San Diego heads to polls to pick new mayor, close finish predicted

San Diego mayoral candidates David Alvarez, left, and Kevin Faulconer shake hands after a contentious debate. The runoff will decide a replacement for ex-mayor Bob Filner.
(Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

SAN DIEGO -- The campaign to select a successor to former Mayor Bob Filner is down to its final hours-- with a local think-tank predicting the race between City Council members David Alvarez and Kevin Faulconer is close.

“It may be a late evening for poll watchers,” said Vince Vasquez of the National University System Institute for Policy Research. Polls close at 8 p.m.

Alvarez, 33, a Democrat, and Faulconer, 47, a Republican, are fighting to serve the final 33 months of Filner’s term. Filner, a Democrat, resigned Aug. 30 amid allegations of sexually harassing women.


Just weeks ago, polls suggested Faulconer was ahead, thanks to support from voters in more affluent neighborhoods north of Interstate 8.

More recent polls say Alvarez is “surging,” possibly because of support from blue-collar neighborhoods south of Interstate 8 in and around his council district.

Registration in San Diego favors Democrats, with 40%, compared to Republicans with 26% and independents at 29%.

With that registration edge, Democrats hold five of nine seats on the council, all three San Diego districts in Congress, and five of six San Diego districts in the state legislature.

Still, Filner was the first Democratic mayor in two decades.

Faulconer’s campaign has stressed that he is the best candidate to continue the fiscal reforms that pulled the city back from a financial meltdown.

Alvarez has accused Faulconer of ignoring neighborhoods and has urged voters to “make history.” He would be the youngest and the first Latino mayor in modern San Diego history.

Faulconer is the strong favorite of ex-Mayor Jerry Sanders and the conservative editorial page of the U-T San Diego newspaper. Alvarez was endorsed over the weekend by President Obama and is supported by a variety of labor unions.

During the campaign, Alvarez and Faulconer poked at each other on the issue of who is funding their campaign.

Faulconer repeatedly warned Alvarez will favor the demands of labor unions over the general public. Alvarez responded Faulconer’s business support shows he will put the needs of business and land developers ahead of neighborhoods.

The winner is set to take office March 3. When Filner resigned, Council President Todd Gloria became acting mayor. He opted not to run for the full-time job.

After Filner’s departure, Republican power-brokers, at an invitation-only meeting in La Jolla, decided to back Faulconer and discourage former Councilman Carl DeMaio, who had lost to Filner in 2012, from making a second attempt. DeMaio, a Republican, continued his campaign for Congress.

Alvarez beat out two Democrats in the November primary: former Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher and former city attorney Mike Aguirre.

Alvarez, after trailing early in the primary campaign, beat Fletcher, the front-runner, by 26% to 24% to gain a runoff with Faulconer, who garnered 44% of the vote.

The U-T editorial page, in endorsing Faulconer, warned Alvarez is “wrong on virtually every issue.”

But the paper also asked prominent backers of each candidate to list the reasons for their support.

Former Councilwoman Donna Frye, in her reasons for backing Alvarez, listed: “David annoys the U-T San Diego editorial board.”


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