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They’re on opposing sides of the political spectrum but mayoral contenders David Alvarez and Kevin Faulconer looked like allies on Friday.

Alvarez, a Democrat, and Faulconer, a Republican, faced off against ex-Republican assemblyman turned Democratic candidate Nathan Fletcher, a politician with solid name recognition who could siphon votes from both lesser-known councilmen in the Nov. 19 mayor’s race.

Fletcher immediately took up the role of the critical outsider at the first mayoral debate featuring all three top candidates. He called on city leaders to do a better job, putting the two councilmen on the defensive.

Faulconer used the debate to prop up Alvarez, his City Council colleague whose candidacy poses less of a threat to the Republican than Fletcher’s.

The unlikely alliance between the two city councilmen became apparent early in the debate at the Logan Heights Family Health Center.

The Ignored Pledge

It started with a question about slow emergency response times in certain neighborhoods.

Fletcher denounced longer waiting periods for ailing patients in some parts of the city, but quickly pivoted.

He pledged to run an attack-free campaign and asked Alvarez and Faulconer to do the same.

“Let’s have a campaign about ideals, about the future and about our ideas, and not about each other,” he said, inspiring a few cheers.

Alvarez ignored him.

“I want to address the question, which is really important, the inequities that occur in this community,” Alvarez said before describing his work on the Citygate report, which identified neighborhoods with the highest risk for delayed emergency responses.

When he took the microphone, Faulconer started by praising Alvarez.

“(Alvarez) is on the mark with that, and he has been a leader, particularly on the Citygate report and I give him credit for the work that he’s done,” Faulconer said.

Homing in on Homelessness

Faulconer and Alvarez backed each other up again when the moderater asked about homeless programs the candidates would fund if elected mayor.

Alvarez and Faulconer both described the City Council’s support of homeless programs and shelters.

Fletcher brought up his clean campaign pledge once again, before saying the city must to a better job helping homeless San Diegans.

“I want to let Kevin and David know I’m happy to give them five seconds of my time to simply say what we asked earlier, that we’re going to run a positive, clean campaign,” Fletcher said. “Every time they miss an opportunity to answer that I think that that is instructive.”

Neither Faulconer nor Alvarez took up Fletcher’s offer.

The Controversial Community Plan

Faulconer’s next move to prop up Alvarez came on an issue where they were just recently on different sides of the table: the Barrio Logan community plan.

Alvarez brokered a last-minute deal that allowed the community blueprint to pass with in a 5-4 City Council vote. Faulconer voted against the plan, and is siding with the maritime industry, which wants at least one more concession from residents.

Fletcher called on Alvarez and Faulconer to find a new agreement that appeases both residents and the industry.

“This is the kind of problem that has lingered for decades, and the current council’s not getting it done,” he said.

That angered Alvarez.

“I take extreme exception to what Mr. Fletcher just said,” Alvarez said. “I worked endless hours to try to put together a compromise on the Barrio Logan community plan update. Nobody knows this community better than I do.”

Faulconer responded by praising Alvarez.

“I agree with my colleague David,” Faulconer said. “He worked very hard on this issue.”

Lisa Halverstadt

Lisa is a senior investigative reporter who digs into some of San Diego's biggest challenges including homelessness, city real estate debacles, the region's...

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