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As we reported this morning, the county Democratic Party decided last night not to provide City Attorney Mike Aguirre an early endorsement in next year’s election. If Aguirre wins the endorsement, it will have to come in the months closer to the June 2008 election.

Leading up to the meeting and afterward, I spoke with several members of the party’s Central Committee, which votes on the endorsements, to get their impression of Aguirre.

Most of them were supportive of the Democratic incumbent. His supporters said they liked his tenacity in fighting for an honorable motive — to keep government honest and free of corruption. Some of them said they enjoyed his aggressive personality, while others like him despite it. (Those quoted below spoke on the condition of anonymity.)

“For goodness sake, he should know he’s the city attorney and not the mayor, but he’s exposed things that need to be exposed,” said one committee member from North County.

Others say his confrontational style is a hindrance. His critics claim he divided the party by accusing Democratic City Council members and union officials of being corrupt, and that he often argues his side better in the court of public opinion than in one of law.

“What Mike has done is misused his position,” said one committee member, an ex-city employee. “It’s almost like he wins cases on KUSI, but he doesn’t win them in court where there’s actually an opposing lawyer.”

Aguirre’s detractors, and even some who said they would vote for him later on, said they are hoping the decision not to endorse Aguirre will prod another Democratic contender to jump in the race. One Democrat, Dan Coffey, has already vowed to jump into the race, but many of the committee members said they didn’t find him to be a viable candidate.

Other lawyers in the anti-Aguirre camp offered up a list of who they’d like to support for city attorney: City Council President Scott Peters, former school Superintendent Alan Bersin, San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council political director Lorena Gonzalez and former Assemblymen Juan Vargas and Howard Wayne.

Bersin has tested the waters in the city’s business circles, but the others have either ruled out running or have said they are reluctant to run.

Aguirre nearly captured the early endorsement, winning the support of a majority of the committee members, but falling two votes short of the 60 percent that’s needed.

EVAN McLAUGHLIN

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