Sanders Defeats Frye in San Diego's Mayoral Race

November 9, 2005 ( - In a race with San Diego's troubled pension system as a key issue, Jerry Sanders has defeated Councilwoman Donna Frye as the city's new mayor.

In his post victory speech, Sanders, a former city police chief, said “In late 2004 and 2005, as I watched the meltdown at City Hall, I knew I had something to offer – the experience and the skill to turn things around,” according to the San Diego Union Tribune.

Frye’s plan for saving the pension system included rolling back the municipal retirement benefits that City Attorney Michael Aguirre has said were granted illegally and contributed to the pension deficit, downsizing the city’s workforce by 500 jobs, and turning management of the pension system over to the state.   Sanders plan includes dropping the current retirement system for new employees, freezing wages, privatizing services and slashing 10% of the city’s general workforce and 100 middle managers (See  San Diego Mayoral Candidates Battle over Pension Reform ).

Frye had also planned to ask voters to approve a half-cent sales tax increase to help pump revenue into the city’s general fund, a point that Sanders believes hurt her in the election, the Union Tribune reports.

Both candidates had signed a year ago an argument mailed citywide against San Diego’s switch to a strong-mayor form of government.   The measure won, the Union Tribune reports, which means in January Sanders will assume the city manager’s power to hire and fire personnel and prepare the budget.

During the campaign, Sanders took aim at Frye’s voting record in 2002, when she joined with everyone else on the council in votes to underfund the pension and grant benefit increases.   But, Frye countered the attack saying that as soon as pension board whistle-blower Diann Shipione went public with warnings of pension system abuses in November 2002, she became the council’s only voice against pension underfunding.   Sanders also criticized Frye for taking a benefit perk in 2003 that allows city employees to buy credits to enhance their pensions.   She formally asked retirement officials to take back the perk this year.

Sanders will be sworn into office in early December at a time when the city is three years behind on its annual audits, fees are up, services are down, and some say bankruptcy is near.   In addition, there are several federal investigations into possible wrongdoing by a range of city officials and employees that began in February 2004.