Politics, like rust, never sleeps. Politics is a year-around affair, especially in San Diego. Because of the resignation of Mayor Bob Filner, city voters will go to the polls in a special election Nov. 19. Mail ballots will go out Oct. 24 – and perhaps two-thirds of the voting will be by mail.
Based on recent polling, most observers expect a runoff between newly Democratic former Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher (32 percent) and Republican Councilman Kevin Faulconer (28 percent). Although the Democratic Party endorsed Councilman David Alvarez (20 percent), many influential Dems are assuming that Fletcher will be their candidate in the runoff and some are openly supporting Fletcher in the first round.
The mayoral race is nominally non-partisan, but everyone knows both major parties will bring major resources to the contest. The candidates who move on to the expected runoff will be the two top vote-getters, regardless of party. Is there a plausible path to a two-Democrat runoff? Only if two conditions are met.
(1) Former City Attorney Mike Aguirre (8 percent) must drop out and throw his support to Alvarez – as Bruce Coons has done. With the vote that might have gone to Aguirre, Alvarez has a chance of edging into the second spot and pushing Faulconer out of the runoff.
Even if Fletcher is the eventual winner, he would be pulled to the left by a contest with Alvarez, as he would be pulled to the right in a runoff with Faulconer.
(2) The Democrats will need to raise voter turnout above the historically low levels of most special municipal elections. They might do this by pointing out that this special election is special. It will determine whether we salvage some parts of the progressive vision that brought Bob Filner to power or let the city slide back under the control of downtown special interests and the Republican establishment. In the end, we may have to settle for Fletcher – but maybe not.
With a voter registration edge of 40 to 27 percent, the Democrats have a shot at taking Faulconer out in the primary – but only if Aguirre drops out.
Friends tell me, “Mike will never drop out.”
But perhaps he will, if enough Dems tell him he should: “Mike, you cannot win the second spot. You can only be a spoiler who prevents Alvarez from finishing ahead of Faulconer. Please step aside for the good of the party.”
Gordon Clanton teaches Sociology at San Diego State University.