Democratic rep. Bob Filner and Republican City Councilman Carl DeMaio convened last Thursday at the University of California, San Diego Institute of the Americas Aug. 9 for the second debate of San Diego’s mayoral race, which planned to focus on the Mexican-American border and San Diego’s large Hispanic population.
DeMaio opened the debate by addressing the importance of building strong ties south of the border. He illustrated his commitment by revealing his plans for a trip, him and several Southern Californian business leaders will make across the border later this month to meet with several Baja Californian leaders in the public and private sectors.
“We shouldn’t see the border as a boundary, as something to fear,” DeMaio said.
Filner said it was important not to step on the federal government’s jurisdiction when it concerned patrolling the border. He said, in his experience, this has led to racial profiling. On the other hand, DeMaio said he would use local law enforcement to make sure undocumented immigrants, who could at times be “vicious predators,” are sent back south of the border.
Both candidates went on to stress the importance of international collaboration across the border.
Filner promised to create a coalition of Mexican and American mayors along the border while DeMaio spoke of the economic prosperity possible for both countries through codependence.
In addition to the importance of international collaboration, both candidates agreed on improving efficiency at the border, saying it will lead to safer crossing and economic efficiency.
However, the cordial discussion quickly disintegrated. DeMaio accused Filner of having “failed to build the collaboration and partnerships (San Diego) needed (with Mexico),” and showing no interest in doing so while serving in Congress. In response to the accusation, Filner credited himself with the sewage system at the border. He then called DeMaio a guy “who just discovered the word ‘Mexico.’”
Filner quoted Ronald Reagan by saying, “I will not hold my opponent’s youth and inexperience against him.”
The debate’s moderator had trouble maintaining control of the discussion after that. Filner accused DeMaio of not having enough Hispanic representation on his staff, to which DeMaio responded two of his seven staff members are Hispanic.
The debate progressed on to specifics regarding the improvement of the border crossing. Filner suggested implementing biometric smart cards to increase efficiency at the border. DeMaio stressed the importance of building trust on both sides of the border and improving local roads leading up to the San Diegan side of the crossing.
Then, in another move off the debate’s intended topic, DeMaio’s political party became the subject of discussion.
“(Republicans) are a party that does not believe people of color deserve the same chance at success,” Filner said.
They moved on to briefly discussing the DREAM Act, which would grant citizenship in certain circumstances, such as graduating from a U.S. high school, to individuals who entered the country illegally. While DeMaio called education the “stepping stone of the American Dream,” he does not support the “poorly thought out program, despite its good intentions.” He also criticized the program’s funding.
Filner corrected DeMaio, saying the DREAM Act never received funding because it was outvoted by the Republican party, saying DeMaio isn’t sincere in his claim to provide access for low-income children. The debate quickly went off topic once again.
“You know what reform means?” Filner said, referring to DeMaio’s platform of reform. The two candidates were no longer answering the moderator’s focused questions. “It means real estate for Doug Manchester.”
In the final stretch of the debate, DeMaio asked the crowd if they would allow a mayor to, “run on rhetoric, or on a record of getting things done.” This provoked another off-topic argument between the candidates, who both appeared to be struggling to restrain themselves.
Then came a question from the audience: How many times have you been to Mexico this year?
DeMaio reluctantly admitted he had not been to Mexico this year, but reminded the audience of his trip later this month. Filner, receiving a chance to outline his experience, said he visits Mexico several times every year. He listed several cities south of the border he visits regularly.
In their closing remarks, both candidates stated they were running on platforms of action.
“I have a record of implementing action,” Filner said. “I don’t see my opponent having done that.”
“I’m running on the record of getting reform done,” DeMaio said. “I want to finish the job on fiscal reform.”