by Brian Brady
I attended the first “mano a mano” Mayoral debate between Republican Carl DeMaio and Democrat Bob Filner Thursday night at the Institute of the Americas at UCSD. The topic was relations with Mexico. Ten years ago, I thought The San Diego/Tijuana region was a megalopolis with untapped potential but after the murder of Rosarito’s mayor, I resigned myself to the fact that Mexico’s corrupt government ceded power to the cartels, rendering the prospect of regional trade doubtful. After watching the debate, I realized there are good opportunities for regional commerce.
The crowd was mostly pro-Filner with less than 15 percent of the 100 people who attended in the DeMaio camp. The format was to have the candidates answer questions which were submitted from the audience and was moderated by Tom Fudge from KPBS. Fudge had his hands full, trying to keep Filner on topic.
The first question was directed to both candidates, asking them if they would enforce federal immigration law in the City of San Diego. Filner predictably parroted the Obama Administration’s talking points about how enforcing federal immigration law led to racial profiling and violated the civil rights of Mexican citizens in America. Filner intimated that the San Diego police dont have the super human powers the federal agents have to enforce immigration law.
DeMaio explained that his number one priority as Mayor is public safety. He reminded us that legal immigrants, as well as Americans of Mexican descent, were victims of the crime promulgated by many illegal aliens. DeMaio didn’t go so far as to promote the Arizona solution but did say there were opportunities for San Diego law enforcement to work in coordination with federal immigration officials. He made it clear that racial profiling would never be tolerated in a DeMaio Administration. Filner visibly rolled his eyes and muttered his disbelief.
Both candidates acknowledged that the border wait times were impeding commerce but only DeMaio offered a solution. Filner touted his accomplishments at securing federal funding for the 905 and Otay Mesa border crossing while DeMaio promoted the idea of technology for collaborative efforts between both countries to enforce immigration laws more efficiently and facilitate international trade. DeMaio noted that the technology was already available at UCSD.
DeMaio announced that he would be leading a delegation to Tijuana for three days to discuss these issues which prompted Filner to attack his commitment to the idea. Filner accused DeMaio of not visiting Mexico which prompted a question from the audience asking how many times each candidate had been to Mexico in the past year.
DeMaio explained that he had been busy defeating Proposition D sales tax and working on comprehensive pension reform. Filner rattled off a number of Mexican cities he’d visited, reminding me of Johnny Cash, but wouldn’t state if he’d been to Mexico in the past year.
When asked about the maquiladores, DeMaio explained that both sides of the border benefit when one side advances economically, He seemed to understand that the region, while currently bifurcated, still complements one another, DeMaio explained that the maquis are attracting jobs which had formerly been in China and understood that, as the standard of living rises on the Mexican side of the border, American stores and businesses benefit.
Finer expressed his disdain for the maquis by explaining that he has been a champion of environmental rights and human rights. He said the maquis dont treat the environment well and that they offer false hope for interior Mexicans, drawn to Tijuana at the prospect of high maqui wages but eventually cross our border illegally. Bluntly stated, Filner said that maquiladores are bad business.
Both candidates used the platform to attack the other’s ability to lead San Diego. DeMaio criticized Filner’s work in Congress while Filner retorted that DeMaio didn’t help him much these past four years. DeMaio reminded us that he was cleaning up the pension mess which Filner (among others) created from their past terms on the Council. Filner’s continually hammered DeMaio’s inexperience in public service while DeMaio continually highlighted Filner’s low efficacy in public service.
The most divisive comment came from Filner when he accused DeMaio of belonging to a party of racists:
“Carl, you can not disown your party. They have enveloped you, they have taken you over, you have worked them over every inch,” he said. “They are a party that does not believe that the people of color in this nation deserve an equal chance, they do not believe that Mexico is worthy of respect as a nation.”
DeMaio was visibly upset (as was I) at Filner’s race-baiting but calmly replied, “While Filner was dividing in Washington, I was building coalitions of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents to reform government in San Diego. Bob Filner should stay in DC because there is no place for his divisive politics in San Diego.”
Filner closed with ideas about a green economy and a “blue economy” (highlighting the potential of wave energy) and suggested a fusion of the two to make San Diego an “aqua city.” He painted in broad strokes of ideas, with no real details, and closed with the RFK quote, “There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why… I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”
DeMaio closed with his list of his accomplishments as a Council member, not limited to but including defeating Proposition D, reforming pensions, and implementing managed competition. Rather than take sole credit for these feats, he offered the credit to a coalition of Republicans, Democrats, and independents. DeMaio closed by saying “We’re on a roll, my friends.”
Indeed we are.
P.S.- One enjoyable moment came when I had an opportunity to meet a Filner supporter who comments under a pseudonym regularly here at SDRostra. I always like to meet people face-to-face. After last night’s conversation, I expect the level of discourse to rise to a new height with that person.
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Brian Brady is a small business owner who lives in Solana Beach. He is a director for Stop Taxing Us, the taxpayer advocacy and tea party group. There, he crafted the “Promise to California taxpayers,” a no new tax pledge candidates make. He is a Member-Elect of the SDGOP Central Committee.