Leading candidates face off in first mayoral debate - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Leading candidates face off in first mayoral debate

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Three of the top candidates for mayor of San Diego held a polite first debate Friday, which mainly focused on economic issues.

The debate, part of the 2013 California Asian Business Summit at the Westin Gaslamp Quarter in downtown San Diego, served as a bit of a coming out for a kinder, gentler version of former Mike Aguirre. He's run a quiet campaign thus far against three well-financed opponents -- Councilmen David Alvarez and Kevin Faulconer, and ex-Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher.

They, along with as many as 15 others, will vie in a special election Nov. 19 to replace Bob Filner, who resigned. If no one wins the majority of votes, a runoff would take place early next year.

Aguirre spent a contentious four years as city attorney before voters replaced him with Jan Goldsmith in 2008, and has said in recent interviews that he wants voters to see what he's gained from the experience.

"You know, people ask me 'why are you running for mayor after what happened to you as City Attorney, wasn't that enough punishment?' " Aguirre asked rhetorically in his closing remarks. "I want you to do me one favor -- I want you to look at what I did as your City Attorney, in which I put your interests ahead of mine, and I tried as hard as I could to help our city through one of the worst financial crises in its history."

He told the 100 or so people in attendance at the debate -- which was not open to the public -- that he fought for what he thought was right.

The city would not have a "pension problem" if his proposed fix was adopted in 2005, he said.

The former city attorney said he still supports former Mayor Bob Filner's plan to attract a binational Olympics to San Diego and Tijuana, would increase the power of community planning groups and several times promised to leverage the area's ethnic diversity to make the city better.

When asked what problems he foresaw in the future for San Diego's burgeoning high tech industry, Aguirre concede that he didn't know.

"As your mayor, I won't pretend to know all the answers, but I can research the problems and bring together the right people who will know the answers," Aguirre said.

Faulconer said he believed high tech companies could face zoning problems in the future. Alvarez said San Diego had to improve its neighborhoods in order for local firms to attract the best employees to town.

Fletcher cited a scheduling conflict and did not participate. He spoke to the attendees of the summit separately.

Alvarez and Faulconer stuck to their campaign themes.

Faulconer spoke of his years of experience on the City Council helping San Diego overcome previous governance and fiscal issues.

"If there's anything the past crisis has taught us this past year, it's that leadership matters, principles matter," Faulconer said. "I'm proud of my record on the council in bringing people together over the last seven years. You're going to know where I stand, and I'm always going to be upfront and honest about the tough decisions we're going to continue to make here in San Diego."

Alvarez spoke frequently about his upbringing in Barrio Logan and how that impacted his current views.

"I want to make sure the city is a city that is inclusive of everybody, every part of San Diego," said Alvarez, who is in his third year on the City Council. "It has not always been that way in the past."

He said he has worked together with his colleagues on the council, but is also willing to stand up and say "no" to special interests.

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