Outside labor $ may cost GOP expected win in San Diego mayor’s race

Outside labor $ may cost GOP expected win in San Diego mayor’s race

unionpowerql4Politico has done an unusually good job for an East Coast news outlet in describing the Tuesday, Feb. 11, special election to replace disgraced Bob Filner as mayor of San Diego. Republican Councilman Kevin Faulconer, an affable moderate-conservative, had been expected to take advantage of the GOP’s customary turnout advantage in special elections to post a 5 percent to 10 percent win over inexperienced Democratic Councilman David Alvarez, a 33-year-old who’s only been a public figure in San Diego since 2010. Now it looks like a tossup. Why? Politico explains:

“The Tuesday special election in San Diego, triggered by the resignation of Democratic Mayor Bob Filner, caps a tumultuous stretch in the seaside defense-contracting-and-tourism hub that was once a stronghold of California Republicanism. Rocked in the past few years by a public-pensions meltdown that drove one mayor from office and again last year by Filner’s lurid sexual harassment scandal, San Diego politics is now buffeted by a different kind of force: overwhelming outside spending.

“At a moment in politics when Democrats are usually the ones complaining about heavy-handed electioneering from powerfully funded groups on the right, the race in San Diego is a vivid counterpoint — an illustration of the shock-and-awe impact national liberal groups can have when they engage outside federal elections.

“By the end of January, Washington-based labor unions had donated more than $1.2 million to outside groups supporting Democrat David Alvarez, a 33-year-old freshman city councilman who would be San Diego’s first Hispanic mayor. The $1.2 million figure matches the entire independent expenditure budget for GOP outside groups in the race … .”

“Faulconer has far outdistanced Alvarez in fundraising for his campaign account, taking in nearly $2.2 million to the Democrat’s $734,000. But union-backed independent expenditure groups have spent more than both those figures combined: the most imposing organization, the AFL-CIO and AFSCME-backed Working Families for a Better San Diego, has raised about $3.6 million to boost Alvarez.”

Among young, GOP woes go far beyond being outspent

San_Diego_City_SealSo why hasn’t the national Republican Party jumped in to try to give the GOP its only big-city mayor? Because it might do more harm than good.

“In the face of heavy spending from the labor-backed Democratic coalition, there has been minimal national conservative engagement in the race. In part, that’s a matter of necessity: the national GOP brand could be toxic for Faulconer in a diverse, increasingly liberal-leaning city. A Republican National Committee official said that there’s field staff on the ground for the 2014 cycle, but there’s not a comparable financial investment from GOP-oriented groups. …

“To veterans of San Diego politics, the city’s leftward drift is a striking case study in what heavy-duty partisan investment can do in lower-profile elections — and a testament to the GOP’s desperate straits with the young people, minority voters and cultural liberals who are heavily represented in big cities.”

That last point can’t be made enough. It reminds me of the 2004 debate between Thomas Frank and George Will, but in reverse.

That was the year Frank’s book “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” came out. Its premise was that social conservatives were so manipulated by hot-button Republican campaign tactics that they voted against their own economic interests.

On TV and in print, Will responded by questioning the notion that Democrats would bring more prosperity to the average Kansan than Republicans. But he also made the point that in a post-Cold War era, the stakes in voting were much less grave, and that people who were doing OK economically might not vote their pocketbooks:

“Hence many people, emancipated from material concerns, can pour political passions into other — some would say higher — concerns. These include the condition of the culture, as measured by such indexes as the content of popular culture, the agendas of public education and the prevalence of abortion.

“So, what’s the matter with Kansas? Not much, other than it is has not measured up — down, actually — to the left’s hope for a more materialistic politics.”

The Dems who don’t vote their pocketbooks

Now, a decade later, we have the opposite phenomenon in California. An overwhelming case can be made that Democratic hegemony has been bad for the average Californian since 1999, and that poverty and unemployment would be reduced if there wasn’t such Dem opposition to helping the private sector prosper. But among the majority of Democratic voters who have jobs, their relative personal success inoculates them from this GOP argument. And GOPers have no counter to undo the perceptions about their party, especially among the young.

To paraphrase Will:

Hence many people, emancipated from material concerns, can pour political passions into other — some would say higher — concerns. These include the condition of the culture, as measured by such indexes as the expansion of gay rights, the availability of contraception and abortion, and the concerns of environmentalists.

The younger cohort of such people may be lost to Republicans forever, even if they register independent — unless the GOP figures out a new tune, and soon.

As for San Diego, I still think Faulconer squeaks through to victory in the special election despite the influx of outside union cash. But when he’s up for re-election in 2016 after completing what’s left of Filner’s term, watch out. The demographics of general elections don’t bode well for Republicans in San Diego — and just about everywhere else in California.



