SAN DIEGO - The effort to recall embattled San Diego Mayor Bob Filner officially kicked off Sunday, as petitions were circulated at midnight and volunteers worked at three daytime civic events, capped by a Freedom From
Filner rally attended by more than 300 supporters in front of City Hall.
Signature gatherers went to the America's Finest City Half Marathon at Balboa Park, as well as at an afternoon volunteer orientation and kickoff event at the Town & Country Hotel in Mission Valley.
The vocal crowd of supporters, many wearing blue T-shirts saying "Please Resign Mayor Filner," stood in front of the Civic Center and listened to grass-roots leaders calling for the mayor to "resign or be recalled."
"We are here today to have our voice heard," said anti-Filner rally spokeswoman Kathryn Vaughn, a San Diego attorney and workshop leader on sexual harassment in the workplace. "Our message is clear. We the people and the citizens of future generations want a leader who has honor, dignity and respect for all people. We stand united."
Promising her group will be relentless, Vaughn said "We will work every hour of every day until you (Filner) step down."
Referring to the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous "I have a dream speech," Los Angeles-based attorney Gloria Allred, representing Filner's former communications director, the first woman to come forward with sexual harassment allegations against him, said "I often have a dream of gender
equality. I dream that our daughters and granddaughters, our mother and our sisters, will all be treated with dignity and respect."
John Cox from Rancho Santa Fe told the crowd the Filner recall also was about reforming the political system.
"We should be electing our candidates in our neighborhoods, not through our campaign funders," Cox said.
Delores Chavez spoke of the courage of the women, 16 of whom have thus far come forward to accuse Filner of inappropriate sexual advances.
"The most important thing is their courage, their conviction to stand by their principles and not be overwhelmed by their fear of the consequences," Chavez said. "When many would have watered down their stance -- they held firm."
The recall drive needs to turn in at least 102,000 valid signatures by Sept. 26 to qualify for the ballot.
Earlier Sunday, Filner Recall organizer Michael Pallamary said there are exactly 39 days for the recall to qualify for the ballot. He said more than 800 San Diegans have signed up as volunteers to collect signatures or manage other aspects of the volunteer effort.
Discussing his motivation for organizing the Filner Recall drive, Pallamary said, "I have a 10-year-old granddaughter who is waking up every day and hearing these lurid accusations and stories. We need to stop this. We need to take it off televisions and out of the newspapers. My granddaughter needs to
be empowered, and to know that this kind of behavior is not acceptable."
Recall spokeswoman Rachel Laing said she was not surprised that Filner was attempting to stay in office despite widespread efforts to either coax him to resign or oust him from power.
"Based on everything we know about him, he has no shame," Laing said. "He seems to enjoy conflict and anything that gives him a sense of power. The fact he has this sociopathic tendency makes it obvious why he's not stepping down."
Laing -- who worked for Filner's mayoral predecessor, Jerry Sanders -- said she supported and voted for Filner during his 2012 candidacy, something she now heartily regrets.
"If people knew what he was like, they never would have voted for him," Laing said. "I thought I voted for someone who stuck up for the little people, the voiceless and the powerless. Instead, it turned out he was using his power to prey on people. I, like a lot of people, feel betrayed by him."
Filner has apologized for mistreating women but contends his actions don't rise to the level of sexual harassment. He is also accused of shaking down developers for donations and misusing his city-issued credit card.
More information is at the website www.RecallBobFilner.com. There is also a Facebook page at Facebook.com/RecallBob Filner."