Apparently unfazed, the San Diego County Democratic Party stood by Filner — right up until Thursday night, when four more women came forward accusing Filner of sexual advances. Three weeks after Filner admitted to sexually harassing and intimidating women, the central committee finally voted 34 to 6 to ask him to resign.
Though Filner’s conduct is only now becoming public, it seems to have been an open secret among local lawmakers. One former Democratic assemblywoman, Lori Saldaña, warned Democratic Party leaders as early as 2011 that Filner had physically and verbally harassed several prominent women in local politics when he was a U.S. Congressman. Party leaders apparently did nothing to investigate the charges. Instead, former Democratic Party Chairman Jess Durfee said he met with Filner in a restaurant to ask about the allegations before the party endorsed him. “He assured me there was nothing to be concerned about,” Durfee said.
So far, only one of the seven women who have accused Filner has filed a lawsuit. Most of these women allege Filner not only harassed them verbally but kissed them and groped them. One woman said the mayor “rammed his tongue down her throat,” while another said he ran his finger up her cheek and whispered, “Do you have a man in your life?”
If these stories are true, Filner may have committed misdemeanor sexual battery under California law, which is punishable by a fine up to $3,000 or a maximum six months in jail.
Filner has defended himself by claiming he’s simply “a hugger, of both men and women.”
DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz released a statement on Friday calling for Filner to resign: “The misconduct Mayor Bob Filner has been accused of is reprehensible and indefensible. I am personally offended by his actions and I firmly believe no employee should face a hostile environment or harassment at their place of employment. There is no place for this type of conduct in the workplace and certainly not in our city halls and public offices. For the good of the City of San Diego, I call on Mayor Filner to resign.”
In a Friday press conference, Filner re-affirmed that he will not step down, and instead will undergo two-week intensive behavioral counseling.