San Diego’s New, Republican, Pro-Bike, Pro-Gay Mayor

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Feb. 12 2014 8:54 AM

San Diego’s New, Republican, Pro-Bike, Pro-Gay Mayor

Yesterday, San Diego voters chose Republican City Councilman Kevin Faulconer to replace resigned and disgraced ex-Mayor Bob Filner. David Alvarez, a 33-year-old councilman who attracted some national attention (he would have been the city's first Hispanic mayor), lost by 10 points. Party labels don't appear on San Diego mayoral ballots, but President Obama had endorsed Alvarez, and the outcome ushered in a period of conservative gloating. (For whatever it's worth, the polls never showed Alvarez competing strongly and I assumed he'd lose.)

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The gloating doesn't seem to have inspired any What This Means for Republicans columns. This is probably because columnists, whatever their sins, know a little about San Diego. Oh, yes, the labor movement (nationally and locally) blew millions of dollars in an attempt to save the mayor's office, but they were trying to buck the tide in a city that had just watched a Democratic mayor become a slavering, harassing national embarrassment.

Until Filner won, on the Obama-Biden coattails, Republicans had controlled the mayor's office for a generation—they won every election from 1992 to 2008. Republicans typically took San Diego with moderate candidates, and Faulconer fit the mold. In a party that's grown increasingly skeptical of green initiatives and urban planning, Faulconer took credit for a 24-mile bicycle route, a bike share program, and electric vehicle charging stations. Last year, Faulconer flipped his stance on gay rights and celebrated the demolition of Prop 8. Becoming pro-gay, he told Voice of San Diego, "was the best personal decision for me."

So, Faulconer might be an interesting national figure; he might become a credible statewide candidate in a party that's starved for them. But the model of victory in San Diego isn't going to be copied in many competitive races this year. Dive-bombing Democrats with Obamacare ads will probably do the trick.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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