After almost 1,000 days, tens of millions of dollars and one resignation, San Diego’s new mayor looks a lot like the mayors who have come before him.

Kevin Faulconer, a 47-year-old moderate Republican city councilman, won Tuesday night’s special election by a much bigger majority than expected. A jubilant crowd at Faulconer’s downtown election night headquarters only got more jubilant as the night wore on and his early lead held strong.

“Thank you San Diego, thank you San Diego, thank you San Diego,” Faulconer said to his throng of supporters. “I can’t wait to be your next mayor.”

Faulconer’s ascendance ends a nearly three-year process to find a permanent replacement for another moderate Republican mayor, Jerry Sanders. Democrat Bob Filner won in November 2012, but flamed out in less than 10 months after committing a felony related to his treatment of women.

Filner, a combative and unabashedly liberal ex-congressman, was supposed to represent the city’s demographic shift toward greater progressivism and ethnic diversity and away from the downtown-centered, moderate Republican leadership that’s been the hallmark of San Diego city government for decades. But with Faulconer’s victory, Filner’s tenure stands, for now, as a brief detour.

Faulconer looks and acts the part. A San Diego State University grad and former PR man, Faulconer is the city’s longest tenured councilman, representing beach communities and Point Loma. His past support for pension reforms, competitive bidding for city services and the tourism industry puts him in lockstep with Sanders and the center-right coalition that backed him.

We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?

That coalition picked Faulconer as its candidate at a series of meetings, culminating in one in late August at the La Jolla home of a prominent developer. The decision cleared the Republican field for Faulconer.

On the campaign trail, Faulconer talked about meat-and-potatoes subjects: public safety, infrastructure, job creation. But his style reflected a change in rhetoric sparked by Filner’s successful narrative that the city’s diverse neighborhoods had been neglected over the years thanks to downtown boosterism.

Faulconer spoke in Spanish when he announced he was running for mayor. He emphasized ties to black pastors and Asian-Pacific Islander and Hispanic advocacy groups. His most prominent surrogate was Father Joe Carroll, who’s best known for his work on behalf of the city’s homeless population. A diverse group of supporters stood behind Faulconer during his victory speech, where Faulconer talked again and again about nonpartisanship and policies that benefitted every neighborhood.

Still, many of the solutions Faulconer offers amount to center-right boilerplate, such as streamlining city permitting and other regulatory processes and saving money through competitive bidding services.

“He’s talked about neighborhoods,” said Erik Bruvold, who heads the National University System Institute for Policy Research, a local right-leaning think tank. “But I don’t think we’ve gotten anything specific that’s much different than the status quo.”

Bruvold said he expected Faulconer to continue policies from the Sanders era and before. That means strong backing for the hotel industry and big business in land-use decisions, and few large-scale shakeups in the city’s fiscal structure.

A glimpse of Faulconer’s vision for the city can be seen through his stances on big upcoming issues. Faulconer supports ballot measures to overturn a development blueprint for Barrio Logan and an increase to the city’s affordable housing fee. He’s against measures to boost the city’s minimum wage and hike taxes to pay for an infrastructure megabond.

Alvarez has opposite positions on all those things. He picked a platform designed to excite the city’s Democratic base. He emphasized holding landlords accountable for problem properties, environmental activism and providing more city contracts to minority- and women-owned businesses.

He saw enormous spending from labor unions, which raised more than $4 million on his behalf – an amount roughly equivalent to all the money raised for Faulconer and more than 80 percent of Alvarez’s total.

Alvarez’ platform didn’t leave much room for him to court the city’s large block of middle-of-the-road voters. In hindsight, that looks like a huge miscalculation. Turnout appeared to be only slightly higher than the 36 percent who cast votes in last November’s primary. Lower turnout favors Republicans, and it did again Tuesday.

