Mayoral debate turns bitter

The five candidates for Mayor of San Diego met in debate at La Jolla High School, May 9, and, though the evening had several lighter moments, it was marked most conspicuously by the acrimony evidenced between the two leading candidates.

About 150 people gathered to hear the candidates at 6:30 p.m. on a Friday evening. Many of those present wore “Jerry, 08" buttons, in what appeared to be a well-organized effort by the Jerry Sanders campaign.

Steve Francis, the mayor’s chief rival, arrived only minutes before the debate. He and the mayor did not greet one another.

Joining Sanders and Francis on the dais were Floyd Morrow, Eric Bidwell and James Hart.

Morrow at one point complained that the media have paid too little attention to candidates other than Sanders and Francis.

No other candidate took up this argument, but Francis and Sanders both used the debate as an opportunity to attack one another, mostly ignoring the other candidates.

The evening brought a good number of laughs, with most of the best lines coming from the young, dreadlocked candidate Bidwell, who began his comments with an aside about “revolution.”

Bidwell nearly brought the house down with laughter after Francis and Sanders had answered a question about reaching out to youth with vague comments about getting young people more involved with business and police leaders.

Bidwell said he didn’t know what kids were like when Sanders and Francis were young, but that he didn’t think they would get excited about hanging out with “businessmen and cops.”

The first personal attack of the evening came from Sanders who accused Francis of changing his stances depending on which group he was speaking to. He also accused Francis of being insincere on environmental issues.

Francis responded with accusations that Sanders has failed to lead, reports each week to radio personality Rodger Hedgecock, and is too beholden to monied interests.

While the three “other” candidates continued to answer questions dutifully, Sanders and Francis repeatedly turned back to attacking one another.

Finally, boos from the audience brought the harsh banter to a halt, however. The evening, which had been plagued with microphone problems as well, ended with audience members asking questions from their seats.