Mayoral Debate Lacks Civility and Raises Questions of their Leadership

No, not those candidates. The two San Diego mayoral candidates — Congressman Bob Filner and San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio — duked it out last Saturday in the Price Center East Ballroom in front of a surprisingly small crowd of around 75 people. Don’t let the small crowd fool you — the debate between the candidates for mayor of America’s eighth largest city had an unprecedented amount of excitement, jabs, name calling and what became known as “Coin-TossGate.”

First the latter: Though the debate — hosted by San Diego 6 — should have started at 3 p.m., the podium remained only half-full at 3:10. DeMaio informed the crowd that Filner was offstage arguing with organizers about the results of the coin toss which put the congressman in the highly unfortunate position of having to go second in the debate.

“Please come on out, Bob,” DeMaio called. “We should let the public hear from both of us.”

And as Filner finally ascended the stage, so began an hour-long volley of he-said-he-said. (Quite literally — both candidates used third person to describe their adversaries at various points throughout the debate.)

There was DeMaio’s repeated use of the word reform, which Filner claimed meant “Real Estate FOR Manchester,” referring to the Republican’s plans to allow Doug Manchester, owner of U-T San Diego (which recently acquired the North County Times) to develop property in downtown. This led to DeMaio’s unsubtle and repetitive name dropping of “San Diego’s top Democrat” Qualcomm founder, Irwin Jacobs, as a big supporter of the DeMaio campaign.

Best of all was Filner’s response to DeMaio’s voting record of rejecting four consecutive budgets while on City Council: “Carl DeMaio is the ‘King of No.’ No no no no no!”

While these antics are perhaps amusing on the surface, these men are vying to head the third-largest city in California and their debate etiquette is infantile at best. Based on what they actually said during the debate, The King of No and the Coin Toss Umpire (patent pending) didn’t differ that much on the real issues. In the small part of the debate when they actually mentioned visions for San Diego, both claimed they wanted more bike lanes, fixed potholes, more job opportunities for college graduates and to stimulate research and promotions for higher education.  Both candidates want fiscal responsibility, to keep the Chargers in San Diego and to expand the convention center downtown to attract more tourists to the city.

Filner and DeMaio, who both claim to be champions of bipartisanship, did not display understanding of the word. No one expected them to endorse each other, but their supposed firsthand look for students at real-world politics called for a level of maturity not on display on Saturday. Negative campaigning is something we’ve come to expect from politicians, but civility is a value that even the President and the former Massachusetts governor (for the most part) brought to their Tuesday night debate. Civility’s apparent absence from the UCSD debate is concerning, considering that one of the children (read: candidates) will soon hold the city’s highest position.

According to a recent ABC10 news poll, Filner holds a sizable, double-digit lead over DeMaio. But that could change and whoever wins on November 6 will need to grow up a bit, get past the partisan politics and name calling, to most effectively lead San Diego into a future full of bike paths, Chargers and no more potholes.

Oh. And jobs for college graduates. Those too please.