Across the country, the 2014 election cycle is beginning to heat up. In San Diego, however, we are in the midst of a mayoral election, set to take place February 11th, to see who will complete the rest of Bob Filner’s term. This election pits Democrat David Alvarez, a far-left liberal backed by labor unions, against Kevin Faulconer, a moderate Republican known for being able to work across the aisle with his Democrat colleagues. Faulconer is not a stereotypical Republican. He has worked to protect the environment, supports equal rights for same-sex couples, and has been a fierce advocate for helping the homeless in San Diego. Just last week, he introduced his “One San Diego” plan to help create economic fairness among all neighborhoods in San Diego, particularly focusing on “South of the Eight” neighborhoods, areas located south of the eight freeway that are, generally, not as well off as the “North of the Eight” neighborhoods. He just recently opened up a new campaign office in the Lincoln Park area, a low-income neighborhood that most Republicans write off as Democrat territory.
Recent polls show that his outreach efforts are paying off. Faulconer has been endorsed by the Latino American Political Association, the Asian American Coalition, and community leaders in the LGBT community. In the latest 10 News/U-T San Diego poll commissioned by Survey USA, Faulconer leads Alvarez by sixteen points, 53% to 37%. Among demographics where national Republicans usually suffer, Faulconer leads the women vote by 3 points, the youth vote (18-34 year olds) by 3 points, the independent vote by 23 points, the moderate vote by 21 points, and is tied with Alvarez with the “South of the Eight” voters. In additions Faulconer is in a statistical tie with Alvarez among the Latino vote, and carries 36% of the African-American vote. More impressively, these numbers come despite the fact that Democrats in the city of San Diego have a thirteen point voter registration advantage. In addition, the labor unions have dumped over $2.6 million dollars into the election so far to get Alvarez elected.
No doubt, Faulconer’s election is a bellwether for the nation. However, it also should also show a stark contrast between the two opposing views in the Republican Party. Some members in the far-right of the party believe that it needs to shift further to the right, and focus on its base voters. Unfortunately, in the process of doing so, many ultra-conservative candidates end up offending and alienating large voting blocs that ultimately deliver elections to the Democrats. The San Diego mayoral election is a perfect counter to those who want the party to become even more conservative. Faulconer is a fiscal conservative, but he is also a social moderate and is known for being a pragmatic leader. Instead of focusing on divisive issues, Faulconer has brought people together from both parties, all income levels, and all demographics with his message of inclusiveness and focusing on all of San Diego. While the internal debate rages on within the Republican Party over its direction in the next election cycle, leaders should look towards the San Diego mayoral race as a model for the future.