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Bonnie Dumanis Says She’ll Offer Leadership On Issues Facing San Diego

KPBS Special Series: The Race For San Diego Mayor

Evening Edition

Aired 3/7/12 on KPBS News.

Long time District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis wants to be the next mayor of San Diego. She’s stressing her decades of experience working in San Diego. But her history may present some challenges as well.

The Race For San Diego Mayor

Meet The Candidates

— As San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis strolled through Little Italy with her dog Abby trotting beside her, it was easy to see she feels at home in the neighborhood and the neighborhood seems to embrace her as well. Shop owners and people on street shouted hello and gave Dumanis hugs.

Dumanis said she and her wife Denise often walk Abby through the historic Italian neighborhood. She likes that it’s easy to walk to places in Little Italy and she enjoys the many restaurants and dog-friendly atmosphere the area provides. Dumanis has lived all over San Diego, from the College Area, to Mission Valley to Rolando. She said her nearly 40 years in the city set her apart from her three main competitors.

"It’s different than someone who comes in once a weekend from Washington or Sacramento or who just came several years ago," she said. "So, I think I have a depth and breadth of experience, which no one else has, which gives me, I think, the relationships to get things done."

One of Dumanis’ priorities as mayor would be to restructure the make-up of the San Diego School Board. That would include adding four board members, who would be appointed by the mayor, and creating an independent financial oversight board. A similar measure to expand the school board failed to get enough signatures to qualify for the June ballot. But Dumanis said education reform is important, because a district on the brink of insolvency hurts the entire city.

"Education is at the core of everything we do in San Diego. And I have seen it as the district attorney," she said. "If you don’t invest in your education system early on, we pay for it in many ways at the other end."

Dumanis has been San Diego’s district attorney since 2003. She’s widely regarded as one of the most powerful politicians in the county. She cites experience running the DA’s office as one of her strongest qualifications for mayor. But Dumanis has also drawn fierce criticism for some of her decisions.

For instance, her office declined to file charges against Armando Perez after he was arrested for allegedly kidnapping and assaulting his estranged wife, Diana Gonzalez. Dumanis said there was not enough evidence to prosecute the case. A few weeks later Perez allegedly stabbed Gonzalez to death in a bathroom at San Diego City College. He was recently arrested in Mexico. Dumanis said her office has since established a high-risk team to work on cases like Gonzalez’s. But she said it’s her job to make tough decisions, even if the public doesn’t always understand them.

"Our office is charged with a duty. And that duty is to not file criminal cases unless we can prove them beyond a reasonable doubt. And where we can’t, again, the buck stops with me," she said. "And our attorneys make those decisions based on the information they have, the evidence they have at hand."

Dumanis said she’s happy to be held accountable for her decisions. And she said she has a proven track record of doing the right thing, not just trying to please people.

If elected, Dumanis plans to reorganize how the city’s run, fix the city’s infrastructure and work with city unions to help restore their pride in working for San Diego. But she might face an uphill battle. Dumanis, like the other two Republicans in the race, supports the pension reform initiative that would replace pensions with 401(k)-style plans for most new hires. She said it’s a necessary step.

"Our pensions right now are unaffordable, unsustainable. We have got to do something about that. If we don’t we cannot reach fiscal stability," she said. "But the important part is implementation. You need someone who has a history of implementing that can get real results and save real money."

An estimate last year by put Dumanis’ annual county pension at more than $200,000. Dumanis said she will not enroll in the city pension system and will donate her mayoral salary to educational programs.

But while her tenure has inspired controversy for some, it has also earned her respect with others, including possible voters. While walking in Little Italy, a man stopped Dumanis to tell her his son is a deputy DA in Well County, Colo.

"He's putting the bad guys away," the man told her.

"All right!" Dumanis replied before continuing on.

It’s that kind of enthusiasm Dumanis is hoping voters bring to the polls as she seeks to make her next mark on San Diego.

Full interview below:

Evening Edition

Video by Nicholas McVicker

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | March 5, 2012 at 10:50 a.m. ― 5 years ago

DA Dumanis Declined To Charge Officer For Molesting Motorists ...

