July 13, 2024
Is San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer a Model for the Struggling California GOP?
Faulconer has succeeded by delivering competent governance without the divisive bombast. Whether others can do the same may be key to the state party’s future.
Faulconer has succeeded by delivering competent governance without the divisive bombast. Whether others can do the same may be key to the state party’s future.

From Ted Cruz’s sneering at “New York values” to the gratuitous scorn President Trump heaped on the city of Baltimore, Republicans seem to have tacitly accepted that they will never again be able to compete in urban centers. But at least one major city still has a viable, even thriving, Republican administration: San Diego, the eighth-largest urban area in America, whose mayor, Kevin Faulconer, has enjoyed two popular and successful terms in city hall despite a constituency that is actually less red than deep-blue California as a whole.

In an interview, Faulconer attributes his ability to win elections in a city where only 22 percent of voters are registered Republicans to a political brand that is “not about partisanship, but leadership.” This may sound like a boilerplate talking point, but it contains a lesson that Republicans seeking a toehold in blue states could learn from: Mayors are simply not subject to the same partisan pressures as legislators and other elected officials. If they eschew divisive, bomb-throwing bombast in favor of a focus on competent, productive governance, voters will reward them.

Faulconer’s rise and tenure is a case study in this dynamic. He was elected in the wake of the resignation of scandal-ridden Democratic mayor Bob Filner, with San Diego’s finances in deplorable shape. He promised to fix the city budget and did, establishing a low-key, technocratic image that helped him easily win his bid for a full term. It helped that he made an effort to reach out to voters who wouldn’t typically vote for a Republican. His campaign headquarters was located in a historically black city neighborhood, and he stressed throughout our interview how important that physical presence was in connecting with local residents. The result was that people knew him not “as a Republican,” he said, but as a competent mayor.

If Faulconer’s success were just a matter of personal temperament and a concerted effort to transcend party labels, other California Republicans might be forgiven for assuming he doesn’t have much to teach the struggling state party. But as he closes out his second term, Faulconer has zeroed in on an issue that the state’s overwhelmingly Democratic leadership has failed to address: the homelessness crisis. Though the issue is not his only policy focus, he trumpets it as one that Republicans should zero in on.

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See Also:

(1) California Gov. Gavin Newsom Signs Bill Forcing Public Universities to Dispense Abortion Drugs

(2) Gavin Newsom Signs Bill Banning For-Profit Prisons, Immigration Detention Facilities

(3) California Now Has Highest Gas Prices and Top Gas Tax Rate in Country

(4) California Recycling: Burn, Blackout, Blame, Repeat

(5) The California Fur Ban and What It Means for You

(6) California Turns Off a Lot More Than Just the Lights with Forced Blackouts

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