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Mayoral Candidates Debate Latino Issues

— San Diego’s four major mayoral candidates debated in front of a couple hundred Latino voters at the University of San Diego Thursday evening.

At the forum organized by the La Raza Lawyers Association, candidates discussed the education gap, minority businesses, immigration and the border.

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Close to 30 percent of this city’s population is now Latino, and yet this was the first time many here could remember candidates for mayor discussing issues important specifically to Latinos.

“We’re not going to ask any questions about football stadiums, or Convention Centers, or pension reform or potholes," Rafael Castellanos, a lawyer and the debate's organizer, told the crowd. What he did want to hear was the candidates’ thoughts about the Latino education gap, immigration and border issues.

City Councilman Carl DeMaio, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and state Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher sat on stage, while Democratic Congressman Bob Filner's voice hovered over the auditorium like a specter's. (He called in from Washington, D.C.)

None of the candidates betrayed a profound command of the the Latino issues that audience members asked about.

But in this era of divisive immigration laws, Fletcher assured a more moderate approach, saying he would not support aggressive anti-illegal immigrant policies like Arizona's or the city of Escondido's.

DeMaio vowed civility in the city staff's interactions with all residents.

“In my administration there will be a zero tolerance policy on racial profiling," he said. "I will not allow it.”

Dumanis pledged diversity in her administration.

“I want to make sure that Latinos are represented at every part of our office,” she said.

And Castellanos, the lawyer, promised all these issues would only become more important as San Diego’s Latino population continues to grow.

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