San Diego mayor hopes to lead state GOP out of its morass

Kevin Faulconer 2SACRAMENTO – Even Republicans admit the state GOP is something of a rudderless ship these days. The party doesn’t control any constitutional offices. Democrats have supermajorities in both houses of the Legislature. Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes of Yucca Valley, is the target of a grassroots effort to force him from his leadership post after he backed a Democratic bill to expand the cap-and-trade system for 10 years.

Meanwhile, the national Republican Party has become anathema to ethnically diverse California, especially after President Donald Trump doubled down on his initial comments about Saturday’s white-supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia. On Tuesday, the president assured the media that there were some “very fine people on both sides” at the protests. Yes, the California party’s predicament is dismal, especially from a recruitment standpoint.

Yet Tuesday night, one prominent GOP official detailed a positive direction for the party. San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer says he isn’t running for governor, but gave a major speech to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco regarding the future of the California Republican Party. He wasn’t there “to offer suggestions about what we ought to do,” he said. “I’m here to tell Republicans what we’ve already done in San Diego.”

He described it as a call to action – an opportunity to rebuild the party centered on the theme of “fixing California.” Faulconer detailed five themes on which the party should unite as a way to win over new generations of voters. The first of them involves freedom. “Not only is individual liberty part of California’s heritage, it’s a classic conservative principle – one that Republicans have watered down to our own detriment,” he said. “People have stopped seeing the GOP as the party of freedom. They see it as the party of ‘no.’”

He even singled out a freedom theme that could be controversial in a socially conservative party: freedom of sexual orientation. But he contrasted his vision with that of the Democratic Party, “which has organized itself around the proposition that an individual’s most defining qualities are gender, sexuality and race.” He calls that a party based on differences, whereas he envisions a “New Republican Party” built around a set of common ideas.

“One of our biggest failures is that Republicans do not communicate our shared values to underrepresented communities,” Faulconer said. He pointed to his successful San Diego mayoral race: “Facing a Hispanic candidate in a city where just 25 percent of voters are registered Republican, I won more than 57 percent of the total vote – and close to 40 percent of the Latino vote. … Why? Because I campaigned in communities Republicans wrote off as lost – and Democrats took for granted.”

His second theme involved immigration. Faulconer said that Republicans are doing a poor job inviting new Americans to join the party of freedom and limited government. In fact, he said he wouldn’t even need to give such a speech if the GOP weren’t failing at that message. He called for welcoming immigrants, while acknowledging that the party can’t ignore the issue of illegal immigration. “We must push for efficient ports of entry and get smarter about border security,” the mayor said, while emphasizing the importance of treating nearby Mexico as “neighbors and economic partners.”

Faulconer’s third theme involved the environment, about engaging responsibly on conservation and climate-change issues with “plans that don’t plunder the middle class.” He again used his city as an example. “San Diego is now on a path to slash greenhouse gases in half and shift to 100 percent renewable energy – without a tax increase,” he said.

His fourth theme is for California leaders to focus on California issues, rather than “chasing the latest soundbite out of Washington, D.C.” He chided Sacramento Democrats, who he says “are suffering from what I like to call ‘outrage FOMO’ – a Fear Of Missing Out on the latest controversy that will allow them to score political points on social media and TV.” By contrast, Faulconer said the “New Republicans” need to focus on “the fundamentals of government service.”

That includes infrastructure. “The fact that 50 percent of California’s roadways are in poor condition is an absolute failure,” he said. “We have the nation’s second highest gas tax but some of the worst roads, with no guarantees that the taxes we pay at the pump will actually go toward fixing the problem.” But, for his fifth and final point, he focused on the overall need for “reform.” This theme involved the role of the state’s powerful unions in resisting reform.

“Too often Sacramento politicians are unwilling to say ‘no’ to entrenched special interests – at our expense,” he said. “California ranks in the bottom 20 percent of K-12 schools nationwide. Yet Democrats continue to side with unions against meaningful changes to improve student achievement.” He noted that “California falls dead-last in housing affordability in the continental United States” but “Democrats are blocking revisions to housing rules that were designed to protect the environment but that labor has hijacked for its own gain.”

He noted that California was “rated the worst state for business” because “lawmakers keep layering regulation on top of regulation until budding entrepreneurs are crushed, and only the biggest businesses survive.” He also pointed to the state’s massive pension debt and, again, used San Diego as an example, given that city’s successful voter-approved pension reform.

