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Faulconer, Aguirre Joining Mayor's Race Against Fletcher

September 5, 2013 1:33 p.m.


Carl Luna, Political Science Professor, Mesa College

Brian Adams, Political Science Professor, SDSU

Related Story: Faulconer, Aguirre Joining Mayor's Race Against Fletcher


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

CAVANAUGH: Our top story on Midday Edition is how the race for San Diego mayor is shaping up. Candidates have until September 20th to announce, and in week has seen a lot of activity on that front. Expected candidates have dropped out of the race, unexpected candidates are popping up. So far about 18 people have taken at least the first steps toward declaring their candidacy. And here to assess the field are my guests, Carl Luna, political science professor at Mesa†College. Welcome back.

LUNA: Good to be here.

CAVANAUGH: And Brian Adams, political science professor at San Diego State University. Welcome back.

ADAMS: Thank you.

CAVANAUGH: Carl, in recent weeks, we've talked a lot about what would happen if mayor Filner resigns, and now we're living in that world. How do you think the race to finish out Filner's term is shaping up?

LUNA: Pretty much like till fer's term shaped up, it's Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.

CAVANAUGH: So you've made the point in speaking about this that this is going to be very unlike our other campaigns because it's so short in duration. What are the essentials? Financial backing? Name recognition?

LUNA: Both of those are critical. You have to have the name recognition, it's hard to introduce yourself to the public in a short period of time. You have to have the money to run your campaign. It helps to have a campaign organization structure in place. So candidates who have been in campaigns have that, the party resources, major interest groups within the parties to support you, a clear choice of your party, and getting out the vote is going to be critical for both parties for all the major candidates. Who really wants to vote between Veteran's Day and Thanksgiving?

CAVANAUGH: The idea of being the first out there with, let's say, a campaign commercial, is there value in that?

ADAMS: Absolutely. The campaign season is so short, it's going to be very difficult to get people's attention. People are paying attention to other things. Typical in special elections, voter turnout is a lot lower, especially in democratic groups. So the get out the vote issue is going to be much bigger for Democrats than Republicans.

CAVANAUGH: Considering this scandal surrounding the Filner resignation, is there anything special you think San Diego voters might be looking for in a mayoral candidate this time around? Brian?

ADAMS: I think that they certainly are -- any scandals that come up during the election will be a death knell. They just don't want to go through that again.

LUNA: I agree with that. They're going to look for somebody who's a nice person, somebody they want to see on the TV and spend time with. Do you want to have a beer with this person? After Bob Filner, you don't want frowny races. You want smiling faces, someone who's competent that you not to see on your TV for the next three years.

CAVANAUGH: And once again, I want to tell our listeners that we're opening the phones. If you want to join our conversation to say who you'd like to see run for mayor or what you think is important in this campaign, give us a call. Let's talk about those who have announced that they are not running. Carl DeMaio. What do you think played into his decision not to run for San Diego mayor again?

LUNA: Well, listening to him last week, right up till Friday, I thought he was really internally divided. The mayor's office is his heart, that's what he wanted to do. Congress is maybe a safer bet. Sometime over the weekend, a combination of his deciding he loses as mayor and runs for Congress, he can't win that, and probably the various party leaders offering to take him out onto lake Tahoe and not bring him back convince him to sit it out.

CAVANAUGH: If DeMaio lost another bid to become San Diego mayor, would that have sunk his political career?

ADAMS: Not completely. But it would have been a major blow. It was a lot safer for him to run for Congress as Carl suggested. He's got the party backing for running for Congress.

CAVANAUGH: Interim mayor Todd Gloria says he's not running because he says he has too much to do. What other reasons might there be?

ADAMS: First he doesn't have a lot of name recognition citywide. He's known in his district, but that's just 1/9th of the city. And it would be an uphill battle for him, and he'd need a lot of money to do it. I don't see where he'd be able to get all that money from, unless the Democratic Party or labor unions decide to put a lot of money behind him, and apparently they weren't going to do that.


LUNA: That's exactly what was going on with Todd Gloria. Because he's in a good position now as the council president and acting mayor. He is early in his career, he's got time to build on this and run for mayor later on or state assembly.

CAVANAUGH: So DeMaio and Gloria, two men who have decided to announce this week that they are not going to be running for mayor of San Diego. A while ago, always a wildcard, council woman Donna Frye said she's not running for mayor. Any thoughts about why that is? After this, she has, one could argue, come out on the winning side of this whole debacle with mayor Bob Filner. What would be the reasons she might not want to enter the race?

LUNA: She was not looking to advance a political career when he brought these charges forward. It came out of genuine outrage. It's a sign she does see herself moving out of the political into the public service arena, per se, and I would have been very surprised had she jumped into the race. I don't think it's what she wants to do any longer.

CAVANAUGH: Assembly woman Tony Atkins and Christine Kehoe will also not get into the mayor's race. Are there any women considering running for San Diego mayor?

ADAMS: Well, Lorena Gonzalez has been put forward as a potential candidate. Lori SaldaÒa, also. Although I've not heard how serious they are about running. But we may end up with a field with no women which is really surprising because in this context, you would think women would have a little bit of an advantage running to replace Bob Filner.

CAVANAUGH: Right, in light of the kind of scandal that hedto his resignation. Frank is calling from San Diego. Welcome.

LEFT2: I just wanted to say I'm a supporter of Nathan Fletcher, and I think he'll be good for the city and that those people that run the hotels and the downtown people that were his supporters previously may not be now will come and be with him when he becomes the mayor. And what makes it good for Nathan is that he can do things like he just recently did for janitors and carrying that progressive agenda forward. He's one of few people that can bring those people to the table for labor and everyday working people, what San Diegans voted for, and a change in this government, not longer having the downtown insiders.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you for the call. You like Fletcher, I got it.


