March 9 2016 02:15 PM

Will presidential politics ruffle Mayor Faulconer’s re-election bid?

Will Trumpian headaches emerge for campaign guru Jason Roe and Mayor Faulconer if Marco Rubio loses Florida?
Photo illustration by John Lamb

    There are no true friends in politics. We are all sharks circling, and waiting, for traces of blood to appear in the water. —Alan Clark

    Only two short months ago, Mayor Kevin Faulconer proudly hopped aboard the Marco Rubio train to the White House, becoming one of seven co-chairs for the Florida senator’s presidential campaign in California leading up to the June primary.

    “Marco Rubio knows that it is not about where you came from, or what your last name is, but that in America anyone can succeed,” Faulconer proclaimed in a statement.

    But judging by the media buzz, Rubio’s train may be running out of steam—and could even (horrors!) crash and burn in a pile of career-damaging rubble in his home state’s primary next week.

    Rubio soldiers breathlessly denied a CNN report Monday that the U.S. senator’s triage unit was weighing exit strategies prior to the March 15 Florida primary, for fear of an ugly ending at the hands—those hands!—of current runaway Republican smash hit “The Donald.”

    “Unbelievably bad journalism,” Rubio’s communications director tweeted in disgust.

    By Tuesday, Rubio was seen embracing the underdog role he finds himself in, which typically in politics means “get the campaign-suspension speech prepped.”

    Back in stormy/sunny/stormy San Diego, Faulconer must be sweating the prospect of choosing between the media-presumed finalists in the Republican run, blowhard dick-boaster Donald “Pretty Hands” Trump or Dracula’s lardbased second cousin, the equally distasteful Ted Cruz of Texas.

    More likely Mayor All Smiles has left the heavy sweating to his trusted political field general, Jason Roe—who also serves as a political adviser to and perpetually tan media guy for (wait for it) presidential dwindling-hopeful Marco “Underdog” Rubio.

    Here at home, Faulconer has gone from an unchallenged lock on re-election in June to what appears to be shaping up as a bruising campaign questioning the mayor’s brief but PRreliant legacy to date.

    Last week, lifeguard union head and former San Diego City Councilmember Ed Harris (a Democrat who subbed for Republican Faulconer when he ascended to the mayor’s seat from the council) announced he was throwing his boxing gloves into the ring, joining equally feisty former state Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña and a host of lesser-knowns in the June race.

    Harris, seeking to tap current political sentiments, minced few words about Faulconer’s mayorship in his opening gambit: “San Diegans, like voters throughout our country, are fed up with politicians who put political gamesmanship ahead of solving real problems. The incumbent thinks media events are equivalent to accomplishments. He’s more concerned with running for higher office than he is in running the city of San Diego.”

    That “higher office” dig from Harris refers to the oft-repeated speculation that if Faulconer were to win re-election outright in June—bypassing a presumably more left-leaning voting populace in November—his political wardrobe department would take immediate measurements for a run at California governor in 2018. And then, you know, naturally a run himself for the White House down the road. Crazy world, right?

    Faulconer appears to be doing his best to clear the June ballot of any potential potholes. This week, his office said the mayor’s proposed hotel-tax-hike ballot measure to help expand the convention center would be postponed to a later unspecified date. The measure would have required two-thirds voter approval, a daunting task.

    How Roe wants to attack another June inconvenience—a ballot measure to boost the city’s minimum wage necessitated by Faulconer’s 2014 veto of a councilapproved incremental boost to $11.50—also seems up in the air. The question, as always in politics, will be how much campaign cash the mayor’s Republican backers plan to throw at the measure while maintaining Faulconer’s carefully manicured image as a moderate—not to mention how much political capital the mayor himself is willing to spend.

    These are likely nervous times for Roe, who works hard to appear unfazed. His presidential meal ticket on the ropes, Roe has abandoned previous boasts about Rubio’s decision to remain above the sophomoric schoolyard fray in the Republican snipe contest.

    It was, after all, Rubio who interjected the small-hands-must-equal-small-penis notion into the current political consciousness, perhaps—Spin Cycle is merely speculating here—in response to Donald Trump’s penchant to address him as “Little Marco.”

    “You get to a point where you’ve got to fight fire with fire,” Roe told the Boston Herald last week. “You have to mock Trump a little bit because he has become a caricature of himself…” Since then, Rubio has had a rough time of it, managing to win only in Puerto Rico while Cruz and Trump have stepped up calls for him to drop out of the Republican presidential race. Hence, the importance of Florida next week, where polls show Rubio trailing Trump—if he loses, pundits figure it’s time for Camp Rubio to break down the tents.

    So, then what for Mayor Faulconer? A re-election mayoral candidate without a presidential horse preference? That would seem a likely scenario from a politician who seems allergic to conflict. But that might turn off some voters who expect their leaders to lead—even if it means into a valley of sludge and muck and wieners.

    Roe, meanwhile, has said he could not support a Trump presidential assault. But what else to expect from a political hardball player whose team has yet to be mathematically eliminated?

    Back in December, Voice of San Diego referred to Roe, a former Mitt Romney adviser, as the mayor’s “elbow,” meaning he’s not averse to taking shots at the rib cages of opponents. He’s been willing—or forced—to trade verbal barbs with the Chargers, even changing his Twitter avatar to an Oakland Raiders logo at one point until local football fans noticed. He has since swapped it out for a skull-and-crossbones motif.

    Maybe Roe has surrendered. Last week, the man once called a “crazy little bastard” for jumping in after a 200-pound shark that had snapped his pole tweeted, “America just jumped the shark.”


    See all events on Wednesday, Nov 30