The Morning Report
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In the week before the Nov. 19 special election to replace disgraced former Mayor Bob Filner, we’re telling you all you need to know about the four major candidates to replace him. Next up is City Councilman Kevin Faulconer.
Seen and Heard
And here’s his appearance on VOSD Radio:
The Pitch to Voters
Faulconer’s a safe, steady moderate who knows the city and will continue the legacy of former Mayor Jerry Sanders, with a pro-neighborhoods twist.
Three Big Issues
Faulconer’s the city’s longest-tenured councilman and worked closely with Sanders during his time in office. During Filner’s term, Faulconer led the minority bloc of Republican Council members. The issues Faulconer has seized on represent an effort to straddle the most popular aspects of Sanders’ and Filner’s agendas. He wants to hold the line on employee compensation while investing in neighborhoods.
• Employee Compensation and Outsourcing
Faulconer backed ballot measures to allow competitive bidding for city services, called managed competition, and give 401(k)s instead of pensions to most new employees. He’s the most aggressive proponent of managed competition, despite its recent hiccups, and promises to be the most stringent against across-the-board raises for employees.
• Public Safety
Boosting officer recruitment and retention make up the most of Faulconer’s police plan. He wants to speed up the police hiring process, increase investment in equipment and find ways to bump officer take-home pay aside from across-the-board salary hikes. Faulconer courted the police union’s endorsement during the campaign, but it eventually went to former Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher.
• Streets and Sidewalks
If Filner successfully branded Sanders’ tenure as one that cared about downtown at the expense of neighborhoods, the criticism should apply to Faulconer, too. Faulconer was Sanders’ closest ally on the Council and represented downtown before the city’s most recent redistricting. Faulconer, however, can point to his neighborhood-centered initiatives, such as successful ballot measures to ban alcohol at the beach and increase funding for Mission Bay Park, as examples of his bona fides.
Of the major candidates, Faulconer has pledged to put the most money right away toward improving the city’s deteriorating streets, sidewalks and other infrastructure. That’s a huge neighborhood issue. But Faulconer doesn’t have a consistent position on borrowing money to pay for repairs.
Faulconer always seems to pop up as a replacement after someone else screws up. His political history reveals that he’s had great success in special elections, where his risk-free, no-frills persona has particular appeal:
This happens to Faulconer because he’s safe, agreeable and competent, the kind of guy voters would want after the person they elected turned out to be a mess. It also happens because Faulconer’s largely been a follower in politics, the kind of guy who relies on others’ bold stand instead of taking one himself.
Faulconer was student body president at San Diego State University and a PR man before winning a City Council seat.
Where He’s Weak
Faulconer faces headwinds in this campaign. He best represents the downtown establishment that voters rejected when they picked Filner. His Republican Party affiliation goes against the city’s consistent leftward march, a fact his campaign has tried to address by objecting to stories that talk about his GOP membership.
And it’s not like Faulconer has an outsize personality to rise above these connections. By and large Faulconer’s deferred to others on big issues throughout his political career. It’s fair to wonder whether he’ll continue deferring – and to whom – if he’s elected.
About 30 of the city’s Republican powerbrokers picked Faulconer as their candidate for mayor in late August. The decision cleared the field of other contenders on the right.
Faulconer has the backing of the local Republican Party and business groups, such as the Chamber of Commerce and Lincoln Club of San Diego County. Sanders and the Council’s three Republicans support him, too. You can see his full list of endorsements here.
How He Wins
As the lone major Republican in the race, Faulconer’s virtually assured a spot in the runoff. The suspense for Faulconer will likely be which opponent he’ll face. Faulconer and his supporters clearly believe Faulconer will do better against Democratic City Councilman David Alvarez than Fletcher, and they’re spending boatloads of cash to boost Alvarez and knock Fletcher down.
This strategy worked for former City Councilman Carl DeMaio and his Republican allies in the last mayoral primary, when they promoted Filner at the expense of Fletcher, who finished third. If Faulconer and the GOP can knock out Fletcher again, they’ll have to hope this election will ultimately work out better for them than it did the last time.