THE MAYOR’S RACE: COMMENTARYBreaking News, Conversations with Nicole, Top Highlights Saturday, January 14th, 2012
DeMaio, Dumanis, Filner, Fletcher duke it out at Lincoln Club
BY NICOLE MURRAY RAMIREZ
I would call the first mayoral debate among the four leading candidates, held at the elegant and expensive U.S. Grant Hotel, a draw.
Hosted by the very well-known and conservative Republican Lincoln Club, City Club, it cost $30 to attend the inaugural debate in the hotly contested 2012 San Diego mayor’s race. In the interest of full disclosure, I came as a guest of Rep. Bob Filner (D-San Diego), a longtime friend.
I went to the debate with City Commissioner Shanee Henry, who is also president of the Filipino-American Society for Arts and Culture. As the two of us sat and looked around the room, she rightly observed and commented, “This room is full of almost entirely white men in suits.”
On the one hand, there were probably more gay persons on the stage than in the crowd. You could also count the people of color on one hand. I’m sure any of the current Republican presidential candidates would have felt very comfortable addressing this crowd.
As I said, I would call the debate a draw … a tie for all four candidates as they all held their own. No one made any Rick Perry-style mistakes and each showed his or her humorous side.
There was certainly a lot more sparring and attacks between Bob Filner and Councilman Carl DeMaio – in fact the rivalry between the councilman and Congressman Filner may have been the most notable feature of the debate.
As many of you know, I have not endorsed any candidate, but have been friends with Bob Filner since the 1970s. I am close with Bonnie Dumanis, and I’ve become friends with Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, all of whom are running serious campaigns. And, yes, everyone knows I am a past “gay mentor” to Carl DeMaio. All these things have made it very difficult for me to endorse, as I really like three of them.
Now I will give you my thoughts of the four candidates, and how they performed at yesterday’s debate. In alphabetical order, as they were introduced:
City Councilman Carl DeMaio
This was certainly Carl DeMaio’s home turf. I would call him San Diego’s very own Mitt Romney, a moniker that fits in so many ways. I liken him to Romney in his first presidential campaign. While Carl started out stiff, he soon relaxed and proved to be a very good debater. He stayed focus and consistent on his platform and plans and reminded everyone that he is the only businessperson running.
DeMaio was the only millionaire on stage. And the only candidate who has been the largest single contributor to his own campaign. It was a surprise for many when DeMaio stated that he felt that the Occupy San Diego protestors should not have been charged with felonies, but with misdemeanors.
He also stated that if he became mayor he would “reach out to my former adversaries.” I thought this was a good remark as even the Union-Tribune has called DeMaio a divisive figure. And, Donna Frye went as far as calling him a bully. But on that stage last night, Carl was a very intelligent and articulate speaker who showed some much needed humor.
I personally know that he has a great sense of humor; he needs to show it more. In fact, Carl DeMaio scored some points, calling the other candidates career politicians. And though at times, he came across as cold, Carl DeMaio did a great job and was the only one to get major applause interruptions during his remarks.
District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis
Bonnie Dumanis was certainly a cool, steady and strong debater. And with her 94 percent conviction rate as our district attorney (one of the highest in the state and nation) I would call her San Diego’s very own Iron Lady.
She’s one tough lady, who worked her way up the ladder, beginning as a typist, moving on to become a prosecutor, judge, and now D.A. Dumanis reminded the crowd that she was the only one with chief executive experience among the candidates, overseeing more than 1000 people. Dumanis was the first candidate to bring up the issue of the need for creating jobs in San Diego, during the debate.
D.A. Dumanis said that San Diego citizens have “shined a light” on her for nine years, adding that she has a proven record. Dumanis has always come out on top in polling about which officials have earned public respect.
While Dumanis has pledged to give up the $100,464 salary the mayor is entitled to, after last night’s debate, the other candidates are going to focus on her annual pension after nearly four decades of life as a public servant.
Dumanis was very articulate and sincere when bringing up the fact that many San Diegans “are hurting.” She scored points by stating that City Hall under her administration would have a more “open-door policy” for all. Bonnie Dumanis also talked about how the public does not trust government.
