No debating it. To deny the frontrunner a primary victory, his opponents may have to join forces. No, that’s not a reference to the #NeverTrump campaign. Call it #StopFaulconer.
San Diego’s mayoral election—considered a cakewalk for Kevin Faulconer until recently—has two major challengers, including former appointed San Diego City Councilmember Ed Harris, a Democrat who last week pulled nomination papers.
Lori Saldaña, the former state Assembly member who left the Democratic Party two years ago is running as an independent—and forming an alliance with Harris. She calls it a “tag-team approach.”
Speaking to the La Mesa-Foothills Democratic Club last week, Saldaña said she and Harris had been commiserating since December over the lack of a progressive challenger to Faulconer. Gretchen Newsom, the Ocean Beach Town Council president and labor union leader, had dropped out Dec. 10 after less than two months in the race.
Saldaña said they encouraged each other to run, aiming to force the Republican mayor into a more Democraticfriendly November runoff—and deny him talking points for an expected 2018 gubernatorial bid in which he’ll say: “Everything is fine in San Diego. The Democrats love me. Look, they wouldn’t even challenge me!”
“So Ed, you won!” Saldaña told the club. “I’m running. And now it looks like maybe somebody else…has encouraged [Harris] to run.”
Saldaña told CityBeat that, “We’ve known all along that it will take more than a one-on-one campaign to defeat [Faulconer].”
Harris, 50, confirms the you-or-me dialog with Saldaña, 57, but disagrees on the runoff goal, saying: “I want to get to work sooner! I plan to win this in June [by exceeding 50 percent of the vote], so I can immediately put my energy toward turning the city around.”
No matter the strategy, the duo hopes to debate Faulconer—as would seven other potential candidates.
Faulconer’s campaign manager and Marco Rubio senior adviser Jason Roe didn’t respond to numerous requests for comment. But the mayor has accepted at least one debate invitation—from the Spanish-language station Univision.
Univision senior news reporter Carlos Gonzales, who confirmed the mayor’s acceptance, says a half-hour studio debate will be aired live on April 12 at 6 p.m. with “regular and business people involved.”
At least two other debates could be in the works. Last week, San Diego State University political science professor Carole Kennedy said two clubs were working on an SDSU-hosted debate, but the school’s College Republicans hadn’t yet signed up. Local League of Women Voters President Jeanne Brown said her group was still deciding on a date and place—as well as looking for a co-host.
Will Faulconer agree to a debate schedule? His camp has been mum, but the mayor’s senior advisor did participate in a recent Voice of San Diego podcast in which Roe said elected officials have an obligation to stand and debate—and accept criticism.
While we wait for any definitive debate lineup, CityBeat gave challengers the opportunity to ask the questions they’d ask the sitting mayor.
• We are over budget by about $6 million for police overtime. Police are still underpaid. The $6 million could have been put into salary to attract the very best officers from other departments. You want to give a sports corporation $200 million taxpayer dollars for a stadium. Why do you continue to play Russian Roulette with public safety?
• And you used millions of public dollars to do an expedited environmental impact report for a new stadium. Why does your administration charge communities thousands of dollars for volunteer public projects? When schools want to paint a mural in a crosswalk, set up a community garden or beautify a median, they are met with excessive fees of $15,000 plus.
• Managed competition is the reason the vehicle fleet is mothballed. After years of touting managed comp, why has it dropped out of conversation? If it was a success, why was the effort stopped?
Saldaña, who opened her campaign by calling on Faulconer to join her in signing a pledge to serve all four years if elected, would ask:
• What are your timelines for Climate Action Plan implementation? Who will manage it? Who have you hired? Who will take over the planning for the CAP? How will it be financed?
• What will you do to solve continuing pension issues? Instead of one pension plan for current employees, we have between five and 10 different pension plans, depending on when they were hired under what contract. How will you deal with unresolved liability issues such as death and disability of public-safety workers?
• How will you get the funding for a water-reclamation plant—estimated at $1 billion? Where’s the money going to come from to pay for reclaiming and reusing treated wastewater?
• Why the complete radio silence on the shooting of unarmed civilians? How would you learn from what other cities are doing to deal with gun violence?
Nurse practitioner Gita Applebaum, 53, an unheralded Democrat, says she’d forgo the mayor’s $100,464 annual salary and would ask Faulconer:
• What have you done for people of color to really make them feel significant in this community?
Encanto’s Gregory Morales, 54, a labor economist with SDSU ties who calls himself independent and a socialist, asks:
• Do you think we should have rent control to protect residents and small businesses? Who will be held responsible if we lose 50 percent of our used-rate supplies of water by this time next year?
Sina “Simon” Moghadam, 41, a restaurant owner in Carmel Mountain Ranch who ran to replace ousted Mayor Bob Filner, would ask the mayor if “he or any related affiliates, directly and indirectly, benefited or received any financial gain from his time in politics.” He also wants to know the “specifics of his office budget/personal,” and “Should public officials be financially liable for damages occurred by their direct decisions?”
Kenneth “Marty” Gardner was upset by an email from CityBeat sent to mayoral hopefuls. “If you want to get serious, then approach me as if I am the front-runner,” he replied. “My qualifications are that I am an American citizen, who will get the 200 required signatures to get his name on the ballot.” That deadline is Thursday Montreal-born Steven Greenwald, 69, couldn’t be reached. And Bilal Homran and Lawrence Zynda, 83, didn’t respond to inquiries.
The 2016 Primary Election
When is it?:
Tuesday, June 7