The rhetoric in San Diego's mayoral race is at a fever pitch.
The sparks ignited among the four major rivals at NBC 7 San Diego’s mayoral debate, as the finish line of a year-long race is now close in sight.
While the meanest attack ads and mailers come from supporters outside the control of the campaigns, the candidates themselves are held liable.
District Attorney and candidate Bonnie Dumanis pinned down her opponent Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher on his brutal attack ads early in the debate.
"You are the first one who began attacking in this entire campaign,” Dumanis said to Fletcher. “Is that a 'new form of politician'? Or an old Sacramento brand you are used to for the last three years?"
She came off as the courtroom prosecutor she once was, almost putting Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher under cross-examination.
"Bonnie Dumanis, I think, carried the debate with her feistiness,” said Voice of San Diego City Hall reporter Liam Dillon. “She came out in a different way than we've seen her before. And I think it's a realization that it's two weeks away from the election and this is pretty serious. And she's not in the position right now where she could be happy."
Fletcher's surge in the polls since denouncing the GOP and running as an independent has him in the cross-hairs. He accused Carl DeMaio of slamming him from the left and right to keep him out of a runoff.
“You're trying to pick your opponent,” Fletcher said to DeMaio. “And at the end of the day, I see it for what it is. The voters see it for what it is. And they'll make a determination when we get there."
In response, DeMaio maintained his criticism of Fletcher’s departure from the Republican party as nothing more than a political maneuver.
"Nathan, pick a position and stick with it,” DeMaio said. “I know that's hard for you. But pick and position and stay with it, because you can't talk out of both sides of your mouth. And in this debate, you have done just that."
Watch the heated exchange here.
Lone Democrat and Representative Bob Filner had his eyes on progressive voters, rather than his opponents’ bickering, saying he would bring in some fresh voices to city governance, rather than political insiders.
In the end, the winner of the debate may be a surprise to those who believed this was a two-party race.
"I would guess that this is going to go down right to the wire between Fletcher and Filner to see who can get into that final election -- with DeMaio really crossing his fingers for Bob Filner," said panelist in the debate and Voice of San Diego CEO Scott Lewis.
Except for two incumbent mayors, finishing first in the primary has been somewhat of a curse since 1986. It's been the second-place finisher that's gone on to win in November.
The top vote-getter this year can only hope that jinx was made to be broken.