An evening of political theater

The race for mayor of San Diego is important, not only for voters in Del Mar Heights, Carmel Valley, and La Jolla, but also for residents of all communities within reach of this newspaper. The mayor is not only CEO of the city of San Diego but also chief spokesperson and cheerleader for the San Diego region — as we learned from a recent episode of “South Park.”

Mayor Jerry Sanders is termed out. The open seat attracted four political heavyweights. They met recently in a mayoral forum at the Old Globe Theater in Balboa Park.

The stage space was tall and well lighted, framed by photos and paintings of great theaters and museums of the world — appropriate to the evening’s focus on how the next mayor will support art and culture through local philanthropic and nonprofit groups.

Moderators Gloria Penner (KPBS

grande dame

) and Scott Lewis (Voice of San Diego) were adequate in their roles, mercifully less intrusive than Juan Williams who moderated a subsequent forum at USD.

Three Republican candidates stepped to the podiums: DA Bonnie Dumanis, Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, and Councilman Carl DeMaio.

Democratic Congressman Bob Filner participated from Washington via audio hookup. The sound system was excellent, giving the impression that Filner’s well-amplified voice was the voice of God, spilling down from above,

deus ex machina.

All four candidates portrayed themselves as friends of the arts. All supported continuation of current city funding for arts and culture from the transient occupancy tax.

All four also turned the discussion toward their pet themes: DeMaio’s “Roadmap to Recovery,” Dumanis’ proposed take-over of San Diego schools, Fletcher’s military service and his disdain for “playing games,” and Filner’s promise to take on downtown special interests and to stand up for the middle class.

An impassioned DeMaio revealed that he was an orphan, taken in by Jesuits. Dumanis was earnest. Filner drew the most applause. Fletcher drolly promised he won’t do anything to make the San Diego weather worse.

Fletcher improved in the polls after leaving the Republican Party, just 18 days after the party endorsed DeMaio. Apparently many voters feel the best candidate for mayor is the one who doesn’t know which party he favors, who doesn’t know which end of the rope to grab in the great political and cultural tug-of-war that will determine our future.

I support Bob Filner, an old friend whom I have backed in 14 previous campaigns. Bob is smart, tough, progressive, and incorruptible.

Gordon Clanton teaches Sociology at San Diego State University. He welcomes comments at