Latino issues are looming large in the race for San Diego mayor.

The city is having special elections to fill the post vacated by Bob Filner, who resigned Aug. 30 after sexual harassment allegations against him. Filner pleaded guilty to false imprisonment and battery charges involving three women. Election day is set for Nov. 19.

The mayoral race’s top four candidates, who include two Latinos, focused in a recent debate on issues of concern to San Diego’s Latinos, an increasingly growing population. Latino voters in San Diego have risen more than 70 percent since 2005 to number almost 120,000.

In a debate on Wednesday, the candidates generally agreed on the need for comprehensive immigration reform, improving ties with Tijuana and working on better economic opportunities for Hispanics, according to utsandiego.com

San Diego Councilman David Alvarez promised to establish an Office of Immigrant Integration, according to the news outlet.

“It’s really simple: If any segment of our population fails, we all fail,” utsandiego.com quoted him as saying. “We’ve got to all grow together.”

Former City Attorney Mike Aguirre committed to setting up a center on the border where residents of communities on both sides – San Diego and Tijuana – could attend meetings and work on programs and events to strengthen bonds.

And he expressed pride in the participation of Latinos in city politics. “I am so happy and proud that two of the candidates up here are Latinos,” Aguirre said.

Meanwhile, Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher said he opposed letting local police enforce immigration laws, something that city policies already prohibit. He also committed to seeing that all children in the city have access to quality education.

City Councilman Kevin Faulconer pledged to helping the small business community, where Latinos predominate, and said that empowering them would in turn help generate more jobs.

Faulconer, who is Republican, took the lead in polls recently, commanding a double-digit advantage over Fletcher, a Democrat who had been the front-runner.

The San Diego National Public Radio affiliate, KPBS Radio News, said Faulconer came in on top with 41 percent, followed by Fletcher with 28 percent. Faulconer, the news outlet said, got his biggest boost from Latinos, who support tripled since a previous poll.

Alvarez came next with 17 percent, and Aguirre came in last with seven percent.

The site utsandiego.com said that Latinos played a key role in the election of Filner, and could be expected to be just as influential in what could be a tight race.

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