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San Diego mayor accused of sexual harassment faces recall campaign

San Diego mayor Bob Filner speaks at a news conference in San Diego, California July 26, 2013. REUTERS/Fred Greaves
San Diego mayor Bob Filner speaks at a news conference in San Diego, California July 26, 2013. REUTERS/Fred Greaves

By Marty Graham

SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - San Diego's embattled mayor, facing sexual harassment allegations from a string of women, was dealt a setback on Friday when a liberal Democrat and a Republican businessman joined forces in a campaign to force a recall election.

Bob Filner, the 70-year-old Democratic mayor of California's second-largest city, has faced mounting pressure to resign over a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against him last month by his former press secretary, who accused him of telling her she would work better without panties.

Since then, eight other women have come forward to publicly accuse Filner of making unwanted sexual advances. Filner has refused to step aside but has promised to attend two weeks of behavioral therapy beginning on Monday, while staying involved in running the city.

On Friday, Republican Michael Pallamary, a professional land surveyor from the wealthy San Diego neighborhood of La Jolla, and Democrat Stampp Corbin, the gay African-American publisher of the San Diego LGBT Weekly, agreed to team up on a recall effort to force Filner from office.

Unlikely bedfellows, the duo had launched separate recall efforts last month before agreeing to join forces in a signature gathering drive to force a recall election.

"We are all united to let the citizens decide," Corbin told reporters in a news conference. The recall effort, under city rules, requires signatures of more than 101,000 voters to qualify for the ballot.

Corbin has cited the sexual harassment accusations against Filner as the reason for the recall, while Pallamary has listed other grievances against the mayor, including the alienation of other city officials.

In a Survey USA poll released last week by the San Diego Union-Tribune and local station KGTV, 69 percent of 700 city residents polled said Filner should resign. The poll had a margin of error of 3.5 to 4.3 percentage points.

Pallamary and Corbin said they plan to start collecting signatures on August 15. They will have to turn in the signatures 39 days later but can ask for a 30-day extension.

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein has called on Filner, who served 20 years in Congress before he won election as San Diego mayor last year, to resign.

In another challenge for Filner, a ninth person came forward this week to accuse Filner of impropriety. Entertainer Emily Gilbert told San Diego Fox affiliate KSWB on Thursday that she had an unpleasant encounter with the mayor at a fundraiser where she was invited to sing days after he took office last year.

"He grabbed me a little too tight, then proceeded to slide his hand down my arm and then did a little grab on my derriere," Gilbert told the station.

A spokeswoman for Filner did not return calls seeking comment.

(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Lisa Shumaker)

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