‘New' Mike Aguirre Seeks to Shed ‘Old' In Race for Mayor

Thirty-four potential candidates for mayor of San Diego have now filed ‘notice of intent’ with the city clerk’s office to run in the November 19th special election.

But only one, Mike Aguirre, has ever held citywide office.

On Friday, the former city attorney publicly announced his candidacy.

And professed a personality transformation aimed at rehabilitating the unsavory image lingering from his rough-and-tumble, one-term tenure that voters ended in 2008 – favoring Jan Goldsmith by a 3-to-2 margin.

"I am a better leader today than I would have been had I been re-elected,” Aguirre told reporters at a mid-morning news conference in Balboa Park. “And the pain that came following my defeat brought with it wisdom."

His words and demeanor signaled a sort of "Aguirre 2.0": a kinder, gentler, wiser re-make of the litigator who launched endless investigations marked by what critics say was unnecessary browbeating and bullying.

He used to turn friends into enemies.

He antagonized then-mayor Jerry Sanders, and questioned Sanders’ ethics.

Is Aguirre truly ready to handle being the city's chief executive?

"I have learned that character is important,” Aguirre said in a Q&A session with the news media. “But so is style."

And while the style Aguirre showcased Friday was a world away from the scary character he presented as city attorney, all too many people remember the rants and rages – and might wonder whether the mere push of an emotional button would bring back the 'Old Mike'.

"He's trying to say, 'Oh, it's a different office,'” GOP political consultant John Dadian observed in an interview with NBC 7. “ I would retort that you don't change your personality at his time in life right now."

As an attorney, Aguirre explained: "I was known as a combatant. A mayor has to be a consensus-builder. My goal is to be known as a consensus-builder of the first-rate type. That is what I pledge to the people of San Diego -- that I will be a consensus builder, and that I will respect the democratic principles and values upon which our city government is based.”

Give him the benefit of the doubt, Aguirre says, and he'll bring down skyrocketing water and electricity rates, get a better handle on the city's budget, facilities and services.

He's certainly no stranger to campaign competition, having run for Congressional and City Council offices as well as city attorney.

"The people running against him better not underestimate both his brain and his ability to steer the debate,” says Voice of San Diego CEO and columnist Scott Lewis. “Because he's very intelligent, very good at these things. They would be wise not to underestimate that, because it's going to be interesting to watch what he says."

Lewis adds, however, that Aguirre’s challenge is to solidify the image of a man who’s undergone an enduring change of heart and mind.

Is it too late in a short-window election cycle for that to happen?

"I don't doubt that he now has a humility and wisdom that is really powerful,” Lewis said, adding this cautionary note: “It's what happens when he faces confrontation and conflict that he's never been able to handle very well."

Aguirre, meantime, has some private wealth to invest in a campaign.

But he also faces strong opposition from three other 'name' Democrats seeking their party's endorsement next week: Councilman David Alvarez, and former Assembly members Nathan Fletcher and Lori Saldana.

Plus a front-running Republican, Councilman Kevin Faulconer who's got the backing of the GOP and San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.

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