DeMaio and Filner reveal true tempers

by Leonardo Castaneda

Political debates can feel like speed dating. Candidate have only a few minutes to justify to voters why their position on specific topics is the right one. And like speed dating, appearances can be more decisive than anything they say.

On monday night, KPBS and San Diego State’s School of Public Affairs hosted a debate between city councilman Carl DeMaio and congressman Bob Filner. Both candidates seemed eager to move to the middle and often took a pragmatic tone regarding issues facing the city.

To be honest, I watch the debates for the same reason I watch hockey. Not for the occasional point scoring, but for the fighting—and this debate didn’t disappoint. Others will debate who made their points more logically and factually. From a purely aesthetic point of view, Filner came across as impulsive and aggressive, while DeMaio seemed prepared to the point of lethargy.

From the opening bell, Filner swung at DeMaio personally, criticizing his endorsements and personal record. He accused him of being controlled by moneyed special interests, particularly San Diego’s Mr. Burns, Doug Manchester. He also took every chance he could to call DeMaio a “failed one-term councilmember.” His responses were aggressive and often past the allotted time limit. To be fair, Filner has never been known for having conciliatory attitude.

In contrast, DeMaio seemed calm throughout the debate. He looked at the cameras and coolly delivered seemingly well-prepared answers. He came ready for all contingencies and responded ably to loaded questions critical of positions he has been known to support. As Filner joyfully pointed out multiple times, DeMaio was so well prepared, he seemed to ignore the details of certain questions, focusing more on delivering his speaking points than answering.

In the end, the debate served to reinforce existing ideas about both candidates. Depending on your political leanings, Filner came across as fired up and sure

of his conviction; or as a petulant child entitled to the mayor’s office. DeMaio was calm, ready to take on the city’s challenges; or a callous establishment politician willing to say whatever he needs to win the election.

And if you still haven’t made up your mind, there are plenty of debates left for the candidates to hammer their point (and each other) home.