San Diego election 2016 preview: mayor and city attorneyPolitically Aware Thursday, November 12th, 2015
Commentary: Politically Aware
With Election Day 2016 now less than a year away, it is time to take a break from presidential debate analysis and focus the next few columns on San Diego contests. In the past few weeks, new candidates have emerged in races that had been static for months. There will no doubt be a few minor additions to the slates, and perhaps a bombshell or two, but there is enough information to discuss the basic dynamics of most races. As in the past, I will use party affiliations though the races are technically non-partisan.
Mayor of San Diego
For most of 2015, it appeared that Mayor Faulconer would coast to a second term without significant opposition. Then Ocean Beach Town Council President Gretchen Newsom announced her candidacy. Newsom will need to increase her name recognition, but was labelled a “formidable challenger” by County Democratic Party Chair Francine Busby.
As or more significant than Newsom’s own campaign is the possibility that it will open the door for others. One of the alleged rationales for Democrats staying out of the race was that it would take at least two candidates to keep Faulconer from winning outright in the June primary. With Newsom in, will others reconsider their decision to stay out? A slate of candidates designed to engage various Democratic constituencies may be the best way to get someone through to the more progressive November electorate — a similar strategy got Stephen Whitburn to the general against Supervisor Ron Roberts in 2010. (Bombshell watch: Councilmember David Alvarez? Former Assemblymember Nathan Fletcher? Almost-mayor Donna Frye?)
Another wild-card is the fate of the Chargers. Voters who don’t want the city to pay for a new stadium shouldn’t take it out on the mayor when their team bolts, but they probably will. Candidates who were against public financing plans shouldn’t run on a “bring back the NFL platform,” but they can. Should the Chargers stay, the mayor probably deserves credit, but won’t get much. It’s totally unfair, but this is politics.
San Diego city attorney
When Faulconer was unopposed, the race for city attorney was shaping up as the top local contest for 2016. By summer 2015, the four major candidates had already announced: former Ethics Commission Chair Gil Cabrera, Port Commissioner Rafael Castellanos, Chief Deputy City Attorney Mara Elliott and Deputy District Attorney Robert Hickey.
As the lone Republican, Hickey has solidified his party’s support with endorsements from Mayor Faulconer and Councilmembers Zapf, Cate, Kersey and Sherman. Democratic Councilmembers are more split with Todd Gloria endorsing Cabrera, David Alvarez backing Castellanos and Marti Emerald supporting Mara Elliott. The Democratic dance will be interesting to watch in spring 2016, with the party wanting to ensure that a Democrat makes it to November and each candidate wanting to ensure that it is he or she. If recent revelations are any indication, this may be a battle of leaked opposition research.
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