Handicapping the mayor’s race

By Gordon Clanton

Because of the resignation of San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, city voters will go to the polls Nov. 19 with the future of the city and the region on the line. Everyone in San Diego County has a stake in this election.

In 2012, the top four mayoral candidates were three Republicans and one Democrat. The Democrat (Filner) ran second in the primary and narrowly won the runoff against then-councilman Carl “DeMeano.”

In 2013, the top four candidates are three Democrats and one Republican (Councilman Kevin Faulconer). Clearly the local Republican Party has been more disciplined, more successful at discouraging other candidates from entering the fray. Indeed, the Republicans already have made their endorsements in all county races in 2014 – with the notable exception of the same Carl “DeMeano,” now running for Congress against Scott Peters. Wonder why the GOP will not endorse the guy they supported a year ago?

As for the opposition? Will Rogers said, “I don’t belong to an organized political party. I’m a Democrat.”

Local Dems are divided because the Democrat who polls best also is the newest Democrat, former assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, who ran third in the 2012 mayor’s race. He was an independent a year ago and a Republican a few months earlier. Critics will suggest that he is part of the Opportunist Party.

Three presumably more progressive Dems will divide the primary vote, all but assuring Fletcher a place in the runoff – but also helping to ensure that Faulconer cannot win the election in the primary. They are Councilman David Alvarez (from Barrio Logan), former city attorney Mike Aguirre (able guy known for his combative style – just what we need after Filner), and historical preservationist Bruce Coons (the darkest horse).

I suspect that many local Democrats, like the French, will vote their hearts in the primary and then pragmatically unite behind Fletcher in the runoff – because for them it is better to have a new, moderate Dem mayor than an old, conservative Republican.

But this will be hard for many progressive Democrats because of their high expectations following Filner’s election. And the special election will draw fewer voters and more conservative voters than the 2012 presidential election. This gives hope to the Faulconer campaign, even though Democrats outnumber Republicans in San Diego 40 to 27 percent. Indeed, independents (DTS) outnumber Republicans 28 to 27 percent.

Gordon Clanton teaches Sociology at San Diego State University.

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