<p> › News › 2011 › June › 24th

Jun 24, 2011 – One of the highest profile cases involves Officer Anthony Arevalos. ... But Voice of San Diego reporter Keegan Kyle reports that Arevalos could have been off ... Dumanis, who is running for mayor, would not discuss her decision not to ... So also refused to prosecute Burt Hulbert for beating up a 17 year old

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Avatar for user 'Satariel'

Satariel | March 5, 2012 at 12:28 p.m. ― 5 years ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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Avatar for user 'dialyn'

dialyn | March 7, 2012 at 8:39 a.m. ― 5 years ago

It would be great to have a candidate who wouldn't be making plans for running for another office as soon as he or she becomes mayor, but I also would like a candidate who focuses first on the problems in the City instead of taking on other people's problems (the school district) as an added load of responsibility. Yes, education is important, but there are other issues that need to be addressed that will go begging as the candidates pander to one issue voters.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | March 7, 2012 at 11:26 a.m. ― 5 years ago

So far I have seen Dumanis, DirtyCarl, and N. Fletcher give their underwhelming pitches to KPBS as to why they should lead our city.

I am anxiously awaiting Filner (hope I didn't miss that one?), and I really hope he has some vision and enthusiasm because the the three mentioned above we're tired in both their ideas and in the way they talk about their visions for the city's future.

I wouldn't vote for Dumanis ever again (yes, I was duped when she first ran for DA) based on her very, very poor record as DA here.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | March 7, 2012 at 11:57 a.m. ― 5 years ago

Let me know when you finish mulling over whether to prosecute the three fire fighters for assault and robbery, Bonnie D.

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Avatar for user 'Nic McVicker'

Nic McVicker, KPBS Staff | March 7, 2012 at 3:52 p.m. ― 5 years ago

@Pekin_Duck_SD I just posted the TV story for Filner, and the radio story will be posted tomorrow morning.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | March 7, 2012 at 6:19 p.m. ― 5 years ago

Thanks, I will watch with enthusiasm! I am a Filner supporter but have been dismayed with his seemingly nonchalant attitude towards running.

I really hope he organizes, focuses, humbles himself a bit, and hits the pavement because the alternatives to Mr. Filner are pretty dreadful.

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Avatar for user 'evavrgs'

evavrgs | March 10, 2012 at 12:33 p.m. ― 5 years ago

We met with B. Dumanis and she was a little removed from us to say the least damaging thing about her. I didn't find her personable, but distant. She has her CLASS of people and I have mine, and I better stay with mine.

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Avatar for user 'Davewayoutwest'

Davewayoutwest | March 11, 2012 at 1:15 p.m. ― 5 years ago

Trust, and ethical behavior, are both prominent characteristics claimed by Ms. Dumanis. Voters deserve information in that regard. Although I am not a city resident, I did work for Bonnie Dumanis while she was a judge in Superior Court. She will remember me, and this incident. For reasons not clear, while presiding over Drug Court,she leveled charges against me including "poor performance," and "not a team player," etc. When my supervisor told me Judge Dumanis had leveled these "charges" against me, I told her the complaint was trumped up, demonstrably false, and that I would fight them, providing evidence and witnesses as to the truth of my position. Hours later, my supervisor (who can confirm this narrative) approached me and said Judge Dumanis said she now would withdraw the complaint if I would agree to not work in her court. I know I should have insisted on a hearing as this was an obvious ethics violation on the Judge's part that should never be tolerated. One doesn't expect a sitting judge who has taken an oath to violate that oath in such a cavalier manner, and, in addition, had this "railroad" attempt succeeded, I could have been severely reprimanded or lost my job. Instead, I did return to Felony Presiding where I worked 12 more years and last year won an ABCD award for performance Above and Beyond the Call of Duty. In my experience working for her, Bonnie Dumanis will do what it takes to get what she wants, and will not let something like professional behavior, or ethics, get in her way.
Unfortunately, as D.A., her deputies often reflected this same attitude. Case #SCD274694 is an example. One of two individuals in an assault was charged by the D.A. as the attacker, in spite of overwhelming physical and DNA evidence that he was the victim, not the attacker. The D.A. not only continued prosecution of the young man, but when he refused to accept a plea deal to ADW and demanded a trial, the D.A. upped the ante by adding the greater charge of attempted murder (which had potential exposure of 7 years in state prison). As usually happens, the man eventually blinked, and accepted a deal that included no jail time, and an agreement by the D.A that the charge could be reduced to a misdemeanor after 18 months on probation. This is all public record, available at the El Cajon courthouse. Police reports and D.A. investigator reports should be as well. Attempted murder is suddenly a misdemeanor? No, it's just a weapon the D.A. uses to get a conviction, at any price. Professionalism and ethics are most important in a mayor. In this case, in this election - You be the Judge.

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Avatar for user 'christo'

christo | June 5, 2014 at 9:04 p.m. ― 2 years, 9 months ago

Wow! Thank you for the above story. I hate Bonnie!

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