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Faulconer Win Could Give Democrats More Power On San Diego City Council

San Diego's City Council chambers.

Credit: Kevan Barsky

Above: San Diego's City Council chambers.

If the Republican Faulconer becomes mayor, the council could see a shift in power toward the Democrats.

Both Kevin Faulconer and David Alvarez are city councilmen, so no matter who wins the San Diego mayor's race Tuesday, there will be an empty seat on the City Council. If the Republican Faulconer becomes mayor, the council could see a shift in power toward the Democrats.

San Diego's City Charter says that because both Alvarez and Faulconer have less than one year left on their council terms, the City Council will appoint someone to fill their seat instead of holding another election.

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Those interested in the seat will fill out an application, submit a Statement of Economic Interest and write up to 500 words on why they're qualified for the job.

The council must then hold a public hearing with the applicants and give each three minutes to speak. The City Council will then vote on the new councilmember. All of this must happen within 30 days after the council seat is vacated.

If Faulconer wins the mayor's race, the majority-Democrat council could appoint a Democrat to replace him. Faulconer would have to resign his council seat before the vote.

When asked if the council would consider appointing a Democrat to replace Faulconer, interim Mayor and Council President Todd Gloria said "absolutely."

"A majority of councilmembers will select an individual to fill that role," he said. "Their party affiliation and whatever else can be taken into consideration, but ultimately what we need to do is find a qualified individual who can assume those duties on a rather short notice."

If a Democrat replaced Faulconer, the council would be made up of six Democrats and three Republicans, instead of the current 5-4 Democrat-Republican split. Because it takes six council votes to override a mayoral veto, Mayor Faulconer could then find his vetoes being overruled by the councilmember who replaced him.

If the Democrat Alvarez wins the mayor's race, his seat could also be filled by another Democrat, maintaining the 5-4 split.

Gloria said the council currently doesn't have any replacements in mind because they're waiting to see who is elected and who applies for the empty seat. But, he said, who they choose is important.

"We have a lot of big things we need to get done this year," he said. "I'm interested in pursuing an aggressive legislative agenda. So it's going to be a relatively short amount of time but one where I think we'll be very productive and we'll want to have every councilmember being helpful in the efforts of moving the city forward."

The replacement councilmember would serve until December 2014. The City Charter mandates that a replacement councilmember cannot then run for the council seat he or she is appointed to fill.

Gloria also pointed out that whomever the council chooses must live in the same district of the councilman he or she is replacing. But not the current district—the old district boundaries from 2010, before redistricting in 2011. That's because both Faulconer and Alvarez were elected in 2010.

For example, if Faulconer wins the mayor's race, someone who lives in downtown could fill his council seat even though Faulconer's district no longer includes downtown. But someone who lives in Clairemont could not fill his seat, because the old boundaries for Faulconer's district did not include that neighborhood.

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Claire Trageser
Investigative Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksAs a member of the KPBS investigative team, my job is to hold the powerful in San Diego County accountable. I've done in-depth investigations on political campaigns, police officer misconduct and neighborhood quality of life issues.

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