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What's Ahead For San Diego Democrats In 2016 And Beyond?

Mayor Kevin Faulconer delivers his second State of the City speech at the Balboa Theatre, Jan. 14, 2016.
Milan Kovacevic
Mayor Kevin Faulconer delivers his second State of the City speech at the Balboa Theatre, Jan. 14, 2016.

What's Ahead For San Diego Democrats In 2016 And Beyond?
GUESTS: Francine Busby, chairwoman, San Diego Council Democratic Party Mickey Kasparian, president, San Diego Labor Council

Maureen Cavanaugh. Both the city and County of San Diego have more registered Democrats than Republicans. But you wouldn't know it from the upcoming race for San Diego Mayor. Carl Luna puts it like this How you can go into an election like this without a mayoral candidate almost boggles the imagination. In the meantime one known Democratic politician is battling for a secure state Senate seat against another well-known Democratic politician. Joining me is Francine Busby chair of the San Diego Democratic Party. Welcome. Thank you. Mickey Kasparian is with me as well. Francine I assume that over the past year you've conducted potential contacted potential may our contacts would've they said to about running for mayor? We absolutely have been talking to people for several years. We had a couple of front runners. It was no secret that we were looking at Toni Atkins and Todd Gloria both of whom have served and city Council and very well-respected and very well-liked. What it comes down to is that people make personal decisions. Both of them are already elected officials and they looked at the choices that they had and they made these choices. We were disappointed that neither one of them chose to run for mayor, but we still feel we have a progressive candidate in the race. You do feel that? We'd are hearing we've have people that are interested in running. It is important that San Diego copying the city that it is with the diversity that we have here in the issues that we have have this conversation about the mayor's race. Is it so hard to find somebody because nobody thinks they can actually be Kevin Faulk there? Kevin Faulconer is in the mayor that's popular right now it's a very life consuming activity. You give up your privacy Chi give up your job and it's very public. It's not something everybody chooses to do and when you're running for the mayor of the city you have to be qualified to do that so it's not something we would just go out and run for mayor. There is a pretty finite group of people are pretty seriously eligible and capable. Now Mickey the labor Council can give support to a candidate. How concerned are you that so far there's no major Democrat in the race? Very concerned. Frustrated. To me you run for mayor because you want to make a difference when David Alvarez ran for mayor in 2013 he was a long shot but he chose to run because he wanted to make a difference and make change. Too many times we have candidates that I think took the easy way out. I don't mind saying that. So in other words they don't think they can win so they don't run. Yes. And sometimes they use polling numbers that are 18 months out and a lot can change. Looks what is going on right now. They look at these numbers and say we can't win and part of the problem is our city charter. Elections can get decided in June is to post in November in the city of San Diego. Twice as many Democrats vote in November than in June. There's a couple of reasons why but it's frustrating because how could we not on the progressive side, have somebody be running for mayor. It's mind-boggling. You were just saying Francine, that you are still hoping that somebody well-known comes forward to run for mayor from the Democratic progressive side. I understand there is somebody who has been making phone calls and has indicated that, it would be a woman planning to run, we'll see if she pulls the trigger and does it. It's not just Mickey and myself that represent a lot of people are very frustrated that we don't have a spokesperson. When we talk about the mayor that when we voted against the neighborhood of [ Indiscernible ] when it was in a job killer it all it was something the people in the community voted on. Up in Carmel Valley those people were very upset that he voted against how they had three planning commissions that were opposed to that issue that they had up there they weren't pleased with him at all. The Chargers. I like the Chargers but the fact that it sounds like he's been an agent for the Chargers and nothing else in the city, these issues need to be brought up. Is this woman who is toying with this idea and running in San Diego? It's someone that people would know. Okay or not going to give me anymore? That's not my decision to announce that. Mayor Faulconer is the kind of mere that the city elects quite frequently. I think there's still time for this dialogue. Mickey, labor was a major supporter of Bob Fellner until he self this this directed. Oh way a boy, he took away so much help -- hope. We thought everything Bob Fellner would bring to the table from a progressive standpoint was going to take San Diego in a direction and needed to go for working families to help with poverty to help with people of color and women in so many of the things. It didn't turn out that way it turned out the disaster. Since then it has really, I think hurt our movement. I have to tell you it is really frustrating to know that so many communities are left behind. You can go on TV and have all these press conferences. Just feel it's the right thing to do and stand of the radar. Leadership is about making a difference, it's about making change. People are frustrated with politics because people promise change but don't deliver. I think we are stagnant. It should be frustrating to all San Diegans. It's frustrating that no one wants to take the leadership to make a difference in our city. Political come been Tatar -- commentator Carl Luna The Democratic leadership in the Coney seems to not really offer strong leadership in running candidates. You can't take somebody, for example from a community planning board and say you go run for mayor when no one outside of a nine block radius knows who you are. I think he's rate during to Gretchen new some. We've done quite a bit, we've done training we've had 100 people interested in running for office,. I Artie said, you can't have a candidate who is not qualified and well known. I do understand what he's saying..Running the bench, we have members of our city Council, we of Senate members how we have a lot of Democrats in the city and this Coney who would be qualified. If you look at who they are most of them don't want to switch over and run for mayor right now. That's the personal side. We are -- in 2012 our candidates one 64% of our candidates ran. And they are running and they are winning throughout the company. This just happens to be a race that we all agree is frustrating that we don't have a candidate. Mickey on forming assemblywoman Toni Atkins challenging for the Democratic seat. What do you make of that? To be perfectly honest we wish Tony was running for mayor. We have two strong Democrats with literally the same voting record in the state of California. They have both been excellent elected officials. Yet, they are opposing each other. Tony is opposing because Marty is the incumbent. Why isn't she running for mayor. To say that we are not frustrated by that. Would be a lie. My take on it, I'd much rather Toni Atkins be running for mayor in challenge Kevin Faulconer. Now what's going to happen is one of them is going to lose. Now we've lost one of our really true good elected officials. I said frustration about three times so far, but you can hear it in my voice. We wish Toni Atkins was running for mayor and I will stand by that until the end of 2016. Francine, this goes under the heading of personal choice. What does the Democratic Party in San Diego due to confront a candidate who makes a decision like that? We've spoken to both of them and offered them opportunities, support and tried to convince them not to do this. Both of them were determined in wanting to run. Speaker Atkins feels she can make a difference in Sacramento and has many years ahead of her she is elected to the state Senate. She felt that that was a choice she wanted to make at this time. She is involved in Sacramento. She really feels very strongly that's where the future is where she can best help. Mickey you talk to what about loyalty and with Democrats. Kind of in a way that Republican stick together you want to see Democrats do that. Tell us about Scott peters. Where is that loyalty? With all due respect Scott peters recently voted to support TPP, which is an issue that will hurt millions of workers in our country. Loyalty is supporting candidates who support working families and the progressive movement. I think the problem we have is I don't want a Democrat to be elected. I want good Democrat to be elected did. I don't a Democrat who turns her back on working families. Whether someone is running against Scott peters are not I can't say. Whether we will get behind them on that vote, I would say is just not happen. I only have a minute left Francine. Is this the kind of example people use when they say factions in the Democratic Party they can't get their act together? It's a really good question. The committee itself is made up about 125 people who make decisions. A lot of them know each other and are intimately involved in these campaigns. A lot is personal. Just to say with Congressman peters, as a party we are going to support him. He took about that clearly we understand was not popular with labor and we are often allied with labor and our values. We know that 90% of the time he is voting in the right direction, we spend a lot of time and money getting him elected. There is a difference right at this table. I've got to end at there. We could talk about this for a very long time. I've been speaking with Francine Busby chairman of the Democratic Party and Mickey Busby chairman of the labor Coney -- union in San Diego County.

