Four Mayoral Candidates Step In, But None Steps Up

by on April 20, 2012 · 7 comments

in Election, Labor, Politics, Popular, San Diego

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?

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Anna Daniels April 20, 2012 at 7:09 am

Andy- good summation of a policy-lite debate, which I watched online last night. Bonnie Dumanis is simply not ready for prime time. In her opening introduction to her “vision” she promised that she would “fix” our education system in her first term. She squandered her one minute intro on a function- the education system- over which our mayor has no direct control.
Carl DeMaio opened with his usual mantra- pensions, potholes & prosperity, but it was a risible moment when he whipped out the 240 page Roadmap to Prosperity and waved it in the air . It was an oddly “I got religion moment and so can you with this good book!”
Nathan Fletcher wanted to emphasize his “moderate” position, claiming that he is not far right or far left like two of the other candidates. I don’t know how someone who has signed the radical Grover Norquist no taxes, nowhere, nohow pledge can claim a “moderate” position with a straight face.
Bob Filner emphasized his long standing ties to San Diego as professor, school board member and city councilman as well as his congressional role. He wants us to know him by what he has accomplished.
Thirty second response limits don’t provide opportunities to get beyond the vague. Those limits do a disservice to the candidates and to us.


Andy Cohen April 20, 2012 at 8:08 am

I really felt like I wasted an hour of my time last night watching that thing. The only things that got further solidified in my mind were that Bonnie Dumanis is not fit for this office, and that Carl DeMaio would be an unmitigated DISASTER as Mayor of San Diego.

This race is really quite depressing to be honest.


Shane Finneran April 20, 2012 at 8:27 am

So sad to hear about DeMaio’s call for “Wisconsin West”… I was just in Wisconsin, where Governor Scott Walker’s politics have split the state into what many of both sides are calling a “civil war.”

With an expensive and distracting recall election looming, airwaves are filled with political ads. Yard signs are on display everywhere, roughly evenly split between “I stand with Scott Walker” and “Recall Walker now!” The tension and division in the air is as thick as a brick of Wisconsin cheese. And DeMaio wants to bring that here? No thanks, Carl.


Anna Daniels April 20, 2012 at 5:46 pm

I’ve been thinking about the debate throughout the day. I care about policy, so I tried to pick out the policy moments. There were two- one about the pension ballot initiative and the other is about the transfer of the convention center expansion tax increase to the hoteliers. These are both significant policy issues. Dumanis, DeMaio and Fletcher support the pension ballot initiative, Filner does not, preferring a bonding option. Dumanis, DeMaio and Fletcher support the recent transfer of the convention center expansion tax increase from the public sector to the private sphere. Filner disagrees, and maintains that the public is still at risk. Liam Dillon has done an exceptional job in vofsd covering the convention center issue. .
If the pension proposition passes it will be immediately challenged in court.
These are two policy issues worth following.


La Playa Heritage April 20, 2012 at 6:59 pm

Congressman Filner promised to end Homelessness in San Diego through the use of former Redevelopment Agency (RDA) Tax Increment (TI). In late December 2011, Congressman Bob Filner was on KUSI News in San Diego and was asked his view on Redevelopment’s death.

Congressman Filner talked about the repayment of misappropriated $150 million in Federal HUD Debt including CDBG and Section 108 loans siting in now the City of San Diego’s RDA bank account that could be used immediately for Veterans Homeless with the help and approval of the State of California.

Attached on Pages 3 and 4 please find a letter from Congressman Filner to Governor Brown requesting the misappropriated/stolen Federal HUD funds be return through an Accelerated Repayment Schedule specifically to end Homelessness amongst Veterans in San Diego.


Anna Daniels April 20, 2012 at 9:11 pm

Tip of the hat, La Playa- that is policy making- for homeless vets. And it addresses the issue in the context of the city’s fy’13 budget. What does Fletcher, the vet, have to offer?
“When Nathan Fletcher is mayor, he will view veteran homelessness as a countywide problem and an opportunity for regional leadership.” This is a direct quote from Nathan Fletcher’s website. Fletcher WILL do. Filner IS doing….


Andy Cohen April 20, 2012 at 9:47 pm

Actually, no……..his homeless program is a part of a program he helped to start in Congress. We’ll have more on that Monday……..Annie Lane and I sat down with Congressman Filner Friday Morning and had a very illuminating interview. We’ll shed some light on some of his proposals there.


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