Bilbray wants four debates before primary

By Christopher Cadelago & Craig Gustafson
SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE
December 7, 2011

Rep. Brian Bilbray is urging his challengers to consent to four debates before the June primary election, saying the forums would give residents in the new congressional district the opportunity to learn more about the candidates' views and experiences.

He faces off against Democrats Lori Saldaña, a former Assemblywoman, and Scott Peters, chairman of the Port of San Diego. Republican John Stahl presents a challenge to Bilbray in the newly drawn district.

"The voters of the 52nd District deserve the chance to hear from each of us about how we are going to tackle these problems," Bilbray said.

The Republican wants four one-hour debates between Jan. 1 and June 4. His preferred formats include one debate on public radio and one on local television and he asked that one be hosted by conservative commentators Rick Amato or Mark Larson and another by the community.

In response, Saldaña suggested six public debates in every corner of the new district between January and the June 5 primary. But the longtime educator insisted that the discussions take place in the community and not in broadcast studios.

"My campaign is eager to work with the other campaigns, along with the League of Women Voters or other mutually agreed-upon civic organizations, to develop appropriate debate formats and agreed-upon venues, dates, etc.," she said.

"I fully expect that this kind of open and honest debate with candidates and voters will attract media attention, and I invite media representatives to join the community in their neighborhoods, and participate in locations throughout the 52nd District."

Peters called Bilbray's invitation to debate "a great sign." However, his campaign manager said no one candidate should dictate the terms.

Endorsements in the 52nd: The San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council voted overwhelmingly to endorse Peters for the 52nd Congressional District. He also secured the support of the Chicano Democratic Association of San Diego.

Lorena Gonzalez, secretary-treasurer of the labor group, described Peters as a problem-solver who knows how to create good, middle-class jobs -- a skill that is sorely needed in Washington.

The district takes in the northern and coastal county. The top two vote-getters in June advance to November, regardless of their party affiliation.

Mayoral endorsements: It's the season for giving and, except for campaign cash, the best gift political candidates could hope to receive is an endorsement, of which there have been plenty handed out in recent weeks for those running in San Diego races.

In the race for mayor, Democratic Rep. Bob Filner received the expected backing of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council. He also picked up the support of San Diego Democrats for Equality, the former San Diego Democratic Club.

Filner is the only high-profile candidate running that is opposed to a June ballot initiative that would eliminate guaranteed pensions for most new city hires and give them a 401(k)-style plan instead. His three Republican opponents -- City Councilman Carl DeMaio, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher -- support the measure.

Dumanis drew endorsements from the San Diego Police Chiefs' and Sheriff's Association and two members of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors: Dianne Jacob and Pam Slater-Price. Fletcher racked up more support in the business community, including the California Small Business Association, the New Majority San Diego and Alianza, a Latino business group.

The most recent major endorsement for DeMaio came from Roger Hedgecock, the talk radio host and former San Diego mayor.

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