These reform themes echo talking points Republican leaders have traditionally made. And he was predictably pointed in his critique of Democrats, noting that their policies have resulted in “economic inequality; troubled schools; sky-high housing costs; failing infrastructure; and crippling pension debt.” Those problems have festered, he added, while Sacramento “pursues the kind of political fantasies that grip a party when it gains complete and total control.” But his approach signified a break from typical Republican efforts.

To break that one-party control, Mayor Faulconer’s blueprint focuses heavily on repackaging the party’s long-held ideas and reaching out to communities that the party hasn’t successfully appealed to in the past. He envisions a day “when San Francisco’s Republican mayor is standing before you, she isn’t talking about how California Republicans are endangered, but rather how we are ushering in a government that is uniting our people and looking out for the middle class.” It’s a bold challenge for a party that seems to be collapsing, but his ideas received a warm reception.

Steven Greenhut is Western region director for the R Street Institute. Write to him at

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Poll: Republican gubernatorial candidates rank 2nd and 3rd behind Democrat Newsom

kevin-faulconerGood news for California Republicans: In a field of nine candidates for the 2018 gubernatorial race, they have two of the top three names, according to a poll released Tuesday.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Ashley Swearengin, the termed-out mayor of Fresno, placed just behind Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom in a poll of registered voters taken prior to last week’s presidential election, conducted by The Field Poll and the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley.

Newsom drew 23 percent to Faulconer’s 16 percent and Swearengin’s 11 percent, with six prominent Democrats trailing in the single digits. Although anything can change in politics, Faulconer said early this year that he won’t run for governor, and Tim Clark, a political consultant to Swearengin, told CalWatchdog on Tuesday he didn’t “expect her to run.”

Why it matters

Having been shut out of the U.S. Senate race after the June primary, thanks in part to the state’s relatively new system where the top two candidates advance regardless of party, Republicans will need to field a strong candidate at the top of the ticket in 2018 to help with fundraising and turnout for down ballot races and to show they can still compete in statewide elections.

In addition to legislative races, where Republicans will either be fighting off a Democratic supermajority by the narrowest of margins or trying to add a little bit of a buffer — the few races from last week that the Democratic supermajority hinges on have not yet been decided as the votes are still being counted — the 2018 gubernatorial election will elect statewide officers.

CA GOP Chairman Jim Brulte told CalWatchdog on Tuesday that the party was still focused on the outcome of last week’s election, but added the party was beginning to turn to 2018.

“I believe we will have strong candidates for a number of statewide offices,” Brulte said.

Challenges for Republicans

Both parties have struggled with a decline in voter registration for years, although the trend has been much more severe for Republicans, dropping from 36.4 percent of the electorate in 1996 to 26 percent late last month. Democrats in that time declined from 47.9 percent to 44.9 percent, but enjoyed a surge in registration over this campaign cycle that led to a slight uptick.

Whichever Republican candidates decide to jump into the race, they will be starting way behind Newsom and state Treasurer John Chiang, who have both been running and fundraising for awhile. As of September, Newsom had $6.3 million in his campaign account, while Chiang had $2.2 million as of August.

Both Faulconer and Swearengin benefited heavily in the poll from party identification — both dropped to single digits when polled on just name ID alone. But it’s still very early in the race, said John J. Pitney, Jr., a Roy P. Crocker professor of politics at Claremont McKenna College.

“These results reflect name recognition and partisan identification more than serious evaluation of the candidates,” Pitney said. “The good news for Republicans is that, although Faulconer and Swearengin are not running ahead, they have a chance of making the top two. The bad news is that the Democrats will be able to run well-funded campaigns.”

Money plays the odds 

Pitney pointed to the 2014 Republican gubernatorial candidate, Neel Kashkari, who struggled with fundraising despite having contacts throughout the business and financial community from his time as an investment banker and top Treasury Department official.

In 2014, Kashkari raised only slightly more than Newsom has now two years out, largely due to being seen as not having a strong shot of winning (although he was running against a popular incumbent, Gov. Jerry Brown).

“Look at Kashkari,” Pitney said. “He had extensive contacts in the business/financial community, but could not fill his warchest because nobody thought he could win.”

Other candidates

Antonio Villaraigosa, the former mayor of Los Angeles, and Delaine Eastin, the former state superintendent of public instruction, have both announced their intentions to run. Eastin was not included in Tuesday’s poll, while Villaraigosa drew 6 percent. Chiang was near the bottom at 2 percent.

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Excitement Surrounds CA GOP Prospects

Photo courtesy of DonkeyHotey, flickr

Photo courtesy of DonkeyHotey, flickr

When California Republican activists converged on the Anaheim Marriott in mid-September, they experienced something they hadn’t felt in years.


