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Filner, DeMaio Debate Border Issues, Immigration

— San Diego’s two mayoral candidates faced off in a debate Thursday evening at The Institute of the Americas at UC San Diego.

Special Feature San Diego Mayor's Race

San Diego’s two mayoral candidates will face off in a debate this evening at The Institute of the Americas at UC San Diego.

This is the second time Republican Carl DeMaio and Democrat Bob Filner have debated since both made it past the primary last June.

The candidates are seen as being on the more extreme ends of their parties. But as the general election draws closer, they’re each expected to make a pitch to more moderate voters. On Thursday, the candidates focused on border issues, from how long border crossing times impact businesses to whether they would support a bi-national summer Olympics held in San Diego and Tijuana.

Filner tried to emphasize what he’s done to improve the border region while he’s been in Congress. He pointed out the he is co-chair of the Border Caucus in Congress and has secured money for state Route 905, which connects Otay Mesa and San Yisdro. He also spoke of the need to shorten wait times at the border.

But DeMaio was unimpressed with Filner's resume. He said Filner had plenty of time to fix the problem of long border crossing times while he was in Congress and questioned whether he’d be able to resolve the problem as mayor.

"The reality is clear, the wait times are absolutely unacceptable for a regional economy. Two hours is unacceptable," DeMaio said. "And you have failed in Washington to lead a coalition to get the investments and results that taxpayers deserve."

DeMaio hammered away at that point, while Filner maintained no one in Congress has made more progress in improving relations between Mexico and the U.S. than he has. He also criticized DeMaio for acting interested in Mexico now that he's running for mayor, but said DeMaio hasn't shown any interest during his four years on the City Council. He joked DeMaio had "just discovered the word Mexico."

When an audience member asked how many times each visited Mexico this year, DeMaio admitted he hadn't crossed the border in 2012, though he's planning a diplomatic trip later this month. Filner said he's been several times this year.

Filner also repeatedly tried to link DeMaio to the radical wing of the Republican Party.

"Carl, you can not disown your party. They have enveloped you, they have taken you over, you have worked them over every inch," he said. "They are a party that does not believe that the people of color in this nation deserve an equal chance, they do not believe that Mexico is worthy of respect as a nation."

DeMaio dismissed Filner's criticisms, saying he has supported successful ballot initiatives that drew a wide range of support from voters across the political spectrum, including Hispanic voters.

Both tried to paint the other as the more divisive candidate. At one point they got into an exchange about how many Hispanic employees each had on their staffs.

One point they did agree on was that both would love to see a bi-national summer Olympics held in Tijuana and San Diego.

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