The top three mayoral contenders squared-off Friday at a debate in Barrio Logan - at times taking swipes at each other over leadership skills and predicted negative campaigning.
Former Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher shifted the conversation away from a question posed about emergency response times to dare his opponents to run clean campaigns.
"I'm here today to pledge to you today that my campaign will talk about me, my ideas, my vision for the future and will not attack either of these other two gentlemen who are fine men who care about our community," Fletcher said, largely setting the tone for the rest of the forum. "I'll also call on every organization whose endorsed me to do the same and I will publicly denounce any group affiliated with me that doesn't do that ... "
As the front-runner in the race, Fletcher, a Qualcomm executive, has already faced heavy criticism from both the left and the right for switching views as he morphed from a Republican to a Democrat with a brief interlude as an Independent who called on an end to petty political games during the 2012 mayoral primaries.
Councilmen Kevin Faulconer and David Alvarez did not acknowledge Fletcher's request during the debate, but both said after the event that pointing out voting records of other candidates would remain in their repertoire.
"My campaign is going out there talking about the facts," Faulconer said. "We're talking about differences of policy positions. Particularly about principles and not changing those principles and staying consistent, which is something I feel very strongly about."
During the debate, Alvarez responded to Fletcher's pledge request by indicating he was more interested in answering the questions from the forum, hosted in the community he grew up in and currently represents on the City Council.
"I don't know why he's bringing that up. It's not occurring," Alvarez said afterwards, referring to negative campaigning. "It's a short campaign and what I have to worry about is letting people know who I am and that's what I'm going to focus on."
A campaign mailer landed this week questioning Fletcher's shift on pension reform, managed competition, tax increases and project labor agreements, among other positions.
When filling out paperwork to qualify as a mayoral candidates, all hopefuls are asked by the City Clerk's office to sign a statement, per state law, promising "decency, honesty and fair play" during the campaign.
The pledge states the candidate will not use "character defamation, whispering campaigns, libel, slander or scurrilous attacks on any candidate or his or her personal or family life."
But, it also leaves room for criticizing an opponents record, policies and political parties, "which merit such criticism," the paperwork states. All candidates, including Fletcher, Alvarez and Faulconer signed and returned the pledge last week.
The "Spirit of Barrio Logan" debate hosted by Family Health Centers of San Diego lasted about 30 minutes before a packed house of more than 100 guests. It included topics such as neighborhoods, the Barrio Logan Community Plan Update, the emergency response times (although a sidetracked topic) and homelessness.