“It’s an exciting time for the delegates as we embark on a journey in 2016 by selling principles of limited government and holding the line on taxes,” said Allen Wilson, a delegate to the state party and member of the Los Angeles County Republican Central Committee. “That resonates with millions of Californians.”

Since former State Senator Jim Brulte took over the helm in 2013, the state party has made steady progress in picking up legislative seats and rebuilt its party operations. Last November, California Republicans defeated two Democratic incumbents — the first time in two decades that a Democratic incumbent has lost re-election to the Legislature.

Brulte also put Democrats on the defensive in the Central Valley, forcing the state party to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to rescue Assemblyman Adam Gray in his re-election campaign.

CA GOP will be tested in 2016

Although Brulte deserves credit for a shrewd campaign strategy and effective fundraising, Republicans’ legislative gains in 2014 were aided, in part, by a record low turnout. The 2014 electorate also skewed heavily toward older, more conservative voters.

According to an analysis by Political Data, Inc., less than 10 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds voted last November.

“In California, an 18- or 19-year-old was more likely to be arrested this year than actually vote in one of the statewide elections,” Paul Mitchell of Political Data, Inc., told KQED earlier this year.

Next year, Republicans won’t be so lucky, when the presidential election is expected to draw more young people to the polls.

But, this time around, state GOP activists say that the party is doing a better job of reaching the younger generation as demonstrated by the turnout at the state party convention.

“The most exciting thing is to see the numbers of young people in attendance,” said Dr. Alexandria Coronado, a longtime Republican activist and former president of the Orange County Board of Education. “They are energized and ready to work for the conservative cause.”

CA GOP: “No Longer in Hospice Care”

Republicans have reason to be optimistic, but state political observers say the party still has a long way to go.

“The California Republican Party used to exist in the hospice care of American politics, but now they’re undergoing plastic surgery,” said John Phillips, an Orange County Register columnist and co-host of “The Drive Home with Jillian Barberie and John Phillips” on KABC AM 790. “Unfortunately, it’s the doctor that did Kanye West’s mom.”

Phillips believes that Republicans’ best chance is to embrace “tough on crime,” fiscal conservatives.

“If they want to expand the base, they need to run fiscal conservatives who are hard on criminals and are social libertarians,” Phillips said. “Otherwise, have fun handing over control of the state to the SEIU.”

That approach has worked in San Diego, where Mayor Kevin Faulconer has achieved sky-high popularity. There’s even talk that Faulconer won’t draw a major Democratic opponent in 2016.

Nearly one hundred delegates and guests made the short journey up from San Diego County and shared their optimism with their fellow GOP activists from around the Golden State.

“I’d say the convention was a success as we re-adopted a solid, conservative platform and adopted a common sense rule to skip two conventions in the ‘on’ year,” said San Diego County Republican Chairman Tony Krvaric. “A lot will depend on how the presidential race develops, but I’m very optimistic about our chances to have a ‘Republican wave’ in 2016 which will have reverberations all the way down the ticket.”

That positive attitude was echoed throughout the convention halls.

“This working weekend made me realize how far we have come,” former Downey city councilman Mario A. Guerra, who ran a strong but unsuccessful State Senate campaign in 2014, wrote on Facebook, “and how much more we need to do here in California.”

Originally published by

More Consider the Gov. Race in 2018, but Not the Senate in 2016

The story last week that state Treasurer John Chiang is “contemplating” a run for governor in 2018 potentially expands the field in what could prove to be a very interesting and competitive race. Already announced for the seat is Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. Former state controller, Steve Westly is said to be considering another run for the corner office. Other well-known names have been floated as well, including both the current and former mayors of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti and Antonio Villaraigosa and environmentalist Tom Steyer.

Democrats all.

But don’t count out a credible Republican candidate. As noted here previously, one Republican consultant said he expects a strong contender backed by influential Republican donor Charles Munger. Who might that contender be? Already discussions have focused on San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer or Fresno mayor Ashley Swearengin as possible candidates. Other possibilities include Assembly Minority leader Kristin Olsen or Pete Peterson who ran a credible race for Secretary of State. There is the perennial talk about a Condoleezza Rice candidacy.

With all this attention on a governor’s race years away, it makes you wonder why there are not more candidates with strong name identification willing to challenge for the United States Senate seat that is opening up next year.

