Bonnie Dumanis made a debut of sorts Thursday night. The Republican district attorney appeared at a candidate forum with other major mayoral hopefuls for the first time. Dumanis didn’t have the polish of Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher or comfort of Congressman Bob Filner, the two other candidates who spoke. Both of them have been debating for the last two months.

Dumanis tried to distinguish herself by continuing to attempt to seize the region’s hottest issue.

Asked about her priorities as mayor, she listed city schools, along with public safety and job creation.

“I think our mayor has to be a leader in the public education system,” Dumanis said.

It’s a notable stance. Current Mayor Jerry Sanders and most other city politicians have largely shied away from school issues. They have the city’s own financial problems to deal with.

But San Diego’s schools are in deep trouble, so much so that they’re in danger of insolvency and a state takeover. They recently shelved a plan to close individual schools.

Last week, school board member Scott Barnett proposed a fiscal recovery plan that featured deep cuts to teacher salaries and new taxes. The plan had barely escaped Barnett’s lips when Dumanis issued a scathing press release against the tax idea. Later in the week, her campaign said she would talk about the financial crisis at a breakfast with school principals. She continued on the theme during the candidate forum.

“We cannot afford to close schools and we cannot afford to tax people and we cannot afford a state takeover,” Dumanis said.

But for all her recent outspokenness, it’s less clear what Dumanis would actually do as mayor about school finances beyond talking. After she spoke at the forum, I asked her what action she would take on the schools’ crisis if she were mayor now.

“I would have a conversation with all the stakeholders, bring them all together and say, how can we fix this problem?” Dumanis said.

My editor, Andrew Donohue, tried to press Dumanis on her school ideas on the radio Friday morning, but also didn’t get any specifics. Dumanis criticized the tax increase, then said:

I don’t think right now in any phase of government that people in our communities trust that government. Sacramento, what a mess. They don’t trust Sacramento. You know, the federal branch right now, everybody there is just bickering with one another. They don’t trust people there. And locally, because of the mistakes of the past, they don’t trust people. So people have to start talking about the truth in a civil and respectful way and come to some solutions.

Liam Dillon is a news reporter for He covers San Diego City Hall, the 2012 mayor’s race and big building projects. What should he write about next?

Please contact him directly at or 619.550.5663.

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Liam Dillon was formerly a senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He led VOSD’s investigations and wrote about how regular people...

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