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Mike Aguirre with a new attitude and new moniker – the happy warrior!

Created: 25 October, 2013
Updated: 13 September, 2023
8 min read

Mayoral candidate, Mike Aguirre
Mayoral candidate, Mike Aguirre

He has not received as much media attention as the other candidates, but Mike Aguirre IS running for Mayor of San Diego. Unfortunately, for him, he is running as a decided underdog, on the outside looking in as the other big three candidates are garnering all the money, endorsements, and most importantly all the media attention. It didn’t used to be that way, there was a time the name Mike Aguirre was frontpage news seemingly every day.

Things could have been different for Aguirre, IF, back in the 1987 in a close race for city council, Aguirre had defeated Bob Filner. However, it was not to be. Aguirre was making his first run for office and Filner by then was a seasoned politician. That one race set the course for both men that has now come full circle as Aguirre tries to replace the disgraced Filner in this special election!

Aguirre did not win that race in ‘87 but it did introduce him to the local political scene. Prior to him running for city council, Aguirre was a virtual unknown having never run or holding public office. The fact that he ran a competitive race was a credit to his campaign and the effort he put into the race.

Aguirre is no longer a newbie to politics. His character and political leanings are defined and most folks have an opinion about Aguirre one way or another. There is not much middle ground when it comes to Mike Aguirre, you either love him or hate him.

Prior to running for office in ’87 Aguirre was a very successful lawyer. He earned his law degree from Boalt Hall at the University of California at Berkely, worked as Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Department of Justice, and directed a grand jury investigation of pension racketeering. He would leave the Justice Department and start his up his own firm where he specialized in securities fraud, and by all accounts was very successful earning a good living.

Aguirre’s success with his private practice afforded him the time to take on pro bono cases that were of interest to him.
Aguirre whose father was Spanish and his mother of Mexican decent, took up the causes of the Hispanic community. In 1990, Aguirre allied with the Chicano Federation to file a successful federal voting rights lawsuit to overturn San Diego’s redistricting. In 1993 he successfully defended the United Farm Workers Union in Yuma, Arizona in a case with lettuce grower Bruce Church.

But it was one case in particular that really put Mike Aguirre on the political map. In 1996, Aguirre went to court to throw out a 1995 contract between the City of San Diego and the San Diego Chargers football team. In the contract, the city agreed to issue $60 million of bonds to renovate the football team’s stadium, and, in a controversial clause, promised to constantly maintain the stadium as a state-of-the-art venue. The city had also agreed to guarantee the sale of 60,000 game tickets at prices to be set by the Chargers. Aguirre’s suit and the ensuing scandal surrounding the maintenance clause compelled the city to renegotiate with the Chargers in 1998.

Taking on the Chargers and the City branded Aguirre as an outsider and to most folks something short of a hero. This would serve him well as he geared up for his next political campaign, City Attorney.

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Aguirre was well positioned for his race as City Attorney. This was at the height of the Pension Fund Scandal and the previous City Attorneys had been branded as nothing more than a rubber stamp for the City Council.

Aguirre took on the mantel of being an outsider and a muckraker. With his years of experience litigating pension fraud cases he was seen as the man to step into the City Attorney’s office and fight for the residents.

In 2004 Aguirre became the City Attorney for San Diego. In his four year term Aguirre was bold and aggressive representing his office and the people of San Diego. A 2008 Wall Street Journal article praised Aguirre’s efforts to rid the San Diego of hundreds of millions of dollars of allegedly illegal pension benefits.

At the same time Aguirre’s bold, aggressive style rubbed the status quo the wrong way. The mayor was a Republican and there was a constant feud between the two elected leaders. While Aguirre had the support of the great silent majority, Mayor Sanders had the support of the Republican right leaning newspaper in town and they did their best to attack Aguirre throughout his term.

Four years of negative press, despite all the good Aguirre did accomplish, had the desired affect, in 2008 Aguirre lost his reelection bid.

With this special election to replace Bob Filner, Aguirre saw this as an opportunity to become the next mayor of San Diego and as a sort of referendum on his years as City Attorney.

“As time has passed people have come to acknowledge that I was treated pretty roughly and all I was trying to do was to help and serve the people,” as Aguirre recalled the tumultuous days as City Attorney. “I saved the city over $250 million dollars in the cases that we won, and I was able to negotiate an early settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission that helped the city get its credit rating back earlier than it would have. And I established the city attorney as an independent representative of the public.”

“If people look back at what I did, I suffered political consequences for doing what was right. In the long run that may be a positive political thing to have done because the people will come to appreciate the fact that they had someone in office that put their interest ahead of their own,” continued Aguirre.

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So what exactly convinced Aguirre to run for office knowing that would be facing an uphill battle?

“When I saw who was running, I saw the system come right back into place,” described Aguirre. For Aguirre the system is the good old boy system that in this case is supporting Kevin Faulkner and the union supported candidates, David Alvarez and Nathan Fletcher.

So once again, Mike Aguirre sees himself as not a part of the system or least not a part of the special interest system that uses its money to buy the office.

“The big differences I see this time, special interest are not content anymore with having influence. The special interest attitude is that they can make anyone mayor,” stated Aguirre.

Mike Aguirre sees himself as a different person today then when he was City Attorney, as he described it; it is his newfound attitude of being “a happy warrior.”

“The difference between being City Attorney and being Mayor is night and day,” explained Aguirre. “As the Mayor you are putting out ideas and trying to get people to go along with those ideas so the tools you use are tools of persuasion.

Where as an attorney the tools you use are lawsuits. The job of the City Attorney is to defend and bring lawsuits.”
“As the mayor your job is to persuade, to use cooperation, and to try and get people to work together. To create a vision and try to get people to mobilize behind it.”

Aguirre believes that with the passage of time from his days as City Attorney that the voters will have a historical perspective on his service to the city and see all the good that he did then, that will carry through as he serves the city as Mayor.

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While most folks anticipated the old Aguirre to come out with his guns a blazing, attacking the status quo, Aguirre describes his days as City Attorney as hand-to-hand combat, instead what they have gotten is a much quieter, nicer Mike Aguirre.

Will a nicer Mike Aguirre overcome the odds and get into a runoff for Mayor? We don’t know.

We have known Mike Aguirre for a long time now. In fact, this paper supported Aguirre over Filner in 1987. We have come to like him as a person and when people ask about him, we always tell them to sit and talk with Mike. After you hear what he has to say, you will come away from him with a greater understanding of the issue, his vision, and of him as a person. Mike’s biggest problem is that you can’t package him into a sound bite, and there just isn’t enough time for him to sit and talk with all the voters…

To find our where Mike Aguirre stands on the issues you can visit his web page at:

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