She wore her endorsement by Mayor Jerry Sanders proudly and stated that she would not accept any endorsements from any unions. Many have called her the “establishment’s candidate” because of her huge list of current and past support from elected officials.
Dumanis put in a cool, calm and sharp performance last night and proved she was ready and could take on any of the boys. By the way, she looked flawless in her Michelle Obama-like power suit.
Congressman Bob Filner
The lone Democrat in the race knew he was in enemy’s territory, but held his own with lots of humor. Filner told me before the debate that he was going to be a kind guy and I must say it was certainly a kinder and gentler Bob Filner on stage than usual.
However, he was blunt. And he was direct; and he kept going after Carl DeMaio. At the same time, it seems Filner has struck up a friendship with Nathan Fletcher. He reminded the crowd that politicians created the city hall mess, not the workers and city employees. Filner has a strong civil rights record, not only as a former school board member, a city councilman, deputy mayor and now congressman, but way back as a college student who got arrested in the south for fighting for the rights of blacks to vote in the 1960s.
Yes, Filner may be the “old war horse” in this race, but he has established a loyal and unwavering base.
A big laugh came when he stated what Ronald Reagan said during one of his most famous debates: He would not hold some of his opponents’ youth and inexperience against them.
If Bob Filner has a so-called reputation as a radical, rude, attacked(as some claim); at last night’s debate, he was in full control and proudly stood his progressive-liberal ground in a room full of conservative Republican businessmen, many of whom hated him for decades. Filner, I believe will continue to go on the attack, but with facts and in a more gentlemanly way. But to be honest, his body language last night was horrible and he seemed to be, at times, to be staring down his opponents. AS the past chairman of the Congressional Veterans Committee, his record for helping veterans is outstanding, and he rightfully talked about it. Filner stated that everyone would be welcomed at his table as mayor.
The question is … well … is this the new improved Bob Filner, or will the old Filner eventually come out?
By the way, Bob introduced me to his beautiful new fiancé. Maybe it is she who has made him a little kinder and gentler. If I had to liken a presidential campaign persona to the congressman, I’d say he’s San Diego’s Joe Biden.
State Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher
If this rightfully proud former Marine who has experience defending our nation in combat in the Middle East is elected San Diego’s next mayor, he will be the youngest man to hold the office in history. That said, he proved last night he could hold his own and spar with any of his opponents.
I would say Nathan Fletcher is San Diego’s very own Gavin Newsom or Jon Huntsman. Regardless, he most certainly has a bright future ahead of him – however this race turns out. I would comfortably say he might well be a future governor or U.S. senator.
The problem for Fletcher. according to recent polling, is his lack of name identification in the City of San Diego. Thus he keeps placing last among the four.
The good news is the primary isn’t until June and he has received more individual contributors than any candidates and can most certainly turn things around. I liked his call to stop blaming and pointing fingers concerning our city’s problems. I’m all for fixing things and moving forward as Fletcher said so doing would be his focus as mayor.
This son of a factory worker is indeed a new, welcomed breath of fresh air, with new ideas. His views on a new sports stadium are right on, and his “shout out” to Toni Atkins and the issue of redevelopment was warranted.
Nathan Fletcher can work with both Democrats and Republicans; he’s proven that in Sacramento. Fletcher came across during the debate as a visionary and most certainly part of a new generation of leadership. But, it is his inexperience in local government that concerns many. Yet, last night he was very knowledgeable about all the issues.
Fletcher’s call to “move past the divisiveness plaguing San Diego politics was right on and much needed.
One big disappointment for me, however, was Fletcher’s and DeMaio’s refusal to state that they would keep our city’s popular and most effective Police Chief Bill Lansdowne. Bravo to Dumanis and Filner for committing to keeping one of our city’s best police chiefs ever. I say, keep your eyes on Nathan Fletcher, nevertheless. He may well surprise everyone.
By the way, I still don’t know how Todd Gloria beat out Fletcher in a poll of San Diego’s most handsome politicians. This proud father of two young boys has Bobby Kennedy-like charm.
City Commissioner Nicole Murray Ramirez has been writing an award-winning weekly San Diego column since 1973 and has served five mayors of San Diego. Ramirez has been an acknowledged gay and Latino activist for well over 45 years and has been elected to numerous gay and Latino state and national boards.
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