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By Nadin Abbott

September 5, 2013 (San Diego)—The special election set for November 19 to replace Bob Filner, who resigned August 30, is starting to shape up.  To date, 21 people have thrown their hat in the ring. But thus far, only three candidates  have strong name recognition.

The first, and no surprise to any observer of San Diego politics, is former Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher who previously ran for Mayor against Filner. The second is Second District Councilmember Kevin Faulconer. The third is former City Attorney Mike Aguirre, recently recently has represented consumer groups fighting utility companies and big businesses.

While in theory city elected posts in the County are supposed to be nonpartisan, that pretense died in practice a long time ago, with parties lining up to endorse and campaign for candidates in recent races. So who are the three men stepping forward as first-tier candidates?

Fletcher came in a distant third in the primary elections in 2012, but enjoys name recognition among voters across the city. He also served in Sacramento for two terms as a Republican and changed to Independent to run for Mayor in 2012. After that race, he once again changed his party affiliation to Democrat. This could pose a problem for the party among Filner backers who prefer progressive policies.  A former Marine, Fletcher has also worked for Qualcomm, headed by Irwin Jacob who pushed forward a controversial proposal to revamp Balboa Park that Filner quashed.

Faulconer is serving the second district, where he will be termed out in 2014. He is a conservative Republican whose chief concern is the fiscal health for the city. Many voters will know him not from his votes in Council but for his role, with Interim Mayor Todd Gloria, to secure Filner’s resignation. He also promoted the Prop B pension reform measure. He has been endorsed by the Republican Party in San Diego.

Lastly, we have Aguirre, who also previously ran for Mayor.  During Mayor Jerry Sanders administration, Aguirre worked to bring the Sunroad project in Kearny Mesa in compliance with FAA regulations. In the end, even though he was deemed to have a conflict of interest by the courts, the building had to remove top stories to be in compliance and protect public safety.

Aguirre could be seen at the lone progressive in the first tier. If no other prominent candidates enter the race, he could force a run-off election. To win outright, a candidate would need over 50 percent of the votes. Otherwise a run-off among the top two vote-getters will occur.

The field has narrowed due to announcements by several prominent San Diegans who have decided not to seek the Mayoral seat. Carl DeMaio decided to keep his run for the 52nd Congressional District against Congressman Scott Peters alive, instead of trying again for Mayor. Gloria was expected by some observers to run, but instead he chose not to run and focus on his actions as Acting Mayor.  Supervisor Ron Roberts, former State Senator Christine Kehoe and former Councilwoman Donna Frye have also announced that they will not seek the Mayoral office.

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