Unless someone of real political stature decides to challenge Mayor Kevin Faulconer for re-election, the San Diego city attorney's race will be the marquee contest in next year's local election cycle.
The primary election is 10 months away — but for the four candidates who have filed so far, it’s not too soon to start putting the arm on donors and selling themselves to voters.
Fundraising among the quartet already is pointing toward half a million dollars.
San Diego hasn't seen a contested city attorney's race since 2008.
Jan Goldsmith went unchallenged for a second term in 2012 and will be termed out in December 2016.
One of his chief deputies, Mara Elliott, is running to succeed him, along with Deputy District Attorney Robert Hickey and two attorneys in private practice, Gil Cabrera and Rafael Castellanos.
At a Thursday Lincoln Club candidates’ forum downtown, there was a general consensus on most issues among the three contenders on hand.
Where sparks flew was over Gil Cabrera's support from Cory Briggs and Marco Gonzalez, two lawyers who have brought a long list of cases against the city.
Asked about that, Cabrera replied: "Cory and Marco did host an event for me and the first thing I said when I spoke at the event was, I recounted the discussion I had with them when they offered to do so. It was pretty straightforward. I said, 'I appreciate your support but I want to be clear with you. If I'm city attorney I think your bottom lines will be hurt.'"
At one point later in the Q&A, Elliott addressed Cabrera’s explanation: “I think it's a concern to accept an endorsement from a person who has sued the city more than 50 times, and has affected a lot of the projects we have in the city of San Diego.”
Given rebuttal time, Cabrera responded: "There are a number of people, if you look at my endorsement list, that don't agree with each other. There are Republicans, there are Democrats, there are independents. There are people that have sued the city; there are people who have defended the city. I'm not going to sit there and tell people not to support me if they are not doing anything illegal."
Elliott ended the back-and-forth with this: "My point is, sometimes you need to say no. And saying no to endorsements such as that would've been a good thing to do."
Castellanos was not in attendance at the forum; his campaign team cited a “schedule conflict.”
The city attorney's job pays roughly $210,000 a year in salary and benefits.