Francis Congratulates Sanders On Election Win

Steve Francis, the well-heeled challenger who failed in his bid to unseat Jerry Sanders as mayor of San Diego, said Wednesday he talked to the victor of Tuesday's election and offered congratulation.

Sanders won 53.9 percent of the vote compared to 35.1 percent for Francis. Three minor candidates split the remainder.

"I believe that we successfully drew attention to serious issues, and I hope that the dialogue on these issues will continue," Francis said in a statement E-mailed to the media. "I am optimistic and confident that the mayor and the new city council will begin to address the challenges that still face our city. I pledge to continue my efforts to help unite San Diego and make our community a better place to live."

Francis also thanked his wife and family, campaign workers and volunteers. The founder of Carmel Valley-based AMN Healthcare spent $4 million of his own money in the campaign, his second to end in a loss to Sanders.

The mayor declared victory late last night, chiding Francis for running a "negative" and "deceptive" campaign.

"(Tuesday) evening the voters of our city have bestowed on me a great honor by giving me the privilege to serve as your mayor for another four years so that we can continue down the road to recovery," Sanders told his supporters at a campaign party at the Westgate Hotel.

Sanders, joined by his wife and two daughters, thanked San Diegans and campaign volunteers.

He pledged to continue his efforts to enact changes at City Hall, including implementing further financial controls and continue making improvements to the water and sewer infrastructure.

"This is a great night for San Diego, now it is time to get back to work," Sanders said.

The mayor chastised Francis for conducting "one of the most negative and deceptive campaigns."

When asked what he plans to do after his next four years as mayor of San Diego, Sanders joked that "in four years I'll be at Home Depot watering the plants."

Francis chided Sanders for being part of the "establishment."

"There is an establishment in San Diego and it is hard to break through," he said. "It took someone such as myself to get the message across. It's not just doing TV commercials."

In terms of finances, the race was a David-and-Goliath battle, with Francis spending money earned as the head of the largest medical staffing company in the country.

The one-time Republican touted himself as "An Independent Mayor For A Change," pledging to eliminate special interests, cut waste, end "back door" tax increases and protect the environment.

Sanders, a former San Diego Police Department chief, had a war chest of about $426,000.

Sanders had labeled Francis a "world-class hypocrite" for reversing course on a number of positions from his time as a former Nevada legislator and during a failed mayoral bid three years ago.

The campaign turned testy during an Earth Day debate in Balboa Park when Sanders refused to shake Francis' hand and was heard uttering an expletive.

Francis accused Sanders of pandering to developers, failing to resolve San Diego's financial problems and not doing enough to bolster public safety and fix the city's roadways.

Sanders defeated Francis in the 2005 to replace Dick Murphy, who resigned amid criticism of his handling of the city's fiscal problems.

When Sanders took office, the city's pension system was looking at more than $1 billion in unfunded obligations. The city also was facing a credit rating crisis, and investigations into the city's financial disclosure practices were under way.

Despite slow progress, Sanders has made some headway in stabilizing San Diego's fiscal situation.

Sanders has proposed reducing the city's workforce and has nearly completed an overhaul of most city departments.

The city is nearly caught up on late audits of its financial statements and Standard & Poor's recently restored San Diego's credit rating, clearing the way for public bond offerings.

Also on the ballot were Eric Bidwell, a freelance graphic designer; James Hart, an environmentalist; and Floyd Morrow, who was on the San Diego City Council in the 1970s. Collectively they garnered about 11 percent of the overall vote.

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