Aug. 18, 2013— -- A petition drive to recall San Diego Mayor Bob Filner got underway today, trying to oust the man who has been accused of sexual harassment by 16 women.
The mayor's opponents turned out all over the city, including at a local marathon, trying to get the nearly 102,000 signatures they need to collect by Sept. 26 to get the issue on the ballot.
Rachel Laing, a political consultant turned Filner recall worker, said a small army of volunteers was ready to begin circulating a recall petition against the mayor.
"The groundswell to get this guy out of office is incredible," Laing said.
"I've never seen such a huge number of volunteers and such enthusiasm," she said. "Eight hundred volunteers signed up in the past week. It's enormous."
In addition to canvassing runners and spectators at the America's Finest City Half Marathon at Balboa Park, recall supporters planned an afternoon volunteer orientation and kickoff event in Mission Valley, and at a 2 p.m. "Freedom from Filner March and Rally" at City Hall, ABC affiliate KGTV in San Diego reported.
In a homage to "The Wizard Of Oz," five sky-writing planes could be seen over San Diego City Hall and two other locations Friday, with the message: "Surrender Bob." The stunt was sponsored by a local radio station.
All nine members of the city council, as well as many state and federal elected officials have urged Filner, the city's first Democratic mayor in two decades, to step down.
Filner, 70, has admitted "harming women" but said nothing about resigning.
He submitted a written statement to the city clerk's office last week in response to the recall effort, but said nothing in it about the allegations against him.
Instead, he listed what he sees as his accomplishments during his time in office, concluding: "As your Mayor, I am committed to moving San Diego forward!"
Since the response was filed, Filner, who was elected in November, has not been seen and he has not had a public appearance since the last week of July.
He said last month that he would enter a two-week therapy program from Aug. 5 to 19, but ABC News Los Angeles station KABC reported that he finished a week early. The session was reportedly intended to help him learn to treat women with respect.
Among the 16 women who have publicly accused Filner of making unwanted sexual advances, three were city employees, and one was a 67-year-old grandmother.
Ex-mayoral Communications Director Irene McCormack Jackson, who is one of the women, has sued Filner and the city.