By Jim Miller
Last week over at the San Diego Union-Tribune, Logan Jenkins had some fun pondering what might happen if the “Dems go dark” this upcoming mayoral election. His conclusion? It would push Faulconer to the top-tier of Republican candidates for Governor in 2018:
And, it should be deduced, a cakewalk sweetens Faulconer’s prospects in Sacramento.
In 18 months or so, Republicans will be looking for a governor candidate who can appeal to Latinos and independents as well as the conservative base. The Democrats have a long electable bench. Republicans? Not so much.
If Faulconer is re-elected by a landslide in a major Democratic city, he’s going to rise to the top tier of the GOP’s A+ list.
Within two decades of each other, Pete Wilson and Kevin Faulconer, two popular San Diego GOP mayors, could be governors.
If that comes to pass, local Democrats might be able to take some of the credit.
While it’s hard to take the prospect of Faulconer “appealing to Latinos” or winning a statewide race too seriously, Jenkins is right to note the failure of prominent progressive Democrats to step up to the plate and run for mayor during a presidential year and carry the mantle for the minimum wage, climate justice, and the needs of those San Diegans left out of the city’s dominant political narrative, like those who continue to be trapped in persistent poverty.
Indeed, in the wake of the last mayor’s race, far too many Democrats have been eager to give Faulconer–a mediocre politician who won in a low turnout, post-scandal, off-year election–a nearly free pass.
Outside of activist circles, there was never much of an effort to make his veto of the minimum wage and his shameless complicity in the sinking of the Barrio Logan plan stick to him.
These things, along with the deep inadequacy of his infrastructure efforts, his kowtowing to ALEC, and his doling out of largesse to our city’s shadow government might have (in another city with a real opposition party) been used to go after the mayor on issues of both competence and principle.
But nobody had any appetite for a fight.
Even worse, much of the attention of local progressives recently had to be turned to a failed attempt not to battle Republicans, but to get two elected Democrats in the House of Representatives to vote no on the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership.
The result: they screwed us.
And now, despite the change in the city’s demographics, the local party seems to be following the same old script of triangulation and retreat. Rather than rising to the historic challenge to change the game, San Diego Democrats seem to be saying to their base: “Sorry, we’re just not that into you, not when there is an easy seat in the state house to be had. You’re just too hard to get out to vote–I’m over you!”
I’d love to be proven wrong here, but this sure seems like the message being sent by the handful of folks who could make the mayor’s race competitive.
But maybe, some are hoping, if no real progressive will run, our savior will emerge from “the center” and run against Faulconer holding just enough unenthusiastic Democrats while drawing some independents to give the mayor a fight and pull money away from council races and ballot initiatives.
That’s hardly inspiring, but it just may be what we get if anything at all.
Sadly, the problem is the same today as it was in the aftermath of the Filner scandal when, in the 2013 column where I accurately predicted Faulconer’s election, I noted, “And though the demographics of the city [have] changed significantly . . . progressives don’t have a deep enough bench of electable candidates to go with this new electorate.”
Thus, at this point, 2016, an election cycle that once offered much hope, just might be transformed into a dismaying rear-guard action at best, at least in our minor league corner of the political universe.
Perhaps it’s time to build a bench. We can’t count on the starters.