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Political Update: Gloves begin coming off in San Diego’s mayoral race

SAN DIEGO – With three Republicans vying to be San Diego’s next mayor against only one Democrat, the gloves were bound to eventually come off, as candidates attempt to differentiate themselves for voters.

Jobs are a key issue in almost every election, but Councilmember Carl DeMaio and Assemblymember Nathan Fletcher are both leading the charge on the issue, calling for things like reform in the city’s infrastructure and permitting process. The idea being that if businesses can lower their cost and streamline their permitting process, jobs will follow.

DeMaio outlined his proposal in his Pathway to Prosperity plan, which focuses on seven starting points for job creation. A few weeks later, on Aug. 18, Fletcher released his own proposal, the Innovation to Move San Diego Forward, which he states was born out of business-need discussions with innovators, entrepreneurs and job creators.

"To retain and expand new economy job-generating companies, the City of San Diego must change a number of its business practices, and step one is the first place a new business goes before hiring people: getting the permits necessary to open a business,” Fletcher said. “New business permits are the first stop on the road to new jobs. Lets make it easy and online.”

This sounds all well and good, but according to the DeMaio campaign, Fletcher’s plan contains no original ideas. Campaign spokesman Stephen Puetz called it "a veiled compliment to the work Carl has done on this issue over the past two years — after all, imitation is the ultimate form of flattery.

"If Assemblyman Fletcher has any further questions, we’d be happy to get together with him and explain the Pathway to Prosperity in greater detail," Puetz added. "We look forward to seeing future policy positions by Mr. Fletcher and recommend he review additional initiatives from Carl for continuing inspiration."

"Fixing San Diego requires a mayor who will outline bold and fresh ideas – and who can build consensus to implement those ideas," DeMaio said. "Even my mayoral opponents cannot resist the common sense reforms I have outlined in my detailed plans and I appreciate their support."

In a one-page chart comparison, DeMaio’s campaign provided dates and quotes from each candidate, making their case that DeMaio had in fact expressed the permit-processing ideas first. However, Amy Thoma of the Fletcher campaign explained that by way of background, their plan is substantially different from DeMaio’s.

“Even if the ideas were the same, Nathan cares about creating jobs and is the only candidate in the race who can get it done," she said. "He has a proven track record of bringing coalitions together to develop real solutions to problems facing the city. The important thing is: Who can get it done?"

Puetz said he feels that candidates like Fletcher must differentiate themselves from DeMaio, to demonstrate true leadership. “With the Road Map to Recovery, and the Pathway to Prosperity, our campaign is the only campaign for mayor to put out concrete original plans,” he said.

Both campaigns agree creating jobs is a real issue, and Thoma insists that Fletcher is “laser-focused on developing innovative solutions,” while ensuring that they meet a real need. Any way you spin it and regardless of the crafty use of a thesaurus, it will be up to voters to decide what sets the candidates apart.

While two campaigns are battling it out over similarities, the issue of medicinal marijuana dispensaries brings out some stark differences. Advocates of medicinal marijuana were recently successful in forcing the City Council to repeal two ordinances they felt were too restrictive, acting more like a ban than regulation.

In a recent City Beat interview, mayoral candidate and U.S. Rep. Bob Filner (D-San Diego) said this is a serious issue that lacks leadership.

“I don’t know what they’re trying to do on the council. It sounds like they were trying to find a way not to have [medical-marijuana dispensaries] … I don’t see any plan or any leadership to say, ‘Hey people are suffering. It’s legal to do it. Let’s put any controls and any ministerial things you need to do, but let’s facilitate it.’ What they were using [are] regulations to stop it. I would say, let’s have them viable.”

Although not an issue that resonates as much with voters as job creation, medicinal marijuana advocates have vowed to make their voices heard in the 2012 election, and no other candidate has been targeted more than District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis.

Voters unhappy with what they call her attack on the marijuana community have started a “No Dumanis” campaign, which among other things, counters her events with protests. The District Attorney’s Office responds by alluding to the fact that some of the more outspoken not-Dumanis supporters are people previously prosecuted for marijuana-related crimes, and that Dumanis has unfairly become the face of a string of police and DEA raids that took place a few years ago.

Dumanis spoke with San Diego Gay & Lesbian News in an attempt to set the record straight on her support for medicinal marijuana.

"I support the legal and legitimate use of marijuana, period, no exception," Dumanis said. "I know people who have been seriously ill and have benefited from it." She added that for many patients in the wasting phases of HIV and cancer, it helps them eat and provides relief.

"My support is unequivocal for those in legitimate need, and as the D.A. since 2003, I never, and will never, file charges against a legitimate patient following the law," she said. "I do not, however, support illegal drug dealers who are selling drugs, not providing access."

The policy-makers, Dumanis elaborated further, decide legislative issues and her position as D.A. has been to follow and enforce those laws.

"The law is very clear," she explained. "As a legitimate patient, you can grow your own, or a caregiver that helps you in terms of your physical well-being can grow it for you. That is safe access. There is no provision in the law for selling marijuana in a store."

The issue is complicated, given the legality of marijuana, so if elected mayor, Dumanis states she would reference the state Attorney General guidelines and seek help from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in order to help the City Council figure out a way to appease those in need, while protecting a state law considering [the stores] unlawful at the federal level.

Undoubtedly, opinions will continue to clash on issues like marijuana, but all four candidates will tell the voters that job creation is important, because it is; so as we are already starting to see between DeMaio and Fletcher campaigns, candidates are going to have to work harder to differentiate themselves from one another this campaign season.

To submit questions you would like to see the candidates answer, request coverage of a campaign event, or for any other inquires regarding campaign coverage in the San Diego Gay & Lesbian News, please email Staff Writer Esther Rubio-Sheffrey at esther@sdgln.com, or call her toll-free at (877) 727-5446 x711.

As a matter of full disclosure, SDGLN Publisher Johnathan Hale has a personal relationship with Carl DeMaio. Their relationship in no way impacts the editorial decisions made by Ken Williams, SDGLN Editor in Chief, and does not influence our political coverage. All candidates are allowed to submit two pieces per month for our Commentary page. Williams can be reached at (877) 727-5446, x713.