Democrat ‘Surfer Chick’ Has Another Shot at Becoming San Diego’s Mayor

It has been a long strange trip for Donna Frye, the Democrat who could become San Diego’s next mayor in a special election on July 26.

She is a former surf shop owner who became a political activist when her husband, surfing legend Skip Frye, and his friends mysteriously started becoming ill. They quickly began to suspect that the illnesses were caused by pollution dumped into the ocean by businesses onshore.

When she ran for city council, political experts wrote her off as a “surfer chick” – but she won.

Last year, she ran for mayor as a write-in candidate, launching her campaign less than five weeks before election day, and nearly beat Mayor Dick Murphy, a Republican. Now Murphy has resigned because of a scandal and Frye is running for his seat and, as the only Democrat in the race, appears to have the best shot at winning:

As the lone Democrat… Frye is guaranteed 30 to 40 percent of the vote, said pollster John Nienstedt of Competitive Edge Research — enough to advance to an expected Nov. 8 runoff against the other top vote-getter.

Only a “cataclysmic” development would keep her out, according to Nienstedt. Her Republican challengers include a former police chief, a Harley-Davidson dealer, a bankruptcy attorney and the founder of a hospital staffing company.

San Diego County is home to thousands of military personnel, which is the main reason it remains the last solid red bastion among the counties that abut the California coast. But now, following the statewide trend, after years of mismanagement, Republicans have left the city financially crippled, and the San Diego GOP is mired in scandal and disarray:

The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating city finances and allegations of securities fraud.

The U.S. attorney and the FBI are conducting a criminal investigation into possible public corruption.

Wall Street rating firms have repeatedly downgraded the city’s bond rating.

A Sept. 7, 2004, New York Times headline on a story on San Diego’s financial woes dubbed the city “Enron by the Sea.”

In addition, two GOP members of the city council are currently in federal lock up for accepting illegal campaign money from a Las Vegas strip club owner. And prosecutors are investigating the city’s pension fund, which a $1.37 billion deficit.

In her years on the city council, Frye has established a reputation for fair play and honesty. It appears likely that a majority of San Diego voters believe she would tackle the city’s problems head on, if she’s elected.

Her political philosopy: “It’s not just about open government. It’s about open hearts and it’s about open minds. It’s about caring about one another and treating each other with courtesy and respect.”


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