updated 7/27/2005 2:51:26 PM ET 2005-07-27T18:51:26

This troubled seaside city has seen three mayors hold office in July alone, but it will have to wait until November to elect a fourth.

Councilwoman and surf shop owner Donna Frye led a field of 11 candidates in Tuesday’s mayoral election but fell short of the majority required to avoid a runoff. She will face former Police Chief Jerry Sanders on Nov. 8.

With all precincts reporting in the nonpartisan contest, unofficial returns showed Frye with 43 percent of the vote and Sanders with 27 percent.

Earlier this month, former Mayor Dick Murphy resigned just seven months into his term amid a pension fund scandal that has left City Hall in shambles. Less than 72 hours later, his interim replacement lost the job when he was convicted of corruption for taking bribes from a strip club owner.

Frye, a 53-year-old Democrat who nearly defeated Murphy with a write-in campaign last year, urged her supporters to redouble campaign efforts in the months ahead as the city struggles on without an elected mayor. Councilwoman Toni Atkins is serving in the interim.

“I’m tired of the politics as usual. I’m sick of it,” Frye told reporters Wednesday. “I’ve had it and I believe the public has as well.”

Sanders, 55, who served as police chief from 1993 to 1999, had cast himself as a turnaround specialist during the short campaign. He survived a late surge by fellow Republican Steve Francis, who spent about $2 million and got 24 percent of the vote.

Frye appeared to have captured the election last November when she took a nearly 3,500-vote lead over Murphy out of 460,000 votes cast. But a judge disqualified more than 5,000 ballots on which voters had written Frye’s name but failed to darken the adjoining write-in bubble, tipping the election to her opponent.

Political surprise
Frye has defied expectations since she emerged on the political scene four years ago, inspired to act by the ocean pollution sickening her husband and friends. She has vowed to reform City Hall by ending a culture of back room deals that she says led to the city’s woes.

County and federal prosecutors are investigating San Diego’s scandal-plagued pension fund, which has a deficit of at least $1.37 billion. Six current and former pension board members have been indicted for alleged conflict-of-interest violations, accused of enriching themselves with their votes.

“It’s time to move forward,” Frye said at her news conference.

“It’s time to fix the pension mess, restore our city’s good name. I have the leadership. I have the ability to bring our city back together and I plan to that this November.”

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