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Top Candidates Meet For San Diego Mayoral Debate

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Reprinted from KPBS – Full article here
By KPBS and City News Service, Originally published October 14, 2013

SAN DIEGO — The spotlight turned on front-runners Nathan Fletcher and Kevin Faulconer during a debate today in which San Diego’s mayoral candidates were allowed to ask a question of each other.

Fletcher, a former assemblyman who left the Republican Party last year to become an independent and eventually re-registered as a Democrat, was asked about changing positions. Faulconer, a city councilman, was questioned on whether he regretted not spending more money on the San Diego Police Department and whether the city had a structural budget deficit.

Faulconer asked Fletcher if voters can trust him after he changed positions about city employee pensions.

“Voters can trust (me), Kevin, and they know I’m always going to do what I believe is right for the city of San Diego,” Fletcher said at the debate, which was hosted by 10News and KPBS and was held at San Diego State University.

Fletcher asked Faulconer whether the city should have spent more money in recent years on the SDPD, which is losing around eight officers a month to other law enforcement agencies.

“You know, Nathan, I’m not sure you understand what we were doing the last seven years at City Hall while you were up in Sacramento,” Faulconer said.

The councilman said the City Council was dealing with San Diego’s worst financial problems when the SDPD budget was slashed and that the city can now start investing revenue into the department.

Fletcher responded that the council’s priorities were wrong at the time the police budget cuts were made.

Fletcher is running first in a 10News/U-T San Diego poll, with 32 percent. Faulconer was second, with 28 percent. The poll, conducted by SurveyUSA, was released on Sunday.

San Diego City Councilman David Alvarez, who was third in the poll with 17 percent, asked Fletcher if he still admired former supporters Pete Wilson, the former San Diego mayor and California governor and senator; Mitt Romney, the ex-GOP presidential candidate and La Jolla resident; or Karl Rove, the Republican strategist.

“You know, David, this is your typical partisan politics,” Fletcher said. “I want to make a real clear statement that I’ll take support from anyone out there. I’m not going to base it on what party you’re in, I’m not going to base it on who you’ve supported in the past.”

He then listed several examples of Democratic office-holders who have endorsed him.

Former City Attorney Mike Aguirre asked Faulconer if the city still had a structural budget deficit. The councilman said yes and attributed to shortfall to poor decisions in the past on granting pension benefits that were too generous.

Aguirre, who has made the city’s pension deficit the focus of his campaign, injected levity into the generally tame debate later on when he noted that he was the only candidate who has served in a citywide office and that it was while San Diego was mired in its fiscal woes.

“I united people like they had never been united before. Unfortunately, it was against me,” said Aguirre, who drew laughter. Aguirre had 8 percent in the mayoral poll.

If no one wins more than 50 percent in the special election on November 19, a runoff between the top two vote-getters would be held early next year.

The eventual winner will finish the term of Bob Filner, who stepped down on Aug. 30 after less than nine months in office.