Attorney General Kamala Harris seems to have the field nearly to herself with congresswoman Loretta Sanchez making an effort to challenge. There are some Republican challengers as well, but none that have the name ID or well-established positions from which to launch their campaigns.

Who knows — considering Harris’s official title and summary on the pension reform initiative released this week — once again blasted by the measure’s authors — maybe instead of taking the issue to court the proponents will seek some sort of retribution by taking on the AG herself. Chuck Reed or Carl DeMaio for Senate anyone?

Republicans Favor Subsidizing New Chargers Stadium in SD

San Diego ChargersSan Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, San Diego County Supervisor Ron Roberts and Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, told a senior NFL executive on Tuesday about the city’s plans to pay for and expedite the building of a new $1.2 billion-plus stadium for the Chargers at the Qualcomm site in Mission Valley. Afterwards, Faulconer’s press conference was upbeat, stressing his optimism that the Chargers will stay in town and not head for Carson and a shared stadium with the Raiders or Inglewood and a shared stadium with the Rams.

But the doubts that have been raised publicly and privately by the Spanos family — the owners of the Chargers — about the the city’s financing plans and expectations of quick environmental OKs appear to have sunk in with the NFL’s upper brass. The league’s executive vice president, Eric Grubman, had a good news-bad news reaction to the meeting with San Diego officials in an email to the Union-Tribune:

Grubman was also positive after the meeting … praising the city for its large team of environmental experts and for giving the NFL a thorough understanding of its accelerated timeline for environmental approvals and a January public vote.

Grubman also said the city’s proposed stadium design has “all the key elements we would expect at this stage.”

But he stressed that the design was only conceptual, no actual negotiations took place on Tuesday and that the financing plan presented by the city includes “very significant funding from NFL and Chargers sources.”

That was a reference to the $400 million to $500 million that the team and the league are expected to kick in for construction and related costs.

Is a mostly subsidized stadium not good enough?

Grubman’s critique prompted a sharp response on social media from some who wondered how the world’s most lucrative professional sports league could gripe about a proposal in which taxpayers bore two-thirds or so of the cost of a stadium for the league.

But as an indication of how NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and other team owners felt about the Chargers’ interest in moving, it was telling. Past assumptions about the league not wanting to risk a backlash over a moneymaking team leaving a community that had supported it for more than a half-century may have been based on a sentimental view about how the NFL operates.

So where do things go from here? The Union-Tribune’s coverage suggests a meeting in less that two weeks could be absolutely crucial:

[San Diego officials will make] a presentation scheduled for Aug. 10 in Chicago to the NFL’s relocation committee — a group of six team owners overseeing possible franchise moves to Los Angeles.

The day after that presentation, all 32 NFL owners are scheduled to meet in Chicago to discuss how to handle relocations to the Los Angeles area, where the Chargers, Oakland Raiders and St. Louis Rams are working on stadium projects.

How — and how much — does Atkins want to help?

The fact that the San Diego political establishment is not united on the stadium issue came up again Tuesday. The involvement of Atkins in the meeting with Grubman was treated as a huge plus by Mayor Faulconer, but her decision not to join him at the press conference and the vagueness of her confirmed comments led editors of the Voice of San Diego to wonder what help she was actually providing.

On Twitter, VOSD’s Liam Dillon paraphrased her position this way: “Atkins: I’m happy to expedite the mayor’s Chargers plan, but I don’t have a position on the mayor’s Chargers plan.”

An aide to Atkins said she was ready to help the city and the team maneuver through the obstacle course of state environmental rules in building the stadium. But the City Council member whom Atkins appears closest to — former interim Mayor Todd Gloria — is very cool to Faulconer’s stadium push.

So how much Atkins actually wants to do to help keep the Chargers in San Diego is open to question. For now, city Republican leaders appear far more inclined than elected city Democrats to subsidize a Chargers stadium, wherever it is located and however the taxpayers’ share of costs is provided.

Are Republicans on Right Path to Take Back Governor’s Office in 2018?

Photo courtesy Franco Folini, flickr

Photo courtesy Franco Folini, flickr

Republicans will have a serious, competitive candidate for governor in 2018, Republican consultant Kevin Spillane told a conference sponsored by the Civil Justice Association of California last week. Spillane was a member of a panel that discussed California’s Changing Electorate.

Spillane’s certainty that Republicans will field a top candidate was summed up in one name – and that was not the name of any prospective candidate. The consultant said that wealthy Republican donor Charles Munger will make an effort to see that a strong Republican candidate is in the field.

Munger’s name has been floated in political circles from time to time as a possible candidate for high office but Munger has dismissed the notion.

