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JIC post:By Randy DotingaPlanetOut NetworkSAN DIEGO -- It took the resignation of one mayor and the extortion conviction of his replacement for openly gay San Diego Councilwoman Toni Atkins to ascend to the top spot in the nation's seventh-largest city. But the fact that she landed the position is what's important to LGBT political groups, who finally -- if temporarily -- have a big-city mayor to call their own.The results of Tuesday's municipal election guaranteed that Atkins will serve as appointed acting mayor until December, following a November run-off between the two top vote-getters in the mayoral race. Until the end of the year, San Diego will be the largest American city with an openly gay mayor."The more our members hear about it, the more they get excited about Toni Atkins leading San Diego during this period," said John Marble, spokesman for the National Stonewall Democrats, which counts Atkins as a member. "It helps demonstrate to Americans how their LGBT neighbors are a part of their life."According to gay political groups, the largest U.S. city with an openly gay mayor had been Providence, R.I., whose population of 174,000 is dwarfed by San Diego's 1.2 million. According to the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund (GLVF), gay mayors serve in more than a dozen other cities, including Palm Springs, Calif.; Casper, Wyo.; Northampton, Mass.; and Key Biscayne, Fla. The mayor of Spokane, Wash., with a population of 195,000, was forced out of the closet by a recent sex scandal.Atkins' sexual orientation got little play in the media coverage of her rise to the mayorship last week after former Mayor Dick Murphy resigned in disgrace in the midst of a pension fund scandal, and his replacement, Councilman Michael Zucchet, was convicted in a wide-ranging City Hall scandal involving bribes by strip clubs."Americans are more concerned with the quality of their governments than the sexual orientation of elected officials," said Dave DeCicco, spokesman for the GLVF.San Diego, which calls itself "America's Finest City," has bigger issues to talk about -- from its financial meltdown, caused by a massive giveaway of pension funds to city employees, to a slew of federal and local investigations. Some observers predict the city will have to consider bankruptcy, a prospect Atkins hopes to avoid."I know she has her hands full," Marble said.While her dedication to open government has drawn raves, Atkins has drawn fire from citizens angry about her decisions regarding issues ranging from budget cutbacks to employee pensions to a new downtown library.In Tuesday's election, maverick liberal Democrat councilwoman Donna Frye -- a self-described "surfer chick" who hasn't always allied herself with Atkins -- came in first but failed to get the required majority vote to avoid a run-off against the second leading candidate: former police chief Jerry Sanders.A Democrat, Atkins has served on the City Council since 2000, when she replaced another lesbian, Christine Kehoe, who went on to the California Legislature. Atkins represents much of the older urban core of San Diego, including several neighborhoods with significant LGBT populations.
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