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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

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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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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | February 6, 2014 at 9:28 a.m. ― 3 years, 1 month ago

I voted for Aguirre in the primary, trust him as a fighter of corruption, and think he would have made a great mayor.

Considering the fact he is a Democrat and supporting Faulconer, that is a big endorsement and brings some clarity to this race.

Democrats have to pay attention to this endorsement and stop blindly obeying party lines.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | February 6, 2014 at 10:42 a.m. ― 3 years, 1 month ago

I also voted for Aguirre in the primary, and I just lost a lot of respect for him.

I liked him when he was City Attorney, but he seemed to become increasingly bizarre during the debates when he rambled on about pensions without making a succinct point.

I voted for him nonetheless because I thought he embodied some of the good qualities Filner had like being willing to stand up to the political status quo.

Another reason I voted for Aguirre is because I really knew nothing about Alvarez at the time.

As I've researched Alvarez more and seen him campaign, I realize he was the right choice from the beginning. I'm glad he won the primary and I hope he becomes mayor.

It's disappointing that Aguirre has chosen for who knows what reason to jump on board this simplistic union dog whistle that Republicans have completely overblown here.

Mr. Falconer is receiving much of his campaign fundraising from the Lincoln Club, an organization that, from what I know about Mr. Aguirre, would go against what he believes. Not sure why Aguirre would choose to overblow the union mantra but ignore the pay for play developers funneling money into the Lincoln Club to get Falconer elected so they can cash-in on special favors.

Extremely disappointing, indeed, Mr. Aguirre.

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Avatar for user 'mySDvoice'

mySDvoice | February 6, 2014 at 11:37 a.m. ― 3 years, 1 month ago

I personally think Aguirre has a very sharp legal mind and is often focused on keeping the playing field even for all participants. So, he can be both anti-business and anti-unions at the same time. Unfortunately, he has one of those difficult personalities that does not play well in the political arena. I sure liked a lot of his ideas when he was City Attorney (especially considering our current City Attorney).
That all said, this election was over when Donna Frye and the Democratic Party decided to push David Alvarez into the mayor's race rather than get behind Nathan Fletcher. The Democratic Party and voters pulled a page from the Tea Party - they eliminated the Democratic candidate that could win in a general election to get one that was far enough left of center. The key rap on David Alvarez is that he is financially supported almost exclusively by the unions. He has not been able to build relationships with the business community and other leaders in San Diego to create a broader appeal. He is only in the race because these unions have deep pockets. In the primary, he only got votes from a limited segment of the electorate. On the other hand, Fletcher pulled votes from across the city and had broad financial backing from both business and labor, and would have been our next mayor. I think Donna Frye and the Democratic Party blew this election...many months ago.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | February 6, 2014 at 12:21 p.m. ― 3 years, 1 month ago

mySDvoice, your analysis leaves out one critical point:

A reason Fletcher failed was not just because Democrats backed Alvarez, but because Faulconer and his wealthy benefactors who collectively funnel money to the Lincoln Club focused like a laser beam on attacking Fletcher.

RELUBLICANS decided they wanted Alvarez to make the runoff because they thought he would be easier to beat in the general than Fletcher.

With all that said, I'm very pleased things happened as they did.

Alvarez is a far better candidate than Fletcher.

And he's going to win.

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Avatar for user 'mySDvoice'

mySDvoice | February 6, 2014 at 1:26 p.m. ― 3 years, 1 month ago


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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | February 6, 2014 at 1:54 p.m. ― 3 years, 1 month ago



It's a fact that Republicans spent a lot of money to bring down Fletcher during the primary.

Just one of many articles on the matter if you research it.

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Avatar for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | February 6, 2014 at 3:28 p.m. ― 3 years, 1 month ago

Quid pro quo.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | February 6, 2014 at 4:13 p.m. ― 3 years, 1 month ago


I don't see how you can lambaste Aguirre for showing strength by not going along with party politics. He has an independent mind and if you trusted him before, why not now? Just because he is challenging strict party lines?

Ultimately Faulconer is attracting most of the independent voters and that is key to winning in San Diego.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | February 6, 2014 at 4:26 p.m. ― 3 years, 1 month ago


It's politics, and 99% of the time someone does a cross-party endorsement like this there is a reason - a backroom deal, an appointment promise, getting back at someone, etc., etc., etc.

I don't know why Aguirre did this, but what is supplied in his article is an extremely insufficient explanation. He doesn't like the union influence on Alvarez's side but he blatantly ignores the big business/developer/Lincoln Club influence on Falconer’s side.

It's pretty much the same hypocritical argument Republicans are making.

Like I said, very disappointed.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | February 7, 2014 at 9:19 a.m. ― 3 years, 1 month ago

Let me guess, CA OFF, you were about to vote for Fletch originally before he turned Left . . .

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | February 7, 2014 at 9:59 a.m. ― 3 years, 1 month ago

Re: the dirty money, why isn't Corbin Stump and the LGBT activists clamouring for Dumansis' resignation like they did with Filner???

Oh, wait, that's right, Filner voted for DOMA in 1996 and Dumaniss is part of the family!

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Avatar for user 'DonWood'

DonWood | February 7, 2014 at 11:26 a.m. ― 3 years, 1 month ago

What did Falcouner promise Aguirre in return for his endorsement? Was there a quid pro quo?

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Avatar for user 'thompsonrichard'

thompsonrichard | February 7, 2014 at 1:30 p.m. ― 3 years, 1 month ago

I wrote in Bob Filner in the Primary Election. I wanted to vote for Aquirre but his statement of support for Mr City Attorney "he saved the city" -- prevented that. I attended the Lt. Gov.'s (Gavin Newsome's) rally for Alvarez yesterday at UCSD.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | February 10, 2014 at 1:50 p.m. ― 3 years, 1 month ago


I never supported Fletcher. I've always viewed him as untrustworthy and shifty.

Aguirre, on the other hand, is one of the most forthright and trustworthy politicians in the Democratic Party and I voted for him in the primary for that reason.

I trust his judgement and the reason for his endorsement of Faulconer. It is one of the few endorsements that has any weight.

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Avatar for user 'JanetBealf29'

JanetBealf29 | February 11, 2014 at 8:48 a.m. ― 3 years, 1 month ago

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