CAVANAUGH: Let's go to Nathan Fletcher. The first person who announced he was going to be a mayoral candidate. What are his strengths and weaknesses?

LUNA: Well, his weaknesses is that he's not been a Democrat for very long. He was a Republican who transitioned into an Independent, then a Democrat. He did that faster than a moth becoming a butterfly. That being said, if he can explain why he did the transition, he didn't leave the party, the party left him, are the Democrats are a better base to advance the issues for San Diego, yada yada, his strengths are he does dominate the middle ground there. He's got business interests backing him, labor union, a lot of establishment Democrats are behind him. If all that can come together to mobilize the vote and get out that lower democratic voter turnout that you usually expect, that's his recipe for victory.

One of the strengths that the caller was saying Fletcher had in his previous run was the downtown business interests. People who voted for Bob Filner voted directly against downtown business interests. So how is Fletcher going to resolve that?

ADAMS: He's got a lot of explaining to do to voters. He didn't do particularly well in the last election. Of I think he's going to have a real uphill battle trying to convince voters he's not a political opportunist. And also to convince some of the hardcore democratic supporters that he's a real Democrat, that he really believes in what they believe.

CAVANAUGH: Let's move onto San Diego City Councilman, Kevin Faulkner, who and also running for mayor of San Diego. Assess his strengths and weaknesses.

ADAMS: I think his problem is that he doesn't have citywide name recognition. And a lot of people don't know who he is. He's been on the council for a while, but most San Diegans don't follow what the City Council does. That's his big downside. He's likely to get support from the Republican establishment, from the Lincoln Club, he's likely to have a lot of funding and be able to run an effective campaign.

CAVANAUGH: Carl, you would agree with that? His major problem is no name recognition? He's been on the City Council longer than anyone.

LUNA: If this was a regular election cycle over time where you had a lot more people showing up to vote. His other problem is he is a mint condition Republican candidate, and he looks like your standard issue downtown Republican which is not going to reach out to minority voter, to moderate voters quite as well. In a short term election, he can bank on solid Republican support though.

CAVANAUGH: You bring up an issue we talked a great deal about during the mayoral campaign last year, the fact that San Diego is known for electing mayors that are middle of the road, who are not flashy, who are rather subdued or a mint issue kind of candidate as you just described. And yet last time we had Carl DeMaio who was very conservative, very divisive figure in many people's minds, and Bob Filner who had his own personality issues even before we had this resignation problem. So I'm wondering, do you see San Diego reverting back to type during this mayoral election? Are you looking for someone who is nonflashy, straight arrow kind of person?

LUNA: Nonflashy to a degree, but they have to have a certain amount of charisma to be able to swing in voters in such a short race. In the last race, you had a perfect example of what happens when the parties go for their ideological hearts and not their heads. Republicans right now could have mayor Nathan Fletcher had he run as a Republican. Democrats went with Bob Filner even though a lot of people knew he had problems because they thought he was the true progressive. In this race, I think the middle may play out more than it might have in a previous race.

ADAMS: I would agree. And I think politics has fundamentally changed. And I think in the long term, we're never going to go back to the pattern of electing the mod rate, middle of the road candidates, although this election may be an exception.

CAVANAUGH: Mike Aguirre has told news outlets that he plans to run for mayor. And this morning we learned from CityBeat that David Alvarez will be entering the San Diego mayor's race. These are both Democrats; is that right?

ADAMS: Yeah. And I don't think Mike Aguirre has much of a shot of winning the race, although he could affect the outcome. He could prevent a candidate from receiving 50% in the primary or influence who becomes the 2nd place finisher in the primary. So he could have an impact. But I don't think he's that serious of a candidate to actually win. David Alvarez is a more serious candidate, and I think he could make a run for it. Of although it seems like Nathan Fletcher is pulling away a lot of his support.

CAVANAUGH: We had one major Republican candidate, and three major democratic candidates.

LUNA: That's when mayor Faulkner sends a nice bouquet of flowers to Mr. Aguirre and Alvarez for splitting the vote. If I was the Faulkner campaign, you target the leader of the Democrats, probably Nathan Fletcher, damage him, maybe Mr. Alvarez goes through, and in a January election, are Republicans have a good chance of winning it.

CAVANAUGH: So you see a runoff basically no matter what with this number of candidates?

LUNA: Without Mr. Alvarez entering the race, there was still a possibility of avoiding the runoff because Mike Aguirre's poll is probably going to be in low single digits. With Mr. Alvarez, you probably guarantee a runoff. And Nathan Fletcher is no longer a sure bet to make the runoff.

ADAMS: The only way we're going to avoid a runoff is if some of the candidates drop off before we have the primary election. And I think that's unlikely.

CAVANAUGH: Last year at this time, San Diego voters were getting inundated with fliers, TV commercials about the mayor's election. Will we be seeing that again? Or is this too short to raise that kind of money?

ADAMS: It'll be interesting to see how the powerful interest groups that have the money to spend, whether they decide to go all out on this election. Whether the unions and the Lincoln Club and the Republican and Democratic Parties decide to pour a ton of money into it or whether they decide to wait three years from now. It's up to them whether they're willing to spend the money because I don't think the candidates will be able to raise enough money on their own.

LUNA: I tend to think it's going to be shock and awe though. Of because the Republicans want this mayorship back, and they have a chance at it. Democrats don't want to lose it. They're doing their best to actually do that. I think there will be a lot going on. Mr. Fletcher's got a lot of mayoral ads sitting on the shelf, and Mr. Faulkner just has to write "for mayor" on all his fliers.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you both.

ADAMS: Thank you.

LUNA: Thank you.