Yesterday I moderated a two-hour debate hosted by the City of San Diego Retired Employees Association. I like their debates, they’re good and long so you really get a chance to go in-depth with the candidates and touch on a wide range of issues. Plus, the questions come from the audience, and there isn’t a more engaged group that the former city workers.

There was only one problem: The San Diego Union-Tribune, a local newspaper, invited Mayor Jerry Sanders and Steve Francis in for candidate interviews with its editorial board at the same time the debate was going on.

So, for a while, it was me, Floyd Morrow, Eric Bidwell and James Hart up on the stage. Then, Francis and Sanders showed up after probably a half hour or 45 minutes. Sanders stayed to answer four questions and then got up and left again. He said he had a lunch speech to deliver. Francis stayed until the end.

I admit I couldn’t take in-depth notes on the debate because I was busy moderating it. For the most part, the candidates stuck to the issues they have touted throughout the campaign. Morrow spent a good deal of time attacking the media for giving the impression that it’s a two-man race between Francis and Sanders.

Hart called the 25-year-old Bidwell the smartest guy in the race and suggested that Francis use his millions of dollars to fund a college education for Bidwell. Bidwell and Hart admitted a few times during the debate that they weren’t sufficiently versed in City Hall financial issues to answer some of the questions.

For the brief time they were together on stage, Francis and Sanders went directly after each other. Here’s the report our media partner NBC 7/39 put together on the two:

ANDREW DONOHUE

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