Candidates vie for San Diego mayoral opening

By John Paul da Roza

San Diego experienced one its most controversial political terms with Bob Filner as mayor. He was accused of sexually harassing 18 different women during his tenure as a politician. Since the claims have come out, Filner has resigned his position as mayor of San Diego. On Oct. 15, Filner pled guilty to felony false imprisonment and two misdemeanor battery charges for incidents involving three of the women.

Subsequently, Filner was booked into jail for a few hours only to reach a plea agreement that places him under home confinement for three months, probation for three years and mandatory mental therapy sessions.

Following this resignation, the city will hold a special election on Nov. 19 for his replacement. The close race is up for grabs between four major candidates, Democrats Mike Aguirre, David Alvarez and Nathan Fletcher and Republican Kevin Faulconer.

Aguirre, a lifelong attorney in San Diego, is running on the Democratic ticket.

“The first priority, from an organizational standpoint, is to build a staff that can get the job done.” Aguirre said in a recent U-T San Diego interview. “We want to be a Mecca for solving problems and we want to face the problems.”

As for Aguirre’s platform, he puts concern on public dilemmas such as providing recreation centers, public libraries and improving the city’s water quality. Such topics are important to San Diego students as well. Junior Tony Alarcon believes community support is crucial for the well-being of the city. “Rec centers, public libraries, and other community resources are great for this city,” Alarcon said. “Citizens may get educational benefits and stay active. These are things that every community needs.”

Alvarez, another Democratic candidate for the mayoral seat, is a native of the Barrio Logan community in southern San Diego. In his relatively short political career, Alvarez has served as a city councilman in San Diego for the past three years. His main concerns during his tenure have been to balance the city’s budget and improve the quality of housing for lower-income families in the city.

Alvarez also puts a strong emphasis on immigration reform. “I have backed immigration reform for quite some time. I believe we need a pathway to citizenship, especially for the DREAMers and for those that serve in the military,” Alvarez said, according to Fox News Latino. The DREAMers that Alvarez is referring to are Mexicans who were brought to America as children by their parents.

In an interview with KPBS San Diego, Alvarez describes how his priorities as mayor would be to focus on building strong communities in the city and ensuring that the city’s economy booms.

He believes that these two situations are tied together. “We need to make sure there’s economic development and prosperity for our city,” he said. “That means creating jobs and investing in neighborhoods where there are high levels of unemployment and low income communities, making sure that we put funds into these communities so we could all thrive as a city.”

Junior Elia Rivas agrees with Alvarez’s stance on immigration reform. “As a border town, we need to hold ourselves responsible for setting a good example in regards to immigration reform,” Rivas said. “We need to reach out and work to make our community a more welcoming place in the hopes that this attitude will spread.”

The third democratic candidate for mayor is Nathan Fletcher. He is a former lifelong Republican who changed his political position and ran for the San Diego mayoral seat in 2012 as an Independent. Now he is running as a Democratic candidate for mayor.

Fletcher is a former U.S. Marine Corps. officer and a strong advocate for veteran’s benefits. He has served as a member of the California State Assembly from 2008 to 2012 as a legislator. Fletcher was a the sponsor of “Chelsea’s Law,” which allows for a lifetime imprisonment for violent child sex-offenders. Currently, Fletcher is the Senior Director of Corporate Development for Qualcomm Inc.

A supporter of reform for veterans’ benefits and a Navy ROTC midshipman, this issue is important to junior Jake Brouker. “Veterans’ benefits should be a top priority,” he said. “They have sacrificed their time and their bodies, and are put in one of the most dangerous careers, and to not provide them with sufficient health care and help them financially is tragic.”

While there are three Democratic candidates for the mayoral seat, Faulconer is the sole Republican candidate. He has served as a San Diego City Councilman since 2006 covering the district that includes Ocean Beach and Mission Beach. In an interview with U-T San Diego, he described how his priorities are to impose a pension reform in the city and repair the infrastructure of the communities in the city.

Junior Jere Ford believes that the main issue is to return integrity in the mayor’s office. “It’s time to put the Filner era behind us and Kevin Faulconer is the only candidate with the trustworthy voting record of putting neighborhoods above special interests to do so,” Ford said.

After the city was found to be covering up its pension debt, Faulconer has strived to bring trust back to the mayor’s office and has been an advocate to change the retirement plan for city workers to a 401(k)-style retirement plan which he believes will save the taxpayers about $1 billion. The second priority on Faulconer’s agenda is to repair the city’s roads, thus making San Diego a safer city for its residents.

There are still many San Diegans that are unsure of whom they want to replace Bob Filner as mayor, but like others, junior Stephen Ferraro simply wants accountability in San Diego politics. “It doesn’t matter to me who is elected, but after Filner’s questionable term in office, I want to be able to trust the mayor and have there be transparency in City Hall,” Ferraro said.

These four candidates will continue to square off until Nov. 19, when one will become the new mayor of San Diego. For more information on local issues and the candidates goals as possible future mayor, tune in for the last three debates scheduled for Oct. 24, Nov. 5 and 12.