Last year, Republicans lost the San Diego mayor’s office for the first time in two decades. The party has no statewide elected officials in California. No American city bigger than Indianapolis has a Republican mayor.
But a Kevin Faulconer win would show that Republicans still have some life in California and big cities.
“I think this has far greater impact for the Republican Party far beyond San Diego,” said local Republican strategist Jennifer Jacobs.
Faulconer, a 46-year-old Republican city councilman, finished 18 points ahead of the second-highest finisher, David Alvarez, in Tuesday’s special mayoral primary.
In the runoff, Faulconer will be going against a Democrat who few had heard of before the campaign began and who still has to make major inroads in the vote-rich northern areas of the city. With multiple Democrats squabbling in the primary, Faulconer was able to paint himself as a down-the-middle moderate while facing few attacks on his record. His spokesman even chafed at stories that mentioned Faulconer’s party affiliation.
Most significant, voter turnout in February’s runoff should mirror Tuesday night’s dreadful tally, which looks to be around 30 percent. Republican candidates and causes have swept five of the last seven citywide elections where few people showed up to the polls. Poor turnout blunts Democrats’ almost 100,000-person voter registration advantage in the city. More Democrats are likely to vote in San Diego’s next mayoral elections, in November 2016 and 2020, when there will be a presidential race at the top of the ballot.
All this means that Faulconer is Republicans best chance to recapture the mayor’s seat in San Diego for the foreseeable future.
“No doubt about it,” Jacobs said.