Statement: “I have the great honor of being the first City Council member to be elected mayor in five decades, and with that comes a unique point of view not held by our past mayors.” — Mayor Kevin Faulconer in his March 3 inauguration speech.
Determination: Mostly True
Analysis: Stepping stones to political power aren’t always the most obvious ones.
In the nation’s capital, members of the House and Senate often end up being elected president, but they rarely go directly from Congress to the White House.
As for San Diego, the City Council seems to be the most straightforward route to the higher office of mayor. But in his inaugural speech, newly elected Mayor Kevin Faulconer declared that he’s actually pretty unusual.
“I have the great honor of being the first City Council member to be elected mayor in five decades, and with that comes a unique point of view not held by our past mayors,” he said.
Can we really have gone 50-plus years without electing a Council member to the highest office in the city? Well … It depends on how you parse his words.
If he’d followed the prepared text of his speech, he’d be on solid ground, and we’d have to give him a True verdict. The prepared text includes the same line, except for one crucial word added: “I have the great honor of being the first sitting City Council member to be elected mayor in five decades, and with that comes a unique point of view not held by past mayors.” (Emphasis ours.)
Yes, Faulconer is the first sitting Council member to get elected to the mayor’s office since the early 1960s, when voters elevated a councilman named Frank Curran.
The other elected mayors since then tended to come from other positions of political power, like the county Board of Supervisors, the state Legislature and Congress. (We’re not considering the non-elected mayors who served temporarily when there was a vacancy. Sorry, Todd Gloria, Toni Atkins and the rest!)
However, at least three mayors had served on the City Council prior to becoming mayor — Dick Murphy, Maureen O’Connor and Bob Filner. There was a gap between their service on the Council and their election to the mayor’s office.
In a statement, Faulconer spokesman Craig Gustafson pointed to the prepared text, which was distributed to the media, and said the mayor intended to include the word “sitting.”
There’s no evidence that Faulconer was trying to actively mislead anyone or did anything but make the verbal equivalent of a typo. And his claim is a minor one. Still, we expect him to get things right, even when he’s only praising himself.
So what’s the proper Fact Check verdict?
“False” is too strong, since it’s possible to understand the first sentence as meaning that no one’s been elected while serving as a Council member. But the second sentence — “with that comes a unique point of view not held by our past mayors” — makes this a bolder claim that should meet a higher standard and not be fuzzy.
Faulconer’s statement is a best fit for the “Mostly True” verdict. Two other mayors made the switch from Council to mayor’s office, although not right away, and his wording isn’t clear enough to acknowledge that fact and downgrade his uniqueness a bit. However, the proper context did appear in the prepared statement, so this is hardly a whopper.
If you disagree with our determination or analysis, please express your thoughts in the comments section of this blog post. Explain your reasoning.
Correction: An earlier version of this post omitted Dick Murphy from the list of mayors who previously served on the City Council. Murphy was elected mayor in 2000, and served on the City Council in the 1980s. We apologize for the error.