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Community members expected to pack The Center tonight at LGBT Mayoral Candidate Forum

SAN DIEGO -- With so much community interest in the upcoming mayoral race, the San Diego LGBT Community Center's auditorium is expected to be a full house tonight at a forum in which each of the top four candidates for the office will address the crowd.

Carl DeMaio, Bonnie Dumanis, Bob Filner and Nathan Fletcher are all scheduled to attend the forum.

The LGBT/District 3 Mayoral Candidate Forum will begin at 6 pm and has been organized by The Center and a coalition of community organizations to give the candidates the opportunity to address the concerns of LGBT San Diegans.

Denise Serrano, public affairs coordinator for The Center, said that anyone who wishes to ask a question of the candidates will be given the opportunity to write their question on an index card upon entering the auditorium. Questions must be submitted before the 6 pm start time.

Tom Fudge, KPBS Morning Edition anchor, will moderate the forum. Fudge will read questions to the candidates, who will each be given a set amount of time to respond to the inquiries. Because of time limitations, The Center staff members will group the cards into issue categories (such as "pension," "convention center," "new stadium," etc.) and Fudge will determine the best question to ask based on the content of the stack of cards in front of him.

Each candidate will be given the opportunity to answer every question.

Omar Passons, a board member of the North Park Community Association, which is one of the organizations that is co-sponsoring tonight's event, said his group believes it is important for the candidates to provide a clear message about how their administrations will address specific neighborhood-based issues.

"Our community in North Park includes a strong LGBT presence, and also a strong bike community, avid walkers, many dedicated volunteers and, increasingly, parents of small children," Passons said. "We co-sponsored this event to help ensure that the next mayor focuses on the issues that affect neighborhoods in San Diego and Mid-City."

The Hillcrest Town Council (HTC), another residents group, is also a co-sponsor of the event. Luke Terpstra, chair of the organization, said that HTC had hoped to schedule a similar forum at one of its upcoming meetings but realized the logistics might not be possible.

"As we started laying the ground work we were amazed at how difficult it would be for us to pull everything together in time," Terpstra said. "The Center decided to let local groups like us, the Hillcrest History Guild and other community associations co-sponsor this event with them, and we decided that this is a win-win situation."

Two local LGBT political organizations, the San Diego Democrats For Equality, and the Log Cabin Republicans of San Diego, also signed on to co-sponsor the forum.

Doug Case, president of the Dems for Equality, said that the forum will allow the community to distinguish among the candidates.

"It should become clear which candidate has the best record as an advocate for LGBT rights and other progressive issues," Case said. "Equally important, each candidate will share their priorities and vision for our city and their leadership strategy for achieving those goals."

Vicky Kerley of the Log Cabin Republicans said that her group is pleased to be a part of the event.

"We wanted a way for as many people as possible in our community to meet and be able to make an informed decision on the candidates," Kerley said. "We are blessed to have so many qualified people running for the honor of being our mayor. We hope that all that attend will come away more informed and more aware of the issues we face as a city and where the candidates stand on those issue."

With so many organizations encouraging their members to attend the forum, along with supporters of the various candidates, and interested community members, organizers say that participants should plan to arrive early.

Serrano said that the forum will begin promptly at 6 pm, and questions must be submitted before the start of the forum. Doors will open at 5 pm.

Attendees will also have the opportunity to register to vote at the forum, as volunteers will be circulating with voter registration cards. The deadline to register to vote in the June 5 primary election is May 21.

For those who tweet, organizers have not designated a particular "hashtag" for the forum, but are encouraging Twitter users to post to "#sdmayor."

The Center is located at 3909 Centre St. in Hillcrest. For more information, click HERE.