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City attorney candidate Jan Goldsmith has cancelled on at least three recent debates or candidate’s forums citing scheduling conflicts. The cancellations have led incumbent City Attorney Mike Aguirre to claim that Goldsmith is shying away from public confrontations with him.

The city attorney challenger canceled on a debate scheduled for last night at the Coalition of Neighborhood Councils. Dwayne Crenshaw, executive director of the group said Goldsmith’s campaign called about a week ago to cancel.

“They said he had double-booked his schedule and apologized,” Crenshaw said.

Goldsmith also recently canceled on a debate that was to be hosted in early October by the local chapter of Common Cause, a national political advocacy organization. Jeanne Brown, San Diego organizer for Common Cause, said the debate was agreed to by Goldsmith’s campaign in July, but a month or so later the campaign called to say Goldsmith couldn’t make it.

“The woman who called was very abrupt and just said she had a conflict,” Brown said.

And Goldsmith and Aguirre both cancelled on a candidate’s forum that was to be held this week at San Diego State University, said Daniel Osztreicher, vice president of external affairs in the SDSU student government.

Goldsmith said any notion that he is trying to avoid Aguirre is nonsense. He said he has debated Aguirre in public between 25 and 30 times during the course of his campaign, and that he plans to debate him at least four more times before the general election in November.

And Goldsmith pointed out that Aguirre failed to show up for several debates in the run up to the primary election and said his opponent has shown up almost an hour late for at least two recent debates.

“I remember when he showed up to a debate in Rancho Penasquitos, looked at the audience, and just left,” Goldsmith said.

At last night’s meeting of the Coalition of Neighborhood Councils, Aguirre, who did show up, took the opportunity to deliver a triumphant speech to the crowd of local activists. He was met with applause and much laughter.

After he had delivered his speech — which focused a lot more on national politics than it did the mechanics of being the city’s lawyer — Dede McClure, a member of the audience, grabbed the microphone and made a proclamation.

“This is the third city attorney event I’ve been to, and they’ve all been south of the 8. Jay Goldsmith has never set his feet south of 8,” she said, getting Goldsmith’s name wrong.

Goldsmith named several debates he has attended south of Interstate 8, including a recent debate in front of the San Diego Democratic Club, which recently endorsed Aguirre.

He said the cancellations were simply scheduling conflicts, and told me to speak with his scheduler, Janette Littler.

Littler told me that reaching out to voters is the Goldsmith campaign’s No. 1 priority. I asked her why, if that’s the case, Goldsmith canceled yesterday’s debate to attend what he described as a fundraiser. She said Goldsmith was connecting with voters last night — just a different group of voters.

Littler said she took over scheduling at the Goldsmith camp in September. She said she inherited a calendar that had been organized by volunteers, that was often double- or triple-booked, and that she’s been trying to straighten it out ever since.

“We’re very sorry, from the bottom of our hearts, but to say we weren’t touching one group of voters in favor of another is unfair,” Littler said.

Goldsmith and Aguirre will debate each other on October 2 at 7 p.m. at the Clairemont Town Council, 2161 Edell Place in Clairemont.

Maybe they’ll debate the debate debate.

WILL CARLESS

At Monday’s meeting of the Coalition of Neighborhood Councils, City Attorney Mike Aguirre delivered a triumphant speech to a friendly crowd of activists, garnering applause, laughter and whoops of “amen” from the audience.

After Aguirre had made his speech

McClure got city attorney candidate Jan Goldsmith’s name wrong. Had Goldsmith been at the meeting to debate Aguirre, as he had promised to be until about a week before the event, he would have had the opportunity to correct McClure and to tout his abilities and his qualifications to be the city’s top lawyer to the crowd.

But Goldsmith wasn’t there. Nor was he at a debate scheduled for a few days earlier at the American Lung Association of California’s San Diego office, nor does he plan to be at a debate scheduled at San Diego State University on Wednesday, or at a debate that was scheduled for early October to be hosted by Common Cause

While Goldsmith does plan to attend four debates between now and election time, the challenger has cancelled on at least three organized debates in recent weeks, letting down organizations that in some cases have been planning the events for weeks. He has also declined to participate in at least one recent candidate’s forum, saying that he does not want to participate in policy discussions.

Please contact Will Carless directly at will.carless@voiceofsandiego.org with your thoughts, ideas, personal stories or tips. Or set the tone of the debate with a letter to the editor.

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