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Breaking Down Faulconer’s Win In San Diego Mayor’s Race

Overnight, Republican Kevin Faulconer went from city councilman to mayor-elect. For insight into how he defeated Democrat David Alvarez, KPBS Morning Edition Anchor Deb Welsh spoke with San Diego Mesa College political science Professor Carl Luna.

Overnight, Republican Kevin Faulconer went from city councilman to mayor-elect. For details on how he defeated Democratic opponent David Alvarez, KPBS Morning Edition anchor Deb Welsh speaks with San Diego Mesa College political science professor Carl Luna.

Q: We have a Republican mayor. Did the Republicans outspend the Democrats or did Democrats fail to get out the Hispanic vote? Was it a combination of both?

I think, Deb, what you’ve got is something of a perfect storm for Democrats: The triple ‘w.’ They had a weak candidate, a weak message and a weak turnout. For all the expectations turnout could be 40 - 45 percent or so, it was what it was in the primary, which meant that the south of (Interstate-8) voters really didn’t show up for David Alvarez.

Q: Do you think last November’s primary election had any effect on yesterday’s race?

It definitely left the Republicans consolidated behind Kevin Faulconer, and he was able to parlay that into success by getting a good turnout particularly in the mail-in ballots, about 70 percent of his vote came in by mail.

Maybe the Democrats are now in the process of buyer’s remorse; they may have had a better chance it turns out with Nathan Fletcher, who could’ve bridged the middle gap. They went instead with more of a true progressive as some would like to label him, David Alvarez, but youthful inexperience and a message that didn’t resonate across enough of the city undid them.

Photo by Milan Kovacevic

Mayoral candidate David Alvarez at election night party at Public Market 1735 National Ave. February 11, 2014.

Q: You mentioned youthful. David Alvarez, 33 years old, the youngest mayor had he been elected for San Diego. Do you think age played a factor in that?

It probably played a minor factor on the turnout on Election Day. Most of the ballots — and this was a key issue for Alvarez — most came in through mail, so they even came out through before those David Alvarez's — 33-year-old’s — ads even began to air and hit the voters. What Mr. Alvarez basically had the same mail in percentage of his votes as Mr. Faulconer did, where he needed to have a much higher Election Day turnout. So the vaunted “Get Out The Vote” campaign apparently did not get out the vote.

Q: With Faulconer the new mayor-elect, Democrats in essence will have a veto-proof majority on the City Council. What does that mean in terms cooperation between the new mayor and the council?

Mr. Faulconer has been on the council, he’s dealt with the council, he’s made compromises where he’s needed to, he’s been overruled in areas where he hasn’t wanted to. He can block things from moving forward to a degree, but the simple reality is the situation on the ground is the council remains the same; it stays 5-4 Democrat over Republican — could become 6-3; and, with the council elections coming up, it could maintain 6-3. He’ll have to work with the City Council to get things done, and a lot of the progressive agenda of Bob Filner through Todd Gloria will continue.

Q: What do you see happening in terms of issues now that Faulconer is the new mayor-elect?

Well right off the bat you’ve got living wage issues to come up: They’re going to raise the minimum wage and how high you going to raise it? Barrio Logan is on the agenda coming up for the spring, community planning, outsourcing of jobs, dealing with ongoing budget problems or issues, to keep the budget going. And just your brass tacks: filling potholes, opening libraries and maintaining hours. So it’s going to be a lot of business as usual, but there’s going to be a little bit more of a tussle now between the mayor’s office — now that Mr. Faulconer is a true strong mayor in that position — and the Democratically controlled City Council.

Q: The Barrio Logan zoning plan has been a controversial issue. What do you see for that? Do you expect it to be reversed?

Now that could end up being a major dividing issue for the council. The council put it through 5-4, Mr. Faulconer voted against it. The industry and other concerned people got it on to the ballot, and it’s going to be one of the those issues: Do you stick by what the council and a long community planning group came up with and all of public input? Or do you overturn it at the ballot? That’s going to be a bit battle in June.

Luna said he’s heard talk about Faulconer moving up the political ranks.

“…Kevin Faucloner, overnight goes from being a back-bench council member to a Republican star," Luna said. "And people have been mentioning about Sacramento for Mr. Faulconer. He has a chance to possibly move up on the system, which actually clears the decks for Democrats even more.”

Photo by Nicholas McVicker

Kevin Faulconer greets fans at the U.S. Grant Hotel in downtown San Diego on election night for the mayoral runoff, Feb. 11, 2014.

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