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Mayoral Candidates Square Off In One Of The Last Debates

The four contenders for the San Diego mayor's job verbally jousted today over their voting records, reliance on ballot measures and plans for port jobs in one of the last debates before Tuesday's primary election.

The debate, which lasted about 90 minutes, included several contentious exchanges between Councilman Carl DeMaio, who has led in polling throughout the campaign, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, Rep. Bob Filner, D-San Diego, and Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, R-San Diego.

The sharpest exchange of the debate came after DeMaio emphasized the importance of recent propositions in easing the city's financial problems.


DeMaio is a main backer of Proposition B, the pension reform initiative to be considered next week, and also wants to put a measure to fund street repairs before the city's voters in November.

"You can do ballot measure after ballot measure and you don't even have to run for mayor,'' Fletcher told DeMaio.

Dumanis, who trails her opponents in the polls, then pointed out that Fletcher, who recently left the Republican Party to become an independent, has missed a considerable amount of time in Sacramento while campaigning in San Diego.

"You haven't been doing your job since January,'' Dumanis said.

Fletcher responded that he was proud of his legislative track record and hasn't fielded any complaints from constituents. Nothing was scheduled on many of the days he missed in Sacramento, he said.


"Your job is to legislate,'' Dumanis said.

"My job is to get things done,'' Fletcher said.

Dumanis also launched verbal attacks on Filner, including one early in the debate when he touted the Port of San Diego as a source of high-paying jobs that should be exploited.

"You gotta get your head in the game, Bob, you're not running in the 1970s,'' Dumanis said.

Filner responded by saying, "Bonnie picks out one person in each debate to go after.'' He noted that her target was usually the leader in the polls, so he added a "thank you.''

"I'm an equal-opportunity attacker,'' Dumanis responded.

She also questioned why Filner has had a total of six bills passed in his two decades in Congress.

"Bonnie likes to quote her experience in the executive branch, but she doesn't understand the legislative process, which means you might not get things done with your name on it,'' Filner said. He listed several bills that he said passed with his involvement, but without his name.

The debate, sponsored by The Lincoln Club of San Diego County, San Diego Association of Realtors and San Diego County Taxpayers Association, also included a question regarding what voters might not know about the candidates.

Filner responded that he plays the piano, and Dumanis said she worked "the garbage line'' in college, cleaning dishes after meals, while DeMaio -- an orphan who put himself through college -- said the campaign had become one of the toughest challenges of his life.

Fletcher said he was a janitor at a theater while in high school, so he always makes sure to clean up his trash when he goes to see a movie. He also revealed that he worked as a bar bouncer in college.

"When people say in politics all you do is fight, I'm your guy,'' joked Fletcher, a former Marine who served in Iraq.

The candidates are vying to succeed Mayor Jerry Sanders, who will be termed-out in December. He has endorsed Dumanis.

If no one receives more than 50 percent of the vote in Tuesday's primary, the top two finishers will face off in the November general election.

The debate will air on 10News on Saturday at 7 p.m. The station's Steve Atkinson was the moderator and reporter Virginia Cha was one of the panelists.

The questioners also included Gene Cubbison of NBC7/39, Joe Guerin of The Daily Transcript and Craig Gustafson of U-T San Diego.

The 2024 primary election is March 5. Find in-depth reporting on each race to help you understand what's on your ballot.