I just got back from a luncheon city attorney debate hosted by the Downtown Partnership at the Marriott in the Gaslamp Quarter.

Four of the city attorney candidates were at the event. Amy Lepine was unable to attend.

Each of the candidates has his or her standard modus operandi for the debates and nothing changed today. Each candidate also has their stock phrases and mottos that come out in pretty much every debate.

Here’s a summary of how things in the race have been shaping up, along with an example of the sort of stock phrases that keep coming up again and again:

Jan Goldsmith:

  • Message: The job is about the law and nothing but the law. I’ve been a lawyer and a judge for a long time and I’m the best person to give the city good legal advice.
  • Stock Phrase: “I won’t get down into the political sandbox.”

    Brian Maienschein:

  • Message: I protected 11,000 acres of the San Pasqual Valley, I helped complete Highway 56 and I guided my district through two horrendous wildfires.
  • Stock Phrase: “I don’t grandstand, I don’t hold press conferences.”

    Scott Peters:

  • Message: The current City Attorney’s Office is in a mess, Mike Aguirre has been terrible for the city. I am an experienced lawyer and spent time in the County Counsel’s Office so I’m the best person to run the office.
  • Stock Phrase: “There’s only one person I haven’t been able to get along with (Aguirre), and I’m sorry about that.”

    Amy Lepine:

  • Message: Peters, Maienschein and Goldsmith represent the old guard, Aguirre has swung away from his original mission and has gotten sidetracked, San Diego needs a balance, that’s me.
  • Stock Phrase: “I won’t be an attack dog or a lap dog, I’ll be a watchdog” (also used, before Lepine, by Goldsmith.)

    Mike Aguirre:

  • Message: Look at my record and you’ll see I have done well for the city. I have started to fight corruption and need your help to finish the job.
  • Stock Phrase: “I have established a beachhead against corruption, I need your help to build that beachhead up.”

There are a few other standard patterns to each debate:

  • Aguirre likes to attack Goldsmith for keeping his position as an impartial judge while also becoming involved in partisan politics.
  • Goldsmith attacks the divisiveness of Aguirre’s reign, but also often graciously commends him on his legal theories.
  • Peters attacks Aguirre for just about everything, saying the City Council doesn’t get legal advice on time. Aguirre normally fires back at Peters, invariably using the word “negligent” at some point.
  • Maienschein also goes after Aguirre, complaining about what he says is complete disorganization in the office.

The moment something other than the standard fare starts to emerge at one of these debates, I’ll let you know.


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