The Democratic mayoral candidate in San Diego who called on U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy to resign won his election, signaling bumps in the road ahead for the top federal prosecution in California’s Southern District.
Bob Filner, a longtime member of Congress who traded his House seat for the mayor’s job, defeated his Republican opponent Carl DeMaio with 51.5 percent of the vote on Nov. 6. DeMaio won 48.5 percent.
In October, Duffy helped organize a candidate forum at her temple in San Diego, acting off-duty as a private citizen. The forum took a turn, however, with mayoral candidate U.S. Rep. Bob Filner (D) calling opponent Carl DeMaio (R) a “liar.” DeMaio, a San Diego city council member, then circulated an email he received after the debate from Duffy, which apologized for the episode and explained many in the congregation felt Filner “embarrassed himself.” Duffy said the message was a personal email and not meant as an endorsement of any kind. DeMaio said the emails dissemination was an oversight, but continued to imply it was an indication of her support.
A week after Duffy’s email went public, Filner called for her resignation, saying she violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits political activities by federal employees. However, two former White House lawyers told the Voice of San Diego that Duffy didn’t appear to violate the Hatch Act.
Steve Peace, a former California legislator, this week wrote an opinion piece calling for Duffy to resign, arguing there is “room for debate” about whether she violated the Hatch Act. It is “unambiguously clear” that she violated Justice Department ethical standards, he wrote.
“The US Attorney’s office simply must be beyond politics, both in fact and in perception,” Peace, a Democrat, wrote. “Duffy’s unprecedented lapse in judgment makes this impossible as long as she heads the local office.”
Duffy in October told the San Diego Union-Tribune: “I have made it clear … that given my presidential appointment, I won’t make any statements as to any candidate. Of course I am a member of this community and our elected officials are very important to me and I will be casting my votes. But that’s a personal matter, and I try to keep it that way.”