SAN DIEGO -
Mayor Jerry Sanders endorsed Councilman Carl DeMaio Tuesday to be his successor over Rep. Bob Filner, D-San Diego.
Sanders called DeMaio the best choice to continue the city's efforts to overhaul its finances.
The mayoral election "can either strengthen our city, or it could destabilize us, for years, maybe for decades to come," Sanders said.
He downplayed past disagreements with DeMaio, whom he has criticized frequently in the past. He said the two were always rowing in the same boat, but sometimes wanted to go in different directions.
"Only one candidate is committed to the reform agenda that ended our structural deficit and has made our pension system a leader in the nation," Sanders said of DeMaio. "Only one candidate understands how to work with the private sector to improve the region's economy and put people back to work."
The councilman also had detailed knowledge of how the city works and the focus to sustain himself during difficult times, according to Sanders.
"I am absolutely humbled and appreciative that Mayor Sanders is supporting my candidacy," DeMaio said.
To some, Sanders' positive words about DeMaio may seem like a 180-degree turn, considering what he said just four months ago about DeMaio taking credit for financial reforms.
In May, Sanders said of DeMaio, "He probably takes credit for my weight loss. He probably takes credit for the weeds I pulled in the backyard last week. It's all bull (expletive)."
Sanders said his endorsement doesn't mean they have to be best buddies, but that they have mutual respect and a like-mind on reform.
"It would have been easier by all accounts to stay out of this race, but I don't think that's responsible and I didn't feel comfortable about doing that," explained Sanders.
Political analyst Carl Luna said this endorsement is surprising.
"Carl DeMaio's kind of like the son-in-law that Jerry Sanders didn't want to have, but to keep peace in the family he's got to welcome him into the fold," Luna said.
How big a boost is the mayor's endorsement for Carl DeMaio?
"It'll help, but it's probably not enough in and of its own right," said Luna.
DeMaio clearly appreciates the mayor's endorsement.
"I think he's done a great job," said DeMaio. "That's the same sort of leadership that I intend to emulate in my administration."
It was the second major endorsement in the race this week. On Monday, Sen. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, announced he is backing Filner.
Vargas lost to Filner in previous congressional campaign primaries, and is seeking the seat again now that it is being vacated.
In response to Sanders' endorsement of DeMaio, Filner issued this statement:
"It's unfortunate Jerry Sanders was put in the position of endorsing a person for whom he clearly has so little respect. It shows how much pressure he has been under from special interest supporters in the Republican Party and in the construction industry.
A poll released today indicates my message of putting neighborhoods first, not special interests, is resonating with San Diego voters, and may have been the catalyst for today's announcement. This endorsement clarifies that choice. With DeMaio they get special interest control of the Mayor's office. With me, they get a fresh start toward cooperation and progress."
Sanders countered that sentiment, saying he makes his own decisions.
"The Republican Party's not always happy with me," he said referring to coming out in support of gay marriage. "I'm doing what I think is right."
According to a new 10News Poll released Tuesday, Filner would defeat DeMaio if the election were to be held on Sept. 25.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. City News Service contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.