Thursday’s San Diego mayoral debate more notable for the contrast in philosophies than for anything any of the candidates said.
The four major mayoral candidates took to their respective podiums again in a debate televised by KGTV Channel 10 and sponsored by the UT San Diego and KPBS. Unlike the previous forum which focused exclusively on education in San Diego, this time there were no topics left off limits. No candidate gave any answers of real substance in their responses to questions, relying instead on vague political generalities. Perhaps such a criticism is unfair given the time constraints placed on their answers to the questions posed, but in a major political debate we should expect more.
In a campaign in which the only truly noteworthy event has been the defection of one of the major candidates from the Republican Party to run as an Independent (although the mayor’s race is officially non-partisan), this forum served as little more than a further delineation of the already known. No one particularly separated themselves from the pack, yet in this writer’s opinion two candidates proved themselves pretenders to the throne.
Here’s what we know: We have one extreme right wing candidate who hates working people; seems to believe that anyone who is not a big corporate exec is lazy and cannot be trusted. This man doesn’t want to work with anybody, he wants to be in charge. It’s the power of the office that he finds attractive, and he has no answers for what ails this city. Sure, he’s got a pretty 240 page booklet and a very targeted message. But his policies are centered on getting rid of the public sector virtually in its entirety and privatizing everything, including handing over tax revenues to private enterprise in order to run a public asset in the Convention Center. Carl DeMaio believes that if only we could get rid of those damn unions all would be right with the world and the economy.
Unions and working people are the very bane of Carl DeMaio’s existence, and that includes police and firefighters’ unions. “Wisconsin of the West” is his motto, as if Wisconsin is such a settled and happy place right now. Mr. DeMaio says he won’t be beholden to anybody……..except for the moneyed corporate special interests–just look at his Convention Center expansion plan. But certainly not the unions. This is a man who seems to truly hate government, but yet is so eager to run the government.
We have another candidate who claims that her executive experience in the public sector sets her apart from all the others, but when asked specific policy questions seems to have no answers. Bonnie Dumanis has given us no reason to expect that she’d be capable of handling the job of Mayor of San Diego any better than the other former Superior Court judge that previously held the office and who resigned because it was just too much for him to handle. She speaks in broad brush strokes and seems to have a very tenuous grasp of the problems facing everyday San Diegans with not a clue how to solve them.
We have a third candidate who says his military leadership experience is the main reason he should be elected Mayor. It’s a mantra that didn’t work for John McCain, and it won’t work for Nathan Fletcher. I have no doubt that Mr. Fletcher had an exemplary military career, and he is to be respected for his service. But there must be more. It can’t be the primary basis for a political candidacy, particularly for a position as important as this. Now, there is something to be said for his assertion that we are in need of a new face; a fresh perspective. And it’s difficult not to be impressed with the way he carries himself. At least he says that he’s open to ideas from all sides. “It shouldn’t matter where an idea came from if it’s a good idea.” He’s right.
Fletcher is a moderate that has great appeal to centrists, and yet his policies still tend to be too right wing. But still………one can’t help but wonder whether his defection from the Republican Party was truly a decision made because of a difference in ideology or out of political expedience. Does he honestly not believe in what the Republican Party has come to stand for anymore, or was this move merely a parlor trick to gin up some attention and gain a boost in the polls? He says he has no plans to run for future office and run back to the Republicans. It’s hard to imagine them welcoming him back.
Our fourth candidate to this point in the campaign has offered us precious little in the way of policy ideas, instead relying on his name recognition, his long and distinguished service in Congress, his record as president of the San Diego school board, and a stint on the City Council to get him through to the general election. As the lone Democrat in the race, Bob Filner offers a stark contrast to the heavily Republican field. He’s the only candidate that believes that unions have something to offer and can be dealt with in a fair and honest manner. But will he give up too much to the union negotiators, or will he be able to extract the necessary concessions to make the city run the way it’s supposed to and yet not go bankrupt? Will his pension plan hold up to scrutiny, and will the unions work with him to implement it? Filner was a bit testy during this debate, and it will be interesting to see how that plays out with the voting public.
None of the four candidates participating in the debate last night did anything to distinguish themselves as most qualified. But after hearing her at two debates now, I have a really hard time taking Bonnie Dumanis seriously as a mayoral candidate. She seems truly out of her element. And Carl DeMaio…….he’s just plain mean. Nothing but contempt for the people who would elect him dripping from every word out of his mouth. Addition by destruction is his methodology. But hey, at least he acknowledged the city’s aging sewer system that needs to be replaced. I just wonder which corporation he’s going to get to pay for it? He despises government far too much to be trusted to run it.
Which leaves us with Nathan Fletcher and Bob Filner as the only two candidates worth considering. They’re the only two who seem to respect the people they’re trying to impress: The voters. The difference is going to come down to which philosophy San Diegans trust the most: Lower taxes for private enterprise or public investment for the greater good. And honestly, on a national scale, we’ve tried the “feed the rich” strategy. It hasn’t worked there, so why should it work for San Diego?