    This article relates to: David Alvarez, Kevin Faulconer, Mayoral Candidates 2014, Mayoral Election Issues 2014, News, Politics, Share, Special Mayoral Election 2014

    Written by Liam Dillon

    Liam Dillon is senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He leads VOSD’s investigations and writes about how regular people interact with local government. What should he write about next? Please contact him directly at or 619.550.5663.

    Kelly Abbott
    Kelly Abbott memberadministrator

    6-3 majority dems on city council make this a moot point, right? What good is a mayor who can't veto anything?

    David Benz
    David Benz subscriber

    How long will it take for Foulconner to try to give his "$1 billion in pension savings" (hahaha, what a joke) to Spanos for a new stadium?

    -P subscriber

     I hope he keeps his promises of representing, caring about, and working with ALL the neighborhoods of San Diego,  East, West, North, South and downtown. Now that he's one of the highest ranking republicans in CA government, I wonder what he has his eyes on, what his next move will be? 

    Mark Giffin
    Mark Giffin subscribermember

    Faulconer being elected represents a balance in city government.

    Glad this is done as my phone machine is just about worn out

    Liam Dillon
    Liam Dillon memberadministrator

    A turnout update. At the end of the evening, turnout wound up at 37.7%. BUT -- the registrar lists 36,000 provisional ballots that have yet to be tabulated. Assuming, for the sake of argument, they all count, that would bump turnout to 43.1%. That's higher than the November primary (and much, much higher than recent mayoral elections in LA and NYC), but significantly smaller than the 70%-plus we saw in the Nov. 2012 primary. @Jed Sundwall

    Liam Dillon
    Liam Dillon memberadministrator

    Sorry just correcting an error. I, of course, meant Nov. 2012 general election, not primary.

    Brian Peterson
    Brian Peterson subscriber

    Seeing that Scott Sherman and Kevin Faulconer are pals (look the U-T photo gallery), maybe Scott can ask Kevin for some the “Billion Dollar Pension Savings” for fixing roads in Serra Mesa.“Sandrock” is more like a descriptive term for the road; not just a name.

    Dale Peterson
    Dale Peterson subscribermember

    So now that Alvarez won't be Mayor, I guess that the UT won't be writing an editorial suggesting that San Diego be split into two different cities?

    Seriously, though,  Mr. Faulconer is a good guy and I hope that he continues to be what he represented himself to be, during the campaign.  Specifically, a Mayor for all the neighborhoods.

    Jed Sundwall
    Jed Sundwall subscribermember

    Only about 36% turnout? I wish I could say I was surprised.

    Two quick thoughts:

    1. This apathy will not stand, man. I consider such low turnout to be a failure, but I'm not sure how to fix it. I wasn't inspired by either of our candidates, but I also don't really want a super charismatic leader – I don't want anyone to think that a magical leader can save us. We could talk about more engaging issues, but I don't want our policy discussions to devolve into shouting matches around wedge issues.

    2. Low turnout might be a consequence of our remarkably well-governed region. San Diego's (supposedly) the 2nd safest large city in the country ( There's plenty of room for reform, but plenty of people also aren't compelled to vote to reform anything. Low turnout is still bad, but it might not be a bad sign.

    Really, the easiest and best thing we could probably do is run elections on weekends. Voting on Tuesday is stupid and excludes a lot of people who can't get away from work:

    mail voter
    mail voter subscriber

    @Jed Sundwall  

    "excludes a lot of people who can't get away from work:"

    You don't have to take a day off work when you vote by mail.  If voting by mail is an insurmountable hurdle, I wonder how informed the  voter is when casting a vote. 

    -P subscriber

    @mail voter @Jed Sundwall  California Law requires employers to give employees up to 2 hours paid leave to vote, if they do not have sufficient time to vote outside of their work schedule.  In fact, according to the Secretary of State "You may take as much time as you need to vote, but only two hours of that time will be paid."

    James Weber
    James Weber subscriber

    The people have spoken.  They do not want a City run by a puppet of the unions.

    Helen Weals
    Helen Weals subscriber

    Yes, apparently they want a city run by a puppet of the developers.