Alvarez, Faulconer Headed To Runoff In San Diego Mayor's Race
Fletcher Concedes Race And Backs Alvarez
The top vote-getter in the San Diego mayoral primary was Kevin Faulconer. But he didn't get enough to win outright, and his opponent in the coming general election will be fellow City Councilman David Alvarez.
In a surprise late-campaign sprint, Alvarez, a Democrat, passed former Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher as late returns came in. The race for second remained too close to call given the tens of thousands of uncounted provisional and mail-in ballots still in play Tuesday night, but Fletcher conceded the race Wednesday afternoon and endorsed Alvarez.
With 100 percent of the precincts counted, Faulconer led with 44 percent of the vote, followed by Alvarez with 26 percent to Fletcher's 24 percent. Fletcher, a recent convert to the Democratic party, led early from the count of mail-in ballots. But that lead evaporated as votes from Election Day were tallied, and Alvarez ultimately pulled ahead.
"The next campaign starts tonight," Alvarez told cheering supporters at an election-night party in Logan Heights. "We are moving this city forward in a way that represents all of us."
Faulconer, meanwhile, celebrated his win with supporters in a traditional election-night venue at the downtown U.S. Grant Hotel. A crowd of supporters, mostly in business attire, drank wine and beer and ate appetizers while celebrating the win in the large Palm Court room.
"It was about bringing together this city," Faulconer told supporters as he reflected on the campaign. "And I believed in my heart, strongly then, as I believe now, that what this city needs is not just the experience that I bring to this office, but the ability to bring people together. It's not about partisanship, it's about leading on principles and doing what's right for the city of San Diego."
The mood at Nathan Fletcher's Mission Valley headquarters was subdued. The crowd turned silent as his lead over Alvarez disappeared. Fletcher spoke only briefly and did not make a concession speech before the room emptied.
The other prominent Democrat in the race, former San Diego City Attorney Mike Aguirre who raised little in the way of campaign funds, garnered less than 5 percent of the vote.
Former Mayor Bob Filner resigned over sexual harassment claims in mid-August, and a field of candidates quickly lined up to replace him. Kevin Faulconer enjoyed the advantage of being the only prominent Republican in the race.
"With the Democratic vote split, but the Republicans unified behind him, Mr. Faulconer knew that if he could start lining up moderates early, that will build his base for the run-off," Mesa College political science professor Carl Luna said.
But Brian Adams, a professor of political science at San Diego State University, said on KPBS-TV that Faulconer needs a big lead going into the runoff to emerge as the victor.
"The problem for Faulconer is he's a Republican in a predominantly Democratic city," Adams said. "And he's going to have to overcome that in the general election.
Faulconer raised and spent slightly less money than his opponents Nathan Fletcher and David Alvarez in the primary, which Luna said was also tactical. By holding off asking for money until the run-off election, Faulconer can raise more from his supporters while Democratic donors may already be taxed, Luna said.
Much of the money, raised in the primary, was spent on attack ads aimed at Nathan Fletcher. The former assemblyman, a Republican-turned-Independent-turned-Democrat, was the first to state his intention to run. A Marine combat veteran, he enjoyed wide name recognition, thanks to his run last year for the San Diego mayor's office. Fletcher finished third as well in the June 2012 primary behind Democrat Bob Filner and Republican Carl DeMaio.
But strong opposition from labor groups, and from conservative organizations like the Lincoln Club, slowly whittled away at Fletcher's favorable polling numbers. He was squeezed by negative ads from both the political left and right.
The San Diego County Registrar of Voters said late last night there remain as many as 34,500 uncounted provisional and mail-in ballots. But with 100 percent of precincts reporting, a dramatic turnaround for Fletcher is unlikely.
The story of yesterday's election was the emergence of Alvarez as the likely Democratic standard bearer.
A native of San Diego's Barrio Logan neighborhood, Alvarez is a newcomer to electoral politics, having served less than one term on the City Council.
But support from the San Diego and Imperial Valley Labor Council put money in his purse and volunteers at his disposal. He stressed the message of helping neighborhoods rather than downtown commercial projects.
“This will be a city that is about everyone of our neighborhoods," he told supporters last night. "We’ve had our ups and we’ve had our downs. I don’t want to say we are gonna take back our city, because we’ve never actually captured our city, but with my election we will capture our city.”
Kevin Faulconer’s biggest donations came from the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce PAC, the Building Industry Association of San Diego County PAC, the San Diego Restaurant & Beverage PAC and the San Diego Hotel-Motel Association Issue Advocacy PAC.
Faulconer has the backing of developer and conservative UT-San Diego publisher Douglas Manchester while Alvarez has Donna Frye in his corner, the former city councilwoman and popular Democrat who was so instrumental in exposing sexual-harassment complaints and helping to defrock Bob Filner.
As Faulconer gears up for round two, it seems likely the committees supporting him will continue to spend. While the run-off election won't be scheduled until Tuesday's voting results are certified, Faulconer is already making plans.
"I'm looking forward to the next phase, and I'm very determined to keep talking about what we've been talking about, because it's the right course for San Diego," he said, continuing a theme of down-playing party affiliation in the technically non-partisan race.
"It's not about being a Republican or a Democrat, it's about, let's put San Diegans' interests first, let's make those tough decisions that we've started to make so we have the dollars necessary to reinvest in our neighborhoods."