Sept. 11 2013 10:09 AM

The GOP's rebranding of its mayoral candidate

Kevin “Starshine” Faulconer
Photo illustration by John R. Lamb

    "We are chameleons—we take our hue and the color of our moral character from those who are around us."

    —John Locke

    So, local Republicans and big-cat wheeler-dealers are all in with their choice of Kevin Faulconer as this year's model to scale San Diego's political mountaintop and likely eviscerate any shred of progress made during the brief, dysfunctional life of the Bob Filner administration, particularly its shifting focus on neighborhoods other than Downtown.

    Hallelujah, for, as Voice of San Diego gleaned from confidential sources Tuesday, the corporate angels have spoketh. And he of San Diego Yacht Club membership, frequent Caribbean travels and apparent Parrothead Nation allegiance has been bequeathed the mantle (and commensurate campaign loot!) to seek out the remainder of Filner the Departed's mayorship.

    Just don't ask the parties involved in that private Aug. 31 decision to back Faulconer to publicly acknowledge why they reached that conclusion.

    When Spin Cycle asked former Mayor Jerry Sanders, now the well-compensated San Diego Chamber of Commerce CEO, about the gathering of an estimated 30 Republican power players after his appearance at a Miramar Air Show announcement / photo-op last week, his trademark smirk vanished.

    "Nope, don't want to talk about it," Sanders said before turning his attention elsewhere, declining even to comment on the rumor that U-T San Diego publisher Doug Manchester had issued a rare apology to him for suggesting that the city had gone without the necessary leadership in the Mayor's office for the last 10 years. (Manchester is still steamed that Sanders didn't fight for another GOP National Convention for San Diego and dissed his bayfront mega-sports-complex idea.)

    Kris Michell, Sanders' former top lieutenant who now heads up the Downtown San Diego Partnership and also attended the Miramar event at City Hall, literally froze in place when queried about the local GOP's mini-Bohemian Grove meet-up.

    "Neh. Ask Jerry," was the extent of her public statement before walking off.

    Why all the secrecy, folks?

    Well, dear progressives, it's a different world over there in Republican fantasy-land, where, until that meeting, it appeared that the November special-election ballot to determine Filner's successor might include more than one viable Republican candidate.

    Carl DeMaio—who made King Lear look sympathetic in his teasing Labor Day speech that had some veteran journalists in town prematurely tweeting that DeMaio would jump into the mayor's race—pined for that opportunity, spurred on by Manchester, but eventually relented and accepted his dutiful (and previously committed-to) role as competitor for the congressional seat of Democrat Scott Peters.

    Whatever Manchester's personal feelings about the outcome of the private meeting, his mainstream newspaper was on board the Kevin Train the next week, although with mixed depictions.

    In the span of two days, U-T politics reporter Craig Gustafson painted Faulconer as "socially liberal," then "socially moderate." In the magical land of online updates, it's hard to determine which political peg the U-T decided to settle on, but it's a good indication that the supposed lefty Faulconer remains a work in progress for Republicans.

    It's no secret why county GOP chairman Tony Krvaric would proudly tout the termed-out District 2 councilman as a "centrist leader" this year while—as the Voice's Liam Dillon noted in a snarky tweet—"GOP 2012: Kill all centrists" was Krvaric's mantra: Republicans can't win citywide elections on their own any more. The voter-registration numbers aren't there.

    So, the push to sell Faulconer as an attractive aisle-straddler begins.

    Spin Cycle tried a small socialmedia experiment this week, seeking comment from local socially liberal organizations that might have worked with Faulconer on a variety of issues. Sadly, Spin had no takers.

    Faulconer campaign spokesperson Tony Manolatos even challenged Spin to prove that his boss was a social, as well as acknowledged fiscal, conservative, a word you won't likely hear Faul coner utter often while on this hyper-compacted campaign trail.

    Manolatos rattled off Faulconer's stewardship of Mission Bay while a councilmember, his pro-choice and -LGBT stances and his commitment to gun control as evidence of a social liberal in the making.

    But Spin also remembers Faulconer's attempt to appoint San Diego's resident prohibitionist, Scott Chipman, to the City Council's Medical Marijuana Task Force. Chipman won't be happy until this is a dry city, and the nomination at the time seemed, at best, cynical of the serious nature of the political debate.

    Spin also doesn't recall anything but disdain coming from Faulconer during the brief Occupy San Diego movement, which Republicans tended to view as a gathering of slackers and nothing more.

    So, dear voters, listen carefully during the coming maelstrom of political talking points that come your way. From Republicans, what you're actually hearing is the simple message that Faulconer's polling negatives are lower than DeMaio's, the Republican who really wanted to be mayor.

    As one political observer noted privately, "Nothing to do with Kevin being a consensus builder. People just don't hate him."

    In the meantime, Democrats will likely convene not in the solitude of a quiet La Jolla neighborhood but perhaps more appropriately in a boxing ring to determine their consensus pick later this month.

    Unlike the private-meeting Republicans, the Dems' choice will likely not come unanimously, and it will likely leave some noses bent and egos bloodied. But, in the end, the decision will not be nearly as choreographed as Faulconer's entry into this race.

    An old roster for the San Diego Yacht Club lists Faulconer as the owner of a 19-foot powerboat named Everlasting Moon. Jimmy Buffett, king of the Parrothead Nation, wrote a tune by the same name about a celestial orb "smiling every place with his laserpainted face."

    But Spin's gut has a feeling the title will be more emblematic of Faulconer's eventual drop-trousers position on most things progressive. As another Buffett song title asks, "Who's the Blonde Stranger?"

    Got a tip? Send it to or follow John R. Lamb on Twitter @johnrlamb.


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