July 29, 2005
Volume 33
Issue 30

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San Diego: Lesbian Councilwoman Toni Atkins to fill position of mayor until December
San Diego: Lesbian Councilwoman Toni Atkins to fill position of mayor until December
by Rex Wockner

SAN DIEGO - San Diego became the largest city in America with an openly Gay mayor July 25 when the remaining members of the City Council chose Lesbian Councilwoman Toni Atkins to fill the position until December.

Former Mayor Dick Murphy resigned July 15 amid a massive employee pension-funding debacle.

At that point, Councilman Michael Zucchet, who held the rotating position of deputy mayor, took over.

But, three days later, Zucchet and Councilman Ralph Inzunza were convicted of multiple felonies in a case involving bribes from a strip-club owner who wanted a no-touch law repealed.

Zucchet and Inzunza quickly resigned from the council, leaving the body with only six members.

In an emergency vote July 19, Atkins was selected by the other five councilmembers to fill the mayor's shoes for one week. Then, on July 25, her selection was re-affirmed and she will hold the job until a new mayor is elected in November and sworn in Dec. 5.

Atkins is not a candidate in that election.

"I'm certainly aware of that fact [of San Diego being the largest U.S. city with an openly gay mayor]," Atkins said in an interview with {name of this publication}. "I know that it has significance for our LGBT community, so it is something that I take seriously. I think it's a huge responsibility, so I'm very much aware of it and I hope that it's a good thing for our community.

"But, how can you be excited to get such an honor under such circumstances [the three resignations]," Atkins added. "Still, given the circumstances, I think it makes it even more important that I do the best job that I can, and I intend to do that, because it's an opportunity for our community to show that we really are engaged and active and can step up to the plate and do these kinds of things when called upon and when needed."

Atkins said her sexual orientation was a nonissue in her selection.

"It wasn't even a consideration. I believe that's absolutely correct. And I think that's what we're striving for," she said.

The Nov. 8 special mayoral election will be a runoff between the top two vote-getters from the July 26 special primary - Democratic Councilwoman Donna Frye, a progressive maverick who came within 2,108 votes of winning the mayor's seat as a write-in candidate last year, and Republican former Police Chief Jerry Sanders.

Frye actually got more votes than former Mayor Murphy last November, but 5,551 of her votes were invalidated because people who wrote in her name failed to fill in a corresponding bubble.

Frye received 43 percent of the vote in the July 26 special primary to Sanders' 27 percent, with the remainder split among nine other candidates. Had Frye received 50 percent plus one, she would have become mayor on Aug. 22, cutting short Atkins' time in office.

The mayoral race is officially nonpartisan.

San Diego, population 1.2 million, is America's seventh-largest city behind Phoenix, Philadelphia, Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.


San Diego Mayor Toni Atkins. Photo by Rex Wockner
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