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Out! Bob Filner’s steady rise–and lightning-fast fall

The 70-year-old Democrat reached a deal with the city to resign following accusations that he made unwanted sexual advances toward at least 18 women. He blamed a "lynch mob mentality" for the scandal.
/ Source: MSNBC TV

The 70-year-old Democrat reached a deal with the city to resign following accusations that he made unwanted sexual advances toward at least 18 women. He blamed a "lynch mob mentality" for the scandal.

What a difference two months can make.

Filner was once a Democratic congressman with a solid record, a big-city mayor with a promising future, and a career lawmaker who people outside of southern California had never heard of. Bob Filner is none of those things today, not after a massively embarrassing scandal in which the now-resigned San Diego mayor was accused —by at least 18 women—of being a serial sexual harasser.

Now the 70-year-old Democrat has reached a deal with the city to resign, effective August 30th, following the slew of accusations. All this just eight-and-a-half months after being elected to lead The Golden State’s second largest city, and becoming the first Democratic mayor of San Diego in over 20 years.

“It certainly was never my intention to be a mayor who went out like this,” Filner told the council, which voted 7-0 to accept his resignation.

His supporters cheered him after the meeting. “I would say thank you for being here, but this isn’t a happy time for us here in San Diego. For my own part for causing all this, I offer a deep apology,” he said. “The city should not have been put through this. My own personal failures were responsible and I apologize to the city.”

But he blamed a “lynch mob mentality” for the scandal, and insisted, “I’ve never sexually harassed anyone.”

City Council president Todd Gloria will be acting mayor under the city charter and a primary special election will be held within 60 to 90 days.

Filner’s troubles first bubbled into the public sphere on July 8, when his then-fiancé Bronwyn Ingram called off their engagement. While details were murky at first, Ingram soon told local media that Filner, married twice before, was verbally abusive toward her and had sent lewd text messages to other women.

As attention turned to the former congressman’s personal life, other women began to step forward to say that they had been sexually harassed by Filner and that he should resign. One after another after another. The group of at least 18 accusers grew to include a great-grandmother, Filner’s former communications director, a retired Navy Rear Admiral, a dean at San Diego State University, a psychologist, and a nurse.

Until Thursday, Filner repeatedly refused to step down, despite calls to do so from the San Diego County Democratic Party and Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The mayor admitted that he had a problem, apologized, and enrolled himself in a two-week “intensive therapy” program on July 29, but said he was able to finish it early on Aug. 10 and would continue with outpatient treatment.

The apologies. The therapy. Tales of Filner groping, slobbering, and putting women in the now-infamous “Filner headlock,” were followed by a recall effort and mediation talks. It’s certainly been a tumultuous few weeks. And it’s easy to forget that Filner once had a promising political career.

Filner joined San Diego’s Board of Education in 1979.  After that, the Cornell University grad served on the city council, and in 1992 was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives (ironically, one of his opponents in the primary was former Rep. Jim Bates who was enduring the fallout of a sexual harassment scandal of his own).

As a congressman, he made a name for himself by advocating for veterans benefits, especially Filipino service members who served in World War II.

In 2012, Filner resigned from Congress after a successful 10-term career with hopes of becoming mayor. He vowed to rebuild neighborhoods, bring jobs into the city, have a greater partnership with Mexico, improve fire services, and more.

And now he’ll never have that chance.

But just because he is stepping down doesn’t mean Filner’s troubles are over.

High profile attorney Gloria Allred, who is representing  ex-Filner aide Irene McCormack Jackson, was not part of the mediation talks, and her lawsuit is expected to go forward. McCormack Jackson has accused Filner of unwanted sexual advances and is suing for unspecified damages. Filner is also under investigation for alleged “pay to play” schemes with developers.