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Roundtable: Tactics, Turnout And Money In San Diego Mayor’s Race



Mark Sauer


David Rolland, San Diego CityBeat

Sandhya Dirks, KPBS News

Claire Trageser, KPBS News


Iffy Polls, Dog Whistles and Neighborhoods

A recent UT/10News poll shows Kevin Faulconer leading the San Diego race for mayor by a comfortable margin. But zip on over to the Democratic Party poll, and David Alvarez is ever-so-slightly ahead. Say, what?

The difference depends on where the polling was done, how the questions were asked, and, some say, on who commissioned it.

Funding has not been a problem for either candidate, with PACS on both sides spending big and spending often, spreading around much more than $1 million.

Some Alvarez supporters have labeled an anti-Alvarez mailer sent by the conservative Lincoln Club of San Diego as “dog whistle racism” (subtle, aimed at those receptive to such tactics), which the club denies. The mailer either does or does not show Alvarez making gang signals with his hands.

Both candidates bill themselves as neighborhood-friendly, rather than downtown-centric, and both conscientiously reiterate that they want to be the mayor of "all of San Diego" whenever they get the chance.

Faulconer has a reputation and recent voting record as a moderate Republican, while Alvarez is a dyed-in-the (blue)-wool progressive. Some political observers say San Diego is in the process of becoming a blue city. Others say the transformation from Republican red is already completed. In theory, a blue or even purple tinge to the electorate should help put a Latino candidate like Alvarez in the mayor’s office. But that will depend on geography: whether voters south of I-8 turn out to vote in significant numbers.

Personal Finances Paint Personal Pictures Of Candidates

David Alvarez and Kevin Faulconer are both paid $75,000 per year as San Diego City Council members, but their personal finances are quite different. The jobs they held before going into politics, their current family income, even the size of the mortgages on their homes reflect the background of each candidate. KPBS and iNewsource dug into their finances to find out how closely these differences tally with their public image.

in 2012, the Faulconer family income was $249,000, while the Alvarezes declared $95,000 in 2012 income. The difference came from Katherine Faulconer's relatively high-paying job. The Alvarez family lives in a Barrio Logan house they bought in 2008 for $249,000. The Faulconers bought their Point Loma home in 1999 for $385,000. The Faulconers' currently owe $546,250 on the house, which is said to be worth nearly $1 million.

Voice of Average Citizen Becoming Tool of the Powerful

At the turn of the last century when California was controlled by oligarchs, a progressive movement took shape and began to look for ways to give ordinary citizens a voice in Sacramento. Thus were born the referendum, initiative and recall.

These tools offered ordinary citizens the opportunity to overturn a law, initiate a law or throw out an elected politician if they could gather enough signatures to get the proposal on the ballot.

Fast forward to the 21st century and these processes have been turned on their heads. The powerful are now using the referendum to try to overturn laws and regulations not in their interests. Most recently in San Diego theBarrio Logan Community Plan Update, passed by the San Diego City Council, has been the subject of a referendum campaign. So has another council-approved law, a plan to finance affordable housing via a developers’ fee.

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