Dick Murphy / San Diego

When he was elected mayor in 2000, Dick Murphy thought he had his hands full dealing with a troubled ballpark project and sewer spills that were shutting down San Diego's beaches. But then Murphy, 62, a state superior court judge, became embroiled in an even bigger mess: a $1.35 billion deficit at the city's public-employee pension fund. The crisis has so discredited him, he almost lost his job last November to Donna Frye, a last-minute write-in candidate who runs a surf shop. She actually won more votes, but some 5,500 people who wrote in her name failed to shade in an...

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