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Obama’s speech a mixed bag for San Diego leaders

San Diegans gathered around their televisions Wednesday night as President Barack Obama reiterated words of hope and change in his State of the Union address.

In a reflection of what some consider a divided nation, local leaders held different views of the U.S. Chief Executive and his plans for the rest of his term.

Perhaps the most support for Obama could’ve been seen at The La Jolla Brewery where about 150 members of the San Diego County Democratic Party gathered. Holding signs and donning gear from Obama’s presidential campaign, the local democrats cheered loudest during Obama’s promises to change the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” law, work toward equitable pay between women and men; and his plan to alter the immigration system.

Del Mar Mayor and Democratic candidate for the California Assembly Crystal Crawford, who attended the watch party, texted the word “wow” to a friend in Washington D.C. immediately after the address.

Holding a paper filled with notes from Obama’s address, Crawford described Obama as “inspiring.”

“I really appreciate the plain call to action for the nation to be responsible and to work together for the change we want and need,” she said. “There were many wonderful ideas in his remarks that make sense to me and everyone else listening.”

Crawford, who said her city has benefited from stimulus dollars, touched on his ideas for bipartisanship, jobs and the effects to California.

On the other end of the spectrum though, at least one local Republican was not as inspired. Former San Diego mayoral candidate and businessman Steve Francis watched the address over dinner and said he felt the President was lecturing to Americans.

“I thought the speech was flat,” he said. “There was a lot of rhetoric and it was as though he was lecturing, which was not appropriate.”

Francis elaborated by touching on some Democratic proposals — like the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (colloquially known as the Cap and Trade bill) and the health care reform package - which he said aren’t desired by most Americans. Additionally, he said Obama should offer ideas to pay down the estimated federal deficit of $1.35 trillion and protect Americans from terrorism.

For one local business leader, Obama’s speech was a mixed bag. San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO Ruben Barrales said Obama offered what could be “potential good news” for San Diego’s business community.

“He made some good points and suggestions,” Barrales said. “He talked about military defense, and in San Diego the industry is large, and it sounds like it will remain strong.”

Talks of clean energy and the elimination of capital gain tax were also pleasing to the business leader but when it comes to jobs, Barrales remains skeptical.

“He, himself, said his plans won’t make up for the seven million jobs lost,” Barrales said. “I didn’t see anything in his speech that signifies we will see a recovery of the jobs lost.”

The call for job creation was reiterated in a statement released by San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council CEO Lorena Gonzalez.

Gonzalez, who told SDNN in a past interview that she was pleased with Obama’s performance thus far, said San Diego “needs the President and Congress” to not only invest in job creation and “repair the damage of the last eight years.”

“San Diego’s middle class wants change that makes life better for all working families,” she said. “That is our charge to Congress, to the White House and to us in the labor movement.”

Hoa Quach is the political editor for the San Diego News Network. Follow her on Twitter or add her on Facebook.