Candidates hit stock themes in first mayoral debate


City News Service

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The four major San Diego mayoral candidates stuck to familiar campaign themes today in a debate at the KPBS studios -- the first to be broadcast to a wide audience.

City Councilman Carl DeMaio, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, Rep. Bob Filner, D-San Diego, and Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher took questions from a panel that included Union-Tribune reporter Craig Gustafson, KGTV anchor Kimberly Hunt and KPBS reporter Katie Orr.

In their opening and closing statements, the candidates delivered the messages that have defined their campaigns to this point.

“I’m running for mayor because its time to finish the job of fiscal reform and get back what we’ve lost over the past decade -- our road repairs, our neighborhood services,” said DeMaio, who has consistently led the polls. He positioned himself as someone who has stood up to City Hall insiders over the years.

Dumanis touted her experience as a chief executive of a major agency making tough decisions.

“We’re at a critical moment, right now, in our city’s history,” Dumanis said. “This office is too important to trust to someone whose never made the kind of decisions that I have.”

Filner said he would fight for neighborhoods and middle-class residents.

“You’ve got to represent all the neighborhoods, you have to give all the people in this city economic and political power,” Filner said. Too few people have been involved in making important decisions at City Hall, he said.

Fletcher, who recently left the Republican Party to become an independent, said he would bring a new voice to city leadership.

“I believe to advance where we want to go to become the world’s most innovative city, to rebuild our economy, our education system and our city, it’s going to take something new,” Fletcher said.

The discourse was civil, for the most part. Sparks threatened to fly when DeMaio asked Fletcher if he was under investigation by the city’s Ethics Commission.

“Yeah, as usual Carl, your facts are off, we’re not under any investigation by the Ethics Commission,” Fletcher said. He said it was ironic that DeMaio would ask the question, and levied an oft-repeated charge that the councilman tried to defund the panel after he was fined.

DeMaio earlier contended that Fletcher was running a “negative campaign.” Dumanis pressed Filner for proof that his pension reform plan would save the city money, since he opposes Proposition B -- a citizen’s initiative to restructure the retirement system for municipal employees.

Filner said the proposition was “a fraud” that won’t save money. He said he would negotiate a five-year deal with the city’s unions, stop six- figure pensions, refinance debt in the pension system,

The debate will air on KPBS-TV at 6 p.m. and KGTV at 7 p.m. The candidates will gather for a forum at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law on Friday, and hold another televised debate Monday at NBC7/39.

If no one wins a majority vote in the June 5 primary, the top two vote- getters will square-off in November.