Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The San Diego Mayor's Race Postmortem

Well, yesterday wrapped up the Special Election to replace former Mayor Bob Filner, who had to resign as a result of his felonious lechery.*  To my somewhat shock, Kevin Faulconer won by an 11 point margin.  That's quite an asskicking by a Republican in a Democratic city.  In fact, Faulconer is now the only Republican mayor of a large American city.

So, how did David Alvarez, the Democrat in the runoff, blow it? Well, there are a couple of factors at play here.  First, and as Obama proved in 2008 and 2012, the size and make-up of the electorate changes with every election.  So, the electorate who elected Bob Filner (then just known as a diehard liberal, not a lech), is decidedly different from the electorate who voted yesterday.  In fact, the electorate yesterday was about half the size.

More importantly, though, I think Labor got so used to winning that it thought it could do no wrong. As in the District 4 Special Election, which I wrote about extensively, Labor picked the candidate that it would be most friendly to its interests and backed that candidate to the hilt. Now, there's nothing new about that, and Labor, as an interest group, is acting almost in the same way as the Lincoln Club would act, and has acted in the past.

What is different, though, is the Republican Party, Lincoln Club included, met and decided who should run, and who all the Republicans would back, based upon who they thought had the best chance of winning.  And that guy was decidedly not Carl DeMaio, who ran in 2012.  Rather, it was the more outwardly moderate Faulconer.**

Rather than follow that model, Labor picked Alvarez, a 33 year old City Councilmember, over Nathan Fletcher.  And even that wouldn't be as big of a deal had Labor not spent millions trashing Fletcher. By the way, members of the American Federation of Teachers, how does that strategy look now? As a result, Fletcher voters didn't all flock to Alvarez, and a few most likely didn't vote.

In the run-off, Alvarez compounded the error by not reaching out the Fletcher voters early enough, and again, had his good friends at the American Federation of Teachers send out mailers trashing Faulconer, sometimes in nonsensical ways (such as attacking Faulconer for being a member of the San Diego Yacht Club).  Moreover, Alvarez was simply not impressive in the debates. While Faulconer was a swarmy, Alvarez never really seemed to have a grasp on the specifics that he actually had.

When finally Alvarez got the Democratic Party establishment to back him full-force, the damage was done, and so was Alvarez.

With that said, I think Alvarez did the right thing by running. The three big knocks on Alvarez - that he's too young, that he's too entrenched with Labor, and that he's unimpressive in debates - can all be fixed in the long term. In the short term, he can ride on his newfound name ID while continuing to serve on the City Council.  I don't think he was ready this time around, but next time Alvarez will come on even stronger.

No, the real loser here was Labor. Its not that they backed the wrong horse - my friends who know Alvarez have a deep emotional connection to him that rivals any elected official - but their tactics, particularly those of the AFT, were completely wrong for this race.  Had Labor backed Alvarez in the primary, but avoided negative campaigning against Fletcher, they could have either ended up with a candidate who the average person north of I-8 liked (Fletcher) who need them in the run-off, or given Alvarez a shot at attracting Fletcher supporters.

As I said, the whole affair reminded me of the District 4 Special Election when Labor decided to spend money on Myrtle Cole, who was then an unimpressive candidate, in a District that was pro-Demcrat and pro-union, and use that money to attack Dwayne Crenshaw, who up until that point was pro-union and a strong Democrat.  The end result being that Ms. Cole is now a Councilmember, but being sued by Mr. Crenshaw for slander (and rightfully so), and remains thoroughly unimpressive.  Oh, and in an act of spite, Dwayne backed Faulconer over Alvarez, giving Faulconer nonpartisan credentials (given that Larry Remer, the consultant who called Dwayne a crackhead backed Alvarez, this is no surprise).

So, sadly, San Diego goes back to the past with a relatively uninspiring moderate Republican for mayor.  Crap.

*Dibs on Felonious Lechery as a band name, album name, and biography title.

**Faulconer strikes me as being a lot more conservative than he appears.

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