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Mayoral candidates Kevin Faulconer and Nathan Fletcher have both said neighborhood needs top their priority lists in this campaign. They’ve also both received a flurry of endorsements from business groups in the last few weeks.
Both are walking a careful tightrope. They earned supporters by touting business and downtown development in the past and don’t want to alienate those supporters. But they’ve also given nods throughout the campaign to the priority shift ushered in by former Mayor Bob Filner’s victory; the majority of residents want their leaders to focus on boosting neighborhoods instead of business interests. That leaves Faulconer and Fletcher trying to appease both groups — often at the same time.
Faulconer, a Republican councilman, has relied on years of support for local tourism causes, including the Tourism Marketing District and the Convention Center expansion, to garner public backing from three right-leaning business groups.
Fletcher tapped into connections he fostered as a Republican state assemblyman to win endorsements from two business associations – and more recent inroads he’s made with left-leaning unions to attract their public support.
As the endorsements have rolled out, both Faulconer and Fletcher have made concerted efforts to emphasize they’re committed to neighborhoods too.
Faulconer recently debuted a campaign website that accentuates plans that cater to neighborhood interests such as infrastructure repairs, public safety resources and a more livable, walkable city – the latter of which would’ve been unlikely to make his list of priorities before Filner championed it.
Fletcher, too, trumpeted the neighborhood theme as he was playing up his most recent endorsement from a business group.
“When our streets and sidewalks are crumbling or there are too few cops patrolling the streets, these businesses really feel it,” Fletcher said in a statement announcing the endorsement of the Neighborhood Market Association, which represents grocers and some liquor stores.
Meanwhile, David Alvarez, a Democratic City Council member who’s also running, has touted endorsements from former political leaders and the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council. Former City Attorney Mike Aguirre hasn’t announced any endorsements yet.
Here’s a review of business groups that have already weighed in on the mayor’s race.
Faulconer’s Business Backers
• San Diego County chapter of the California Restaurant Association
Faulconer’s first major endorsement came from the restaurant association, which represents hundreds of restaurants and bars in San Diego County.
Ahead of the endorsement, the group said Faulconer’s commitment to “fiscal responsibility, creating jobs and rejecting burdensome taxes and regulations for small businesses” made him their clear choice.
The group endorsed former Councilman Carl DeMaio in the last mayor’s race.
• San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce
Faulconer won his most significant endorsement of the mayor’s race last week when the Chamber and former Mayor Jerry Sanders said he should take the city’s top post.
The group has more than 3,000 members and is considered the most influential business group in town. In recent months, Sanders and other Chamber leaders have been vocal backers of the Convention Center expansion and increased cross-border collaboration.
The Chamber doesn’t usually endorse political candidates. Group rules require the board to make a finding that the outcome will have a “material and substantial positive or adverse impact” on issues the chamber considers vital to the region before it weighs in on a candidate.
The board decided that exception applied to this race.
• San Diego County Hotel-Motel Association
An association that represents owners and managers of many city hotel and motels was the latest business group to endorse Faulconer.
The group was at the center of a long-running battle over former Mayor Bob Filner’s refusal to sign a new tourism marketing deal, a situation Faulconer decried repeatedly.
The group emphasized Faulconer’s commitment earlier this week.
“San Diego needs a mayor who realizes tourism is one of the pillars supporting our city’s bottom line and our local economy,” board president Jody Blackinton said.
Fletcher’s Business Backers
• California Small Business Association
Fletcher’s first endorsement from a business group is largely thanks to his work at the statehouse.
At a press conference last week, the group’s president recalled working with the formerly Republican assemblyman.
“He was a go-to guy for us (while an assemblyman), he always delivered and if he couldn’t he would come back and give us an explanation as to why not,” Betty Jo Toccoli said.
The Los Angeles-based group represents about 200,000 small businesses statewide and lobbies government leaders on their concerns.
• Neighborhood Market Association
Fletcher’s second business endorsement is also a credit to his past connections.
This La Mesa-based organization, which represents small grocers and some liquor stores on the West Coast, donated to Fletcher’s previous mayoral campaign.
The organization has previous ties to Faulconer. The group supported Faulconer in a past City Council bid but the group’s president, Mark Arabo, recently told Voice of San Diego the Republican councilman failed to approach him about plans to promote an alcohol ban on city beaches. (The business group opposed the ban.)
Arabo emphasized Fletcher’s commitment to neighborhoods when he announced the endorsement.
“Nathan’s commitment to rebuilding our neighborhoods and keeping them safe is crucial to our members and their customers,” Arabo said.