Mayoral candidate forum focuses on infrastructure, jobs and fighting homelessness
By Manny Lopez | GSD Editor
The San Diego Democrats for Equality endorsed City Councilmember David Alvarez for mayor at their September meeting. A special election to replace former Mayor Bob Filner, who resigned in August, will be held in November.
In a candidate forum held Sept. 26 at the Joyce Beers Uptown Community Center in Hillcrest, Alvarez received the required 60 percent vote needed to win the LGBT advocacy group’s nod after two rounds of polling.
“I’m extremely proud to receive this endorsement,” Alvarez said, who, at 33 years old, is the youngest member on the City Council. If elected, Alvarez will be San Diego’s first Latino mayor.
“I’ve stood with this club on all sorts of issues and this is one of the most important Democratic clubs in the city,” he said.
Other candidates at the forum were former City Attorney Mike Aguirre, Save Our Heritage Organisation (SOHO) executive director and businessperson Bruce Coons, and former Assemblymember Nathan Fletcher.
Under allotted time limits, Coons and Fletcher introduced their platform and answered prepared questions delivered by Carla Kirkwood, Democrats for Equality vice president of political action. Questions ranged from past support for LGBT equality to issues pressing today: infrastructure, housing and homelessness, job development and the court-defeated Plaza de Panama plan for Balboa Park.
Alvarez and Aguirre arrived late from another engagement, and after a rules-change vote – preceded by a spirited debate on whether to let the two address the group – both candidates were allowed to speak, but in an amended format and without opening and closing comments.
Afterwards, all candidates were asked to leave the room while members deliberated on their endorsement. Several spoke in favor of all candidates, yet most of the conversation centered on Alvarez and Fletcher, with votes heavily leaning in each candidate’s favor.
After two votes – Alvarez was initially one vote shy of a 60 percent majority, based on club rules – Alvarez won the Democrats for Equality endorsement, reflecting the organization’s opinion on which of the mayoral hopefuls was most electable.
“I believe so strongly in everything that this club believes in and the values that this club holds, and as mayor it will not be any different,” said Alvarez, who is also a member of the club. “You know who I am, you know where I’ve been, and I’ll continue to be that same individual going forward.”
Elected officials present at the forum included Interim Mayor Todd Gloria and Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins, both from the Democratic Party.
Gloria, who previously said that he does not plan to endorse any candidate, said his role as interim mayor is taking his full attention and, while he would have liked to run for mayor, San Diego is coming out of a difficult time and his attention needs to be on the work that he was elected to do.
“I think that voters will be responding to the recent events, so character and integrity is going to be really important,” Gloria said. “But I think the most important issue facing the city is infrastructure and I hope that any of the candidates that are successful will have a good plan for helping to rebuild our neighborhoods.”
Atkins called the election one centered on “integrity and transparency,” saying, “People are going to look long and hard at what they know or think they know about the candidates.”
Former four-term Democrats for Equality President Jeri Dilno described Alvarez as a progressive who comes from grass-roots beginnings, is neighborhood oriented and, ultimately, has the best chance of winning in the November special election.
“Residents of Hillcrest, because of our history of struggling for equal rights and civil rights, have a strong commitment to the political process and we are well aware of what it means to have a person in office that represents our views and aspirations,” Dilno said.
“I think the overall issue in the Mayor’s race is going to be whether we continue with the progressive type of movement that elected Filner and begin to make some changes, which for years have been controlled by the Downtown interests while neighborhoods have been left in the lurch,” she said.
The special election is set for Nov. 19. If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff election between the top two will be scheduled for February.
One Democrats for Equality member recommended that if Alvarez does not advance to a runoff, the club should endorse any Democrat that does.
Editor’s note: Per Doug Case’s note below, the last sentence stating no vote was taken concerning club endorsement should Alvarez not advance to the runoff election was deleted. The motion to endorse any other Democrat that potentially would make the runoff passed Democrats for Equality’s required two-thirds vote. We apologize for the error.