April 30 2014 10:00 AM

The GOP's model candidate is stuck in campaign-speak

Mayor Filglorconer
Photo illustration by John R. Lamb

"The art of pleasing is the art of deceiving."

—French proverb

California Republicans are drooling. Can't blame them, really, given the candidate-starvation-diet they've endured for so long.

So, Spin Cycle says let the party have its cake. Eat up. Fill your bellies with sugar and flour and eggs, then run around the room on the energy buzz that results. Frankly, you need the exercise.

However, the question arises: Your new Golden Boy, that Republican who ran as far as he could from the GOP brand to snatch a victory in an off-year election? Yeah, that guy Kevin Faulconer. Well, he seems to be having an issue transitioning from campaign bromides to straight-shooting leader.

During Monday's KPBS radio's Midday Edition program, Faulconer still appeared in campaign mode. "The reforms are taking hold, the dollars that we're saving are real and my commitment was that when we start to see some of this increased growth as our economy gets better, we put it exactly where it should be, which is neighborhood services, library hours, fixing our streets," he said.

When a caller asked if the city planned to "sell" the Qualcomm Stadium and Sports Arena—er, Valley View Casino Center— sites to pay for a new Chargers stadium somewhere, Faulconer let out a small chuckle, questioned where the gentleman got his information, responded with an emphatic "no" to selling, then hit the sound-bite play button to remark that a stadium deal "has to be a solution that protects us as taxpayers."

Now, a leader might have suggested that the Chargers have long hinted that new development on those sites would go a long way toward paying for a new stadium. Instead, listeners got a piece of cake. "We're certainly a ways out from coming up with any solution, but we started interacting with the Chargers…." Faulconer said.

But then program host Mau reen Cavanaugh did something enlightening. She returned to a previous question about Faulconer's campaign pledge to spend $180 million to improve San Diego's crumbling infrastructure and a lawsuit challenging the legality of $120 million of that amount approved by the City Council.

The lawsuit, filed by thorn-in-the-city's-posterior attorney Cory Briggs, contends that those bonds should be approved by San Diego voters. (He's also challenged the financing plan for the Convention Center expansion on similar grounds.)

"Why not just put these on the ballot?" Cavanaugh asked.

Cavanaugh seemed unsatisfied with Faulconer's initial response, which was: The City Council backs my plan and it's unfortunate that a lawsuit was filed against "a proven legal mechanism," but we're moving forward.

Later, Cavanaugh returned to the topic, specifically asking why such funding measures aren't put before voters. "I think the council, who were elected by the voters to make these decisions, and with my support, this is what we're in the business of doing, is providing infrastructure," he said, then reiterated, "The unfortunate reality is anybody can file a lawsuit."

Cavanaugh, clearly having heard enough blather, went for the kill shot, asking, "Is there not the fear that voters will not approve these bond measures and these plans for expansion if it's going to cost them money?"

"We're moving expeditiously, and we've been open and transparent, and everybody who drives over San Diego roads knows what we're talking about, and, you know, the fact that other cities are moving forward…. The fact that somebody would want to file a lawsuit now is their ability to do that…." the mayor responded, his talking points seemingly crashing into one another.

"What he's afraid of is going to the voters and facing a conservative challenge in his own party for mayor if he has hopes to go beyond San Diego," said Carl Luna, Mesa College political-science professor and longtime observer of local political behavior. "Because supporting bonds is not something Republicans are supposed to do."

Let's face facts, San Diego: We're on our third mayor in the last eight months, so continuity has not been our strong suit of late. Two years from now, we'll be facing yet another mayoral election. So, in essence, our mayor has been a blending of three distinct personalities. Let's call him Mayor Filglorconer. He's been part passionate scrapper with human-interaction flaws, part middle-ground seeker and part—well, that remains to be determined.

Just who is Kevin Faulconer? "He's the new-andimproved Tide, the national product you've always known," Luna quipped. "He's got his new-and-improved brand. But the policies underneath it, 90 percent of the ingredients, are going to be the same."

That means strongly opposing Council President Todd Gloria's push for a hike in the city's minimum wage, likely pushing unions for further concessions, aggressively seeking outsourced city services and speaking up for businesses over residents in cases like the Barrio Logan Community Plan brouhaha.

"I don't see Faulconer in a situation to really advance a significant agenda," Luna said. "He has to dance on issues because he ran a nebulous campaign. And if he fills in the blanks, it affects any other future campaign he wants to do. San Diego voters elected something of a cipher. That worked in 2014. It's not going to work in 2016. A sidewalk here and there probably isn't enough."

So, yes, Republican elected wannabes, copy and paste all you want with your newly chosen campaign model. Let specific solutions fade into the Novocain haze of feel-good sound bites. Try to be bold without an ounce of nutritional sustenance. Go ahead.

As Luna notes, "At some point, Kevin will get asked a question he can't answer, like what substantively are you going to be able to deliver? If, in 2016, his record is he defeated a minimum-wage hike and the Barrio Logan plan, he's going to have a hard time running as that new Republican." 

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


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