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SPECIAL COVERAGE: Living With Wildfires: San Diego Firestorm 10 Years Later

Candidates For San Diego Mayor Spar At Raucous LGBT Debate

There was plenty of give-and-take among a field where two of the four major candidates are gay.

Transcript

Audience members greeted the candidates -- Councilman Carl DeMaio, Congressman Bob Filner, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and state Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher -- with cheers and applause, or boos and hisses, depending on their answers.

Special Feature KPBS Election Coverage

It was a "not what you'd expect" evening in some ways as the four major candidates for mayor of San Diego -- two of whom are gay -- sparred before a raucous audience at the LGBT Community Center in Hillcrest last night.

Questioning from the audience of several hundred focused on a variety of issues facing the city, but a majority of the queries centered on issues affecting the gay community.

Audience members greeted the candidates -- Councilman Carl DeMaio, Congressman Bob Filner, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and state Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher -- with cheers and applause, or boos and hisses, depending on their answers.

DeMaio and Dumanis dealt with questions about the perceived incongruity of being both gay and Republican.

DeMaio, whose council district is in the north section of San Diego, answered cat-calls by acknowledging that he hasn't been as proactive on certain issues affecting gays as the community would like. But he stressed that he has focused his efforts on bringing all of San Diego's various communities together.

Along with DeMaio, Dumanis was asked how she could be both a Republican and gay. She joked that telling her parents she was a Republican was harder than telling them she was a lesbian. She added that the best way to change attitudes within the staunchly conservative GOP was from the inside and that serving as San Diego's first gay mayor would be a huge step toward that.

The debate came on a day when the race for mayor was shaken by Fletcher's announcement that he was leaving the Republican Party to become an independent. Surprisingly, he wasn't asked by audience members about the switch and it remains unclear what impact it may have on the nominally nonpartisan election.

The candidate who clearly drew the most applause was Filner, the lone liberal Democrat on stage. He emphasized his stark differences on issues from the other three candidates, often doing so with a joke. Filner strongly denounced the pension-reform measure backed by DeMaio and the others that would end pensions in favor of 401-K plans for most new city employees. Filner also said he's against the controversial plan backed by current Mayor Jerry Sanders to build a bridge in order to remove vehicles from Balboa Park.

Fletcher focused on his differences with DeMaio. The tension between them has heated up, both accusing the other of dirty campaigning.

Fletcher stressed his support for state legislation that gay history be taught in schools. He repeatedly asked DeMaio whether he would support it; DeMaio was noncommital. Fletcher also touted his support for President Obama's push to end the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.

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