Is San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer a Model for the Struggling California GOP?

For those who do not know, national Review, once a solidly conservative magazine and organization, is the current HQ for the NoTrumpers.  To them supporting the President is treason.  That will explain their puff piece on the Socialist Republican Mayor of San Diego.

Who is pro-choice, for open borders, wants government to own energy companies?  No, not just Bernie Sanders.  Those are also the same views and values of Kevin Faulconer—the man National Review believes in the future of the California Republican Party.

“In an interview, Faulconer attributes his ability to win elections in a city where only 22 percent of voters are registered Republicans to a political brand that is “not about partisanship, but leadership.” This may sound like a boilerplate talking point, but it contains a lesson that Republicans seeking a toehold in blue states could learn from: Mayors are simply not subject to the same partisan pressures as legislators and other elected officials. If they eschew divisive, bomb-throwing bombast in favor of a focus on competent, productive governance, voters will reward them.

As a Republican Leader, this is his record.  A GOP Assemblyman became a Democrat—with the same views of Faulconer.  The District Attorney became a Decline to State voter.  When he entered the Mayors office there were five GOP’er on the council, now there are two—and it is possible that when he leaves office next month, only one.  That is his GOP leadership.  Imagine how well things will go when he runs for Governor in 2022—as a Republican or a Non Political Preference?  With those positions on key issues will the Republicans in California support him?

Is San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer a Model for the Struggling California GOP?

By James P. Sutton, National Review,  10/14/19 

Faulconer has succeeded by delivering competent governance without the divisive bombast. Whether others can do the same may be key to the state party’s future.

From Ted Cruz’s sneering at “New York values” to the gratuitous scorn President Trump heaped on the city of Baltimore, Republicans seem to have tacitly accepted that they will never again be able to compete in urban centers. But at least one major city still has a viable, even thriving, Republican administration: San Diego, the eighth-largest urban area in America, whose mayor, Kevin Faulconer, has enjoyed two popular and successful terms in city hall despite a constituency that is actually less red than deep-blue California as a whole.

In an interview, Faulconer attributes his ability to win elections in a city where only 22 percent of voters are registered Republicans to a political brand that is “not about partisanship, but leadership.” This may sound like a boilerplate talking point, but it contains a lesson that Republicans seeking a toehold in blue states could learn from: Mayors are simply not subject to the same partisan pressures as legislators and other elected officials. If they eschew divisive, bomb-throwing bombast in favor of a focus on competent, productive governance, voters will reward them.

Faulconer’s rise and tenure is a case study in this dynamic. He was elected in the wake of the resignation of scandal-ridden Democratic mayor Bob Filner, with San Diego’s finances in deplorable shape. He promised to fix the city budget and did, establishing a low-key, technocratic image that helped him easily win his bid for a full term. It helped that he made an effort to reach out to voters who wouldn’t typically vote for a Republican. His campaign headquarters was located in a historically black city neighborhood, and he stressed throughout our interview how important that physical presence was in connecting with local residents. The result was that people knew him not “as a Republican,” he said, but as a competent mayor.

If Faulconer’s success were just a matter of personal temperament and a concerted effort to transcend party labels, other California Republicans might be forgiven for assuming he doesn’t have much to teach the struggling state party. But as he closes out his second term, Faulconer has zeroed in on an issue that the state’s overwhelmingly Democratic leadership has failed to address: the homelessness crisis. Though the issue is not his only his policy focus, he trumpets it as one that Republicans should zero in on.

At the recent California Republican party convention in Palm Springs, Faulconer devoted the bulk of his keynote address to discussing the explosion in the state’s homeless population. It is, he said, “not merely an issue in California, but the issue,” one that offers California Republicans a golden chance to present themselves as a viable alternative to their Democratic rivals. In our interview, he highlighted San Diego’s recent efforts to grapple with the crisis. Most crucially, he has committed the city to providing enough shelter beds for every member of its homeless population, which no other comparably large city on the West Coast is even close to doing. San Diego can now offer any persons living on the street housing, and compel them to enter it if they refuse. It’s a real accomplishment, though he is quick to caution that “housing first” cannot become “housing only.” If the goal is to keep people off the streets long-term, he argues, it is just as important for shelter services to connect homeless people with treatment and counseling as it is to give them a place to stay.

The results of Faulconer’s fight against homelessness in San Diego have been mixed. Expansion of shelters, greater use of law enforcement against tent encampments, and increased spending on services have led to a 6 percent decrease in the homeless population, which he concedes is far from a massive improvement. But San Diego is the only major West Coast city to have seen any kind of decrease in homelessness, and it is one of the few with a clear plan to address the crisis.

It remains to be seen what kind of impact Faulconer’s singular success — there are a smattering of other Republican mayors statewide, but the next-largest California city with a Republican administration is Fresno, just over a third the size of San Diego — will have on the state party. In our interview, he reiterated a long-standing refusal to announce plans for higher office, and the upcoming mayoral race in San Diego won’t feature a Republican candidate. But he is adamant that the state party could learn from his experience in office.

About Stephen Frank

Stephen Frank is the publisher and editor of California Political News and Views. He speaks all over California and appears as a guest on several radio shows each week. He has also served as a guest host on radio talk shows. He is a fulltime political consultant.