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Politics

Peters, DeMaio Stick To Familiar Ground In Second Debate

Rep. Scott Peters and Carl DeMaio prepare for the second debate in their race for the 52nd Congressional District. October 9, 2014.
Rep. Scott Peters and Carl DeMaio prepare for the second debate in their race for the 52nd Congressional District. October 9, 2014.

Rep. Scott Peters, a Democrat, and his Republican challenger, Carl DeMaio, mostly stuck to familiar talking points in their second debate in the race to represent the 52nd Congressional District.

The debate was hosted by 10News and the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce. Former Mayor Jerry Sanders, the chamber's CEO, was one of the panelists asking questions of the candidates.

Things started off with a small bang when DeMaio used his opening statement to accuse Peters of lying in their first debate about a car allowance Peters received as a San Diego city councilman.

Watch the full debate on Saturday at 9 p.m. on KGTV Channel 10 News.

The candidates in each of the five congressional races in San Diego County.

"Mr. Peters claimed that he never took $69,334 in car allowance payments at taxpayers' expense," DeMaio said. "Scott, here are the city financial records that showed you cashed $69,334 in car allowance payments in six years. Can you explain the comments you made at the last debate denying this fact?"

In the previous debate, Peters said he did take the car allowance for a time but was the first council member to stop accepting it. By November 2008, Peters and three other City Council members had dropped the allowance.

"Is that the opening statement?" Peters asked moderator Steve Atkinson. He then ignored DeMaio's challenge until the end of the debate, when he addressed it in his closing statement.

Peters said he donated his congressional salary during the government shutdown, turned down a federal pension and federal health care, and gave his city pension to San Diego libraries. Peters then said that a DeMaio mailer showing the car allowance Peters took is inaccurate.

"He showed you the half of this that shows the compensation I took, but he doesn't show you that I refused to take almost $140,000 of my salary as a City Council member," Peters said.

The Peters campaign provided KPBS with documents showing he gave $25,000 to the city's library foundation each year between 2010 and 2014. San Diego's comptroller office confirmed that Peters returned $139,827.62 of his salary during his tenure on the City Council.

Both candidates were asked to provide examples of times they'd brokered an agreement between opposing sides.

Peters said that after the scandal over wait times at Veterans Administration facilities in Phoenix, "there was a big gulf between Democrats who seemed to think it was about money, and Republicans who seemed to think it was about blame."

"I looked for a point of agreement," he said. "I made a motion that seemed like it wasn't the biggest issue, but it was providing in-state tuition for veterans on the GI Bill. It was very, very hard for Republicans to vote against that when we put that on the floor because everyone agreed on it. So the national press gave my motion credit for being the catalyst for getting people to come together."

Peters did make a motion to instruct the House's committee to agree to the Senate's version of the Veterans Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act. It didn't generate much attention but was cited by The Hill, an online news site. Peters' motion failed, but the vote was closer than usual for these types of motions.

DeMaio said after he was elected to the City Council in 2008, "I reached across party lines and partnered with Donna Frye, a Democrat, and working with her we were able to enact important reforms to open up the City Council docket and process more deliberation and involvement by the public."

DeMaio said the City Council in 2012 also unanimously passed his Sunshine Law, which put government records online.

Frye and DeMaio launched a council governance project together in 2008, but Frye has also criticized DeMaio and endorsed Peters.

Both candidates said they don't support California's high-speed rail project. DeMaio said he supports the House-passed border security bill, which Peters voted against.

On a question about whether there should be a national policy on marijuana, Peters said each state should be allowed to decide its own marijuana policy. DeMaio said the federal government should respect states' votes about medical marijuana.

The two candidates will face off in one more debate on Oct. 30. Election Day is Nov. 4.