When pressed which Republican might be that competitive candidate, Spillane mentioned first San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer. He also suggested that Fresno mayor Ashley Swearengin and former Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner could fit the role.

The distant gubernatorial race was also evident in CJAC’s choice of the luncheon keynote speaker. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced his intention to run for the office. Newsom agreed that the discussion about the 2018 governor’s race has already gone mainstream even before the 2016 presidential election has been contested.

Other notes from the panel discussion:

Democratic Assembly consultant and former labor staffer Charu Khopkar said that labor was concerned with the Top-Two primary proposal because organized labor would have to spend much more money engaging in the Top-Two contests picking favorites among same party candidates. He admitted that the prediction has come true.

While the Top-Two was designed to select more moderate candidates, Political Data’s numbers guru, Paul Mitchell, challenged the idea that the Top-Two has had great effect except in a couple of isolated instances. He also argued that because Californians seem to self-select where they live in communities with pockets of like-minded liberals or conservatives, that has blunted the effect of redistricting reforms to select more moderate candidates. However, he suggested that the extension of term limits would have a greater effect on changing the nature of the legislature.

Spillane said the Republican caucus has become more moderate because it “caught up with political reality.” He said Republicans are on the right path, choosing appropriate candidates for competitive districts.

CJAC’s mission is to confront the litigious atmosphere in California, which ranks near the bottom of states in lawsuit climate.

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

San Diego Caves To Chargers, Agrees To Finance New Stadium

San Diego ChargersSan Diego, in a desperate bid to keep the Chargers from relocating to Los Angeles, has offered to provide public funding for a new stadium, but even that may not be enough.

The Citizens Stadium Advisory Group in San Diego unveiled a proposal this week involving at least $600 million in public financing for a new, $1.1 billion-dollar stadium, The San Diego Union-Tribune reports. Yet, even though it is the most generous offer currently on the table, the team has so far demurred, saying it needs time to evaluate the offer against possible alternatives.

According to Market Watch, the Chargers have been under pressure from the NFL for years to update Qualcomm Stadium, which was built nearly 40 years ago. But until now, the team’s requests for taxpayer assistance have always been summarily rejected by city officials. (RELATED: Super Bowl Shines Spotlight on Stadium Subsidies)

The difference in this instance is the very real threat that the Chargers will follow through on plans to build a $1.7 billion stadium in Los Angeles, which would be shared with the rival Oakland Raiders. That proposal received preliminary approval in April, inducing San Diego Mayor Ken Faulconer to break with tradition and offer the team an incentive to stay put.

Faulconer’s plan, which he insists “won’t raise taxes,” calls for $173 million in bonds, $121 million from the city of San Diego, $121 million from San Diego County, and $225 million from the sale of the current Qualcomm site. In addition, the mayor’s committee estimates that another $100 million could be realized from ticket surcharges and the sale of personal seat licenses.

The Chargers, meanwhile, are asked to contribute $300 million towards the cost, with the NFL kicking in another $200 million.

At the conclusion of the league’s annual owners meetings Wednesday, Chargers chairman Dean Spanos told the Union-Tribune that he was aware of the proposal, but that he was not yet familiar with the details and would be reviewing it this week.

“I’ve always said, and I maintain the fact we want to stay in San Diego,” Spanos said, adding. “We’re committed to keep trying to see if there is a viable solution.” (RELATED: Obama Asks Congress to End Stadium Subsidies)

However, despite acknowledging that San Diego is “a great market,” Spanos also indicated that taxpayer subsidies would have to be substantial in order to keep the team from leaving, saying, “This is all going to come down to: Can we find a viable solution from a financing perspective?”

Significantly, San Diego is not in competition with other cities looking to lure the Chargers with their own incentive packages, as is frequently the case. Instead, Spanos seems to be referring to the enormous revenue potential of the Los Angeles market.

In fact, the proposed Los Angeles stadium would be financed entirely with private money, and would likely cost the Chargers about twice as much as they would have to pay under the San Diego plan. (RELATED: Obama’s Plan for Ending Stadium Subsidies Misses the Point)

Nonetheless, sports economist John Vrooman of Vanderbilt University told the Union-Tribune that the Chargers might actually come out ahead by rejecting the subsidies. Over 30 years, Vrooman projects that the team’s value would increase from $1 billion today to about $2.3 billion if they move to Los Angeles, compared to just $1.4 billion if they remain in San Diego.

Follow Peter Fricke on Twitter

Originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation