To longtime San Diegans, the idea that Donna Frye might be elected mayor is akin to news that pigs will soon fly out of Shamu's ass. Forget hell freezing over. That went out the door when an ex-bodybuilder with only a fleeting grasp of English was elected governor.
The concept of a woman far too often referred to as a "surfer chick" taking over San Diego's leadership is wacko crazy-almost incomprehensible.
Historically, San Diego mayors are white-bread products of the establishment, renowned for their mediocre grasp of issues and poor choice in ties. In the realm of San Diego politics, Pete Wilson was a visionary and role model, even though he was considered a dangerous lightweight hack by the rest of the country.
Sure, two women won the mayoral throne, but Susan Golding and Maureen O'Connor were not "women candidates" so much as "very rich women candidates" who made it to the top the old fashioned way-by marrying money. O'Connor could barely hide her contempt for icky working people, while Golding was such a panting product of the big-money boys, it was almost possible to see the puppet strings when her arms moved.
The closest thing to a radical mayor in recent San Diego history was Roger Hedgecock, who, time has shown, was really just a knee-jerk Republican temporarily repressing his hatred of gays and environmentalists. Hedgecock was greedy and yearned to be accepted by the establishment, which led to his downfall and, hopefully, some serious psychotherapy.
Tossing aside the doomed bid by Peter Navarro, whose own baggage and ego ultimately sunk his ambition, San Diegans have never seen a viable candidate with such a clear opportunity to slap down the powers that be. Frye is remarkably baggage free, an actual citizen who never worked in public relations and will never be accused of using the City Council as a steppingstone.
Frye, 53, has made it clear she doesn't like the "surfer chick" label, which is understandable. "I'm not a barnyard animal," she told San Diego Magazine. "Should we call men in political races roosters?"
But she is what she is-a pure product of the surf culture and battler over clean water and out-of-control development. She doesn't look like a politician or act like a politician, a far cry from the warmed-over Republicans who try to pass themselves off as Democrats these days.
Some say Frye's ascendancy is part of a slow-evolving trend in San Diego toward progressive causes, perhaps a backlash to the blathering of the Hedgecocks of the world and the Christian right. Progressives always seem on the edge of taking over the Des Moines of the West. In fact, there have been rumblings of change for awhile now-a successful gay candidate here, a successful ballot measure there-but nothing to compared to the reality-tweaking, mind-screw represented in Frye's candidacy.
This is no lunatic gimmick campaign, no novelty act. She could actually win, no shit. It could be argued that Frye already should be mayor, after her write-in campaign beat both Dick Murphy and Ron Roberts, two entrenched standard bearers of San Diego's old guard.
Going into the July 26 special election, Frye, who will never have to deny that she smoked pot, is the clear frontrunner, despite the presence of two well-financed, talking-points-reciting, good ol' boys-former top cop Jerry Sanders and rich guy Steve Francis.
To this point, both Sanders and Francis have been extra careful not to insult or demean Frye in public, perhaps recognizing her extraordinary popularity. They've called her "intelligent" and praised her service to causes, but both emphasize their traditional backgrounds and ability to run the city like a business. They subtly mock her opposition role, saying its easy to be the underdog, even while they race to agree with her as often as possible, hoping to glom on to her street cred.
"The business community hasn't seen Donna Frye do anything except vote "no' on everything," Sanders sniffed to one reporter.
It now seems almost certain that Sanders and Francis will split the boring-white-guy vote, as both vie for the backing of the business community, with the unfortunately named Dick Rider, Harley Davidson dealership operator Myke Shelby and attorney Pat "I Know Bankruptcy" Shea pulling in minor shares. The only real question appears to be whether or not Frye can win the mayor's job outright, by taking more than 50 percent of the vote.
If not, she'll be forced into a Nov. 8 runoff with the second-place finisher, and all hell will break loose. If she doesn't win it all on July 26, Frye might as well paint a huge bull's eye on her skinny surfer-chick ass. Every trembling real-estate tycoon and Republican operative in North America will parachute into San Diego to work against her, uniting for whichever middle-aged white dude emerges as her challenger.
The business powers that have controlled San Diego for so many years aren't likely to simply hand over power to someone passionate about cleaning up water, opening government and protecting the rights of working people. They'll fight, and they won't hesitate to wallow in the mud to preserve their ability to build office towers and roller-coasters.
If nothing else, Frye's candidacy will offer San Diegans, once and for all, a clear choice between the good ol' boys and a real person, between the way it could be and the way it's always been.Write to MsBeak1@aol.com and editor@SD citybeat.com.