The Morning Report
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So I finally got to meet Jan Goldsmith, the man who has his sights on knocking Mike Aguirre out of the City Attorney’s Office.
Goldsmith and his entourage held a well-attended press conference in a room at the Westgate Hotel in downtown San Diego this afternoon. Joining Judge Goldsmith were some heavy hitters: The Dumander duo were there (District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and Sheriff Bill Kolender) as was San Diego Republican Party Chairman Tony Krvaric.
After the press conference, I stepped into one corner of the sweltering room and asked Goldsmith some questions. As we both perspired, he offered some perspectives and laid out his plans for the City Attorney’s Office.
First I asked Goldsmith, who was dressed in a somber pinstriped suit, what he thought of Aguirre’s term in office. I pointed at a stack of bumper stickers on a nearby table that read “Evacuate Aguirre,” and asked if he thought Mike should evacuate.
“Nah, I think he can stay in the county,” Goldsmith said. “I think that he has strayed from the role of the city attorney and he has made it too political, when it really needs to be a lawyer. We need an effective lawyer — he has not been an effective lawyer. He says he’s independent, but he’s not independent.”
Goldsmith went on to say that Aguirre’s record of losing court battles illustrates that he’s the wrong man for the job, and said that Aguirre’s simply been “playing mayor.”
“That’s not independence, that’s a loose cannon,” Goldsmith said.
“I won’t look the other way, I won’t be a lapdog,” he added.
I asked the judge why he’s the best candidate to fulfill the role of the city’s lawyer. He outlined his experience on the bench, taking in a vast array of perspectives while presiding over hundreds of criminal and civil cases, some of which involved municipalities. Then he mentioned his time as mayor of Poway.
“I’ve had a good city attorney, so I know what that role is,” he said.
Goldsmith also said he has run a successful law firm, served in the state Legislature and taught municipal law at three local law schools as an adjunct professor. That shows he has the requisite experience to bring the City Attorney’s Office back into a legal, rather than political, role, he said.
Goldsmith said he considered entering the city attorney’s race last spring but decided against it. After a vacation with his wife in October, he said, he reconsidered the job. The former politician said he doesn’t really like politics, but that when he realized the job is all about the law, he decided to give it a shot.
“It’s running a law firm, and bringing it to the level that I want to bring it to, so that it provides quality legal advice for the city of San Diego,” he said. “It’s law. I will not be a political city attorney.”
Nevertheless, Goldsmith has clearly aligned himself with the Republican Party and with San Diego’s Republican establishment. I asked him whether he considers himself a moderate or conservative Republican.
“I’m a law Republican. There is no Republican or Democratic way to run the City Attorney’s Office,” he said.
Lastly, I asked Goldsmith about former prosecutor Bill Gentry, who entered the race before him and then dropped out suddenly, despite having raised more money than any other candidate. Gentry said he removed himself from the race to clear the way for his fellow Republican to have at Aguirre.
A week later, Gentry received a judgeship from the governor.
I asked Goldsmith whether he was relieved when Gentry dropped out.
“No,” he said.