Both the city and county of San Diego have more registered Democrats than Republicans, but you wouldn't know it from the upcoming race for San Diego mayor.

In San Diego, 39.2 percent of the 603,725 registered voters are Democrats compared to 26.1 percent Republicans. In the county, 36.2 percent of the 1,179,093 registered voters are Democrats compared to 30.4 percent Republicans.


Even though a higher Democratic turnout is expected this year because it's a presidential election year, Republican Kevin Faulconer has been running virtually unopposed for mayor with no major Democratic rival.

Former Democratic Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña took out nominating papers on Friday to challenge Faulconer. The San Diego Reader and Voice of San Diego said she plans to formally announce her run on Thursday. She did not return messages Monday from KPBS.

Voice of San Diego's article said Saldaña left the Democratic Party in 2014. She served in the Assembly from 2004 to 2010, and ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for then-Rep. Brian Bilbray's seat in 2012. The Republican incumbent eventually lost to Democrat Scott Peters.

Carl Luna, a political science professor at San Diego Mesa College, told KPBS Midday Edition that it's a bit of a head scratcher that the Democrats have not put up anyone to run against Faulconer in June.

"How you can go into an election like this without a mayoral candidate almost boggles the imagination," Luna said.


So how did this situation come to be? Several potential Democratic challengers opted to run for other seats.

Well-known San Diego Democrat and Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins decided to try to unseat fellow San Diego Democrat Marty Block for his state Senate seat. Term limits keep Atkins from seeking re-election to the Assembly.

Francine Busby, chairwoman of the San Diego County Democratic Party, said the party urged Atkins and Democratic San Diego Councilman Todd Gloria to run for mayor, but neither did. Gloria is running to replace Atkins in the Assembly.

“What it comes down to is that people make personal decisions,” Busby told Midday Edition. “We were frankly very disappointed that neither one of them chose to run for mayor, but we still feel we will have a progressive candidate in the race.”

Busby would not name that "progressive candidate" on Midday Edition. When it became public later on Monday that Saldaña had pulled papers to make a run against Faulconer, Busby confirmed it was the former assemblywoman she was talking about.

Mickey Kasparian, president of the San Diego Labor Council, said he was "concerned and frustrated" that a viable candidate has yet to emerge on the Democratic ticket.

"How could we not, on the progressive side, have someone running for mayor?" Kasparian said on Midday Edition. "It’s just mind-boggling."

Kasparian expressed frustration that Atkins and Block were challenging each other for the same state Senate seat. He said he had hoped Atkins would run against Faulconer.

Kasparian said progressives in San Diego were set back by former Democratic Mayor Bob Filner, who resigned in 2013 less than a year into his term after more than a dozen women accused him of unwanted sexual advances.

"Since the Filner debacle, we’ve just been stagnated,” Kasparian said. "It’s frustrating that no one wants to take the leadership to run for mayor to make a difference in our city."