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We will elect the next mayor of San Diego, right or wrong, in six weeks. There's time to get this one right and restore the luster of a city whose bragging rights have gone sour.

Our most recent distinguished mayor was the young Pete Wilson, two decades ago. He was not a great senator nor governor, but he was a great mayor. He modernized a cumbersome City Hall government into the new era. He had courage.

He woke me at 2 a.m. one morning, and in a strange, tense voice, asked me to come to his house. There, for an hour, he agonized over a decision he would make before breakfast.

A Teamsters union team had tried, without success, to unionize the city police force. Pete and City Council were opposed. That day, Pete had received word of a message from a union official that unless he encouraged police to go union, strikers would shut down Lindbergh Field.

Pete was outraged. But to confront that challenge directly, he would have to betray the confidence of a loyal attorney.

It was worth getting up in the middle of that night. Pete stayed up, woke his council and met them at a 7 a.m. emergency meeting. He shared his news and asked approval to reject the demand.

An hour later, in a televised press conference, Pete blew the whistle on the blackmail.

In those years, Pete never feared. Within the first month of his term, he did the unthinkable in a city where land developers hold power. The community of Mira Mesa was half built. He halted development abruptly, until more streets and schools were promised. He won that one too.

Let's remember that last time, in our collective wisdom, we supported the failed Dick Murphy. He was a nice guy. We liked him. We reelected him. We were lazy-minded.

This time, let's think first. Public radio and television will provide close studies of the candidates. So will the print media, the Voice of San Diego, and all the rest. Like half of you, I don't know yet who will get my vote. Donna Frye was the dissident councilwoman through a sordid period of City Hall corruption. As a naysayer, she was a heroine.

Jerry Sanders is a more tested administrator. He has signed the capable Ronne Froman, a retired lady admiral, as his chief of staff. She strengthens that ticket.

Listen closely to both candidates in these final weeks. Where does their money come from, and why? Who will they need to pay back if elected? Who has the courage?

This time, San Diego deserves better management.

What questions do you have about the Statewide General Election coming up on Nov. 8? Submit your questions here, and we'll try to answer them in our reporting.