La prensa

PERSPECTIVE: Gloria Joins Infamous List of Damaged Mayors

Todd Gloria
Author: La Prensa
Created: 20 March, 2024
Updated: 21 March, 2024
4 min read
(Photo credit: Kevin Sanders for CA Globe)

Arturo Castañares
By Arturo Castañares


It’s now apparent that a majority of San Diego voters are shopping for a new Mayor after Todd Gloria fell to less than 50% in last week’s primary election. 

The incumbent Mayor seeking re-election now joins a list of damaged mayors who failed to garner more than half of the vote in a primary and limped into a head-to-head matchup where voters seemed willing to make a change at the top to push the City into a new direction. 

On Election Day last week, Gloria ended the night with 52.54% of the vote against four relatively unknown and completely underfunded -if not unfunded- opponents. 

Although some of Gloria’s supporters ran a trickster campaign to prop up the only Republican in the race and draw a weaker general election opponent, Gloria ended up in a runoff against retired US Marine Lt. Colonel and current SDPD police officer Larry Turner, a registered independent. 

Turner spent about $7,000 and netted more than 60,000 votes, only spending about 11 1/2 cents per vote. 

Gloria’s vote percentage fell with each count update and, this week, with all but a few ballots left to be counted, Gloria tumbled to 49.99% of the vote.

The Mayor’s lackluster performance in a re-election primary is comparable to only two other incumbent mayors in the last 50 years; Dick Murphy and Roger Hedgecock, and neither one of them ended up finishing their second term.

Dick Murphy was elected Mayor in November 2000 after beating then-County Supervisor Ron Roberts. Murphy, a former banker and judge, replaced two-term Mayor Susan Golding. 

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But by the time Murphy ran for re-election in 2004, the City’s finances were in trouble after Golding had drained the City’s coffers -and underfunded the pension system- to fund hosting the 1996 Republican National Convention. 

Murphy ran for re-election in a five-person Primary against Roberts, businessman Peter Q. Davis, community activist Jim Bell, and Councilwoman Donna Frye, who ran as a write-in candidate. 

Mayor Murphy only mustered 40.25% of the vote to Roberts’ 29.44% and then barely won the General Election by a close 51.6% to 48.3%. 

But just a few months into his second term, the politically wounded Murphy abruptly resigned his office, prompting a special election to replace him where former police chief Jerry Sanders eventually beat Donna Frye in a runoff election. 

Twenty years before Murphy’s re-election, Mayor Roger Hedgecock also fell below 50% in his re-election bid and eventually resigned the following year after being convicted of felony campaign violations. 

Hedgecock had first been elected in a May 1983 special election to replace three-term Mayor Pete Wilson after he became a US Senator in November 1982. 

Already a two-term County Supervisor when he ran for Mayor, Hedgecock ran for re-election as Mayor amid an investigation into allegations he funneled illegal contributions into his first mayoral campaign. 

Hedgecock received just 46.9% of the vote against former journalist and banker Dick Carlsen who received 37.6%. Hedgecock later defeated Carlson with 57.8% of the vote in the November 1984 General Election. 

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But the following year, Hedgecock stood trial on several felony charges related to over $350,000 in illegal contributions funneled into his campaign and was later convicted of 12 counts of perjury. 

Hedgecock resigned the Mayor’s office in December 1985. 

Since 1975, Pete Wilson, Maureen O’Conner, Susan Golding, Jerry Sanders, and Kevin Faulconer all received more than 50% of the vote in their respective primary re-election campaigns, some even reaching as high as 78.3% as Golding did in her March 1996 Primary win. 

All of this is not to say that Todd Gloria can’t win re-election -both Hedgecock and Murphy did- but their weak primary election performances foretold more serious outcomes that would later befall them. 

Gloria is facing a first-time candidate in Turner who served 28 years in the US Marines and now more than eight years as a San Diego Police officer. 

But Turner’s outsider status, law and order background, and his critical attacks on Gloria’s connections to the 101 Ash Street building debacle, city budget crisis, and longterm pension insolvency could convince voters to take a chance on the newcomer especially when the five-time-elected Gloria’s record doesn’t seem worthy of yet another term in office. 

San Diegans have lived through political scandals -and scoundrels- and have responded by withholding their votes when they think they’ve seen enough to make a change. 

Todd Gloria is now not only facing a potentially challenging opponent but he’ll have to outrun a political fate that claimed two of his predecessors whose pictures still hang in City Hall as daily reminders of the fickle nature of San Diego politics.

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