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Former San Diego Mayoral Candidate Aguirre Makes Right Turn, Endorsing Faulconer

Photo by Angela Carone

Former City Attorney Mike Aguirre joins the audience to shake hands after the KPBS/10News mayoral debate during the 2013 primary election.

Former San Diego City Attorney Mike Aguirre is weighing in on which of the two councilmen still in the running to be San Diego’s next mayor should make the move to the 11th floor at City Hall.

Aguirre is a Democrat who ran against both candidates, David Alvarez and Kevin Faulconer, in the special election. He lost, coming in a distant fourth.

Now Aguirre says he thinks Republican Kevin Faulconer should take the helm.

I asked the outspoken attorney why he made a public endorsement so close to the finish line. He said the tipping point came in the wake of recent revelations from a campaign finance scandal. It alleges lots of local politicians were getting contributions from an illegal foreign source — Mexican businessman Jose Susumo Azano Matsura.

Special Feature The Race For San Diego's Next Mayor

Get the latest news on the race for San Diego mayor and the two men in the running.

Matsura’s money was allegedly being funneled into local campaigns by San Diego-based lobbyist Marco Polo Cortes.

Back in the fall, Alvarez received $999 from Cortes, and records show that he met with the councilman five times. It’s the amount of the donation that concerns Aguirre — it is just below the limit of having to report the donor.

The money, Alvarez said, was perfectly legal — it came from Cortes, not the foreign national.

But Aguirre said as a Democrat it was the final straw because it looked to him that “someone knew back in September that the name should be kept out of the public records.” He said basically, he just found it shady.

It is not uncommon for political donors to give just below the limit for reporting — as many want to donate off the record. And while Faulconer’s campaign took no money from Cortes, he did meet with him. Alvarez has given some of the money donated by Cortes back saying “it was the right thing to do.”

Special Feature Dirty Money

All of the background information on campaign contributions illegally funneled from a wealthy Mexican businessman to local candidates.

Aguirre is also frustrated with the amount of money in the race — particularly millions coming in from local and national unions. He said the city is making a more natural, demographic-based move from Republican to Democrat, but the unions are “trying to take over that transition to line their own pockets.”

“The typical democratic constituent who lives in City Heights, in North Park — they’re libraries aren’t open, they’re streets aren’t paved — but at the same time we have the best pensions.” Aguirre said. He said he thinks that shows the unions are trying to control the focus of policy coming out of democrats, and he called that a squandered opportunity.

“Democrats could have won on the issues of neighborhood disenfranchisement and inequity, but instead there is this massive accumulated wealth coming from the unions. The unions are trying to hijack the campaign.”

But Alvarez has not always been besties with the unions, and he has said if elected he will be independent. In fact he has in the past referred to unions as a “special interest” group, echoing Aguirre.

Aguirre said his other reason was simple: “I like Kevin as a person.”

Aguirre says Faulconer and he worked well together on the city council. But Aguirre also publicly battled with Jerry Sanders, whom Faulconer sees as a model of how to be mayor, so how does he square the difference?

“I think people are going to be surprised by Kevin,” Aguirre said. “He’s more independent than people think.” Aguirre said he thinks Faulconer will build a bridge between Republicans and Democrats, comparing him to the popular former-mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg. “Kevin’s Bloombergian” Aguirre said.

No word if we can expect a ban on sodas and trans fats if either candidate is elected.

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