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  1. Impartial Observer
    Impartial Observer 6 February, 2014, 08:05

    Yes, the labor unions threw in lots of money, but so did George Soros’ Open Society non-profits via its Open Places Initiative.

    More than $1.9 million went to Employee Rights Center, Center on Policy Initiatives, San Diego Organizing Project, ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, Christie’s Place, San Diego Youth Development Office, Pillars of the Community and SEIU/Service Employees International Union, Local 221 and United Domestic Workers, Local 3930.

    These “serve the underserved” groups and unions mount the voter registration drives and get-out-the-vote canvassing that drives the vote shift discussed in your article.

    Another big player in San Diego politics is the Ford Foundation. With grants to San Diego Foundation for Change, San Diego Housing Federation, Balboa Park Cultural Partnership, Center on Policy Initiatives, Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation, and Voto Latino, philanthropic progressives are putting their thumbs on the electoral scales. Voto Latino, based in Washington DC, baldly states that its mission is to “increase democratic participation among Latinos nationwide, with programs like “National Voter Registration Day,” “Bus Federation” and “Headcount.” Ford Foundation put $2.6 million into their hands in 2011 alone, according to the Foundation’s tax filing for that year.

    Reply this comment
  2. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 6 February, 2014, 09:32

    Who cares….San Diego is a tourist rip off loaded with seedy paint peeling overpriced Brady Bunch hotels and a nasty array of over priced
    chef-less latin food joints serving watered down CVS tequila choices.

    The politics are just a itsee bitsee below Chicago probably due to more local sunlight on these miserable political hacks raping the dumbed down public school indoctrinated electorate.

    Spare us from such bleak and predictable news!

    Reply this comment
  3. Donkey
    Donkey 6 February, 2014, 09:35

    All cities head to the left because the PS RAGWUS is what dictates where the money flows. At every city council meeting the one group of feeders that are sure to show up are the cops and firefighters and when it comes to money it is all about them.

    San Diego will go the way of NYC, Chicago, and LA, where the police and fire are running the show and all the other RAGWUS feeders just hold on for the ride. All the public employee unions move left as the citizens start asking where all the money is going. 🙂

    Reply this comment
  4. Steve Mehlman
    Steve Mehlman 6 February, 2014, 14:32

    Whine, whine, whine.

    All this bitching about labor unions (gasp!) supporting candidates who support their causes. But when the Koch Brothers use a secret SuperPAC to pour tens of millions of dollars of funds into California to try to influence our election, Chris and his “Dog buddies don’t say a word.

    And God forbid that the poor and disenfranchised should have anyone who can speak up for them.

    Reply this comment
    • John Seiler
      John Seiler 6 February, 2014, 14:56

      Like the Koch Bros.’ money did their cause any good. They lost. The unions rule — totally.

      Reply this comment
      • Steve Mehlman
        Steve Mehlman 8 February, 2014, 09:56

        It’s not that they lost (Thank God for that). The point is that you have no problem with their doing it..and even trying to hide it. In other words, it’s wrong for unions to do it but it’s OK for the Right to do it.

        Reply this comment
    • Donkey
      Donkey 6 February, 2014, 17:31

      Steve, there are no “poor and disenfranchised” wallowing in the halls government unions and the people the inhabit the RAGWUS could care less about the poor. For the RAGWUS feeder it is all about the pay, pension, and benefits that can be lifted from the private sector taxpayers.

      Reply this comment
  5. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 6 February, 2014, 19:57

    Donkey stop whining and get a government job….You live longer and learn to enjoy life……you deserve so so much more!

    Reply this comment
  6. Steve Mehlman
    Steve Mehlman 8 February, 2014, 09:58

    “In part, that’s a matter of necessity: the national GOP brand could be toxic for Faulconer in a diverse, increasingly liberal-leaning city. ”

    There you have the reason the right-wing will never win an election in California. Your brand is “toxic”.

    Reply this comment
  7. SkippingDog
    SkippingDog 8 February, 2014, 12:56

    Since Democrats outnumber Republicans in the city of San Diego, it’s interesting that CWD is already making excuses for the potential loss Faulconer is facing.

    Reply this comment
  8. Steve Mehlman
    Steve Mehlman 8 February, 2014, 14:05

    Here’s something to give y’all an idea of the insidious reach of the Koch Brothers’ secret network. This is frightening not just because of the size, but because they do this secretively. But the ‘Dog–which bitches constantly about union spending (which is aboveboard and public knowledge)–has no problem with this secret right-wing empire. SMH

    Reply this comment
    • Donkey
      Donkey 12 February, 2014, 17:13

      You can print all the lies you like, but just like Obama, after being lied too for so long people stop believing the liar. 🙂

      Reply this comment
  9. Donkey
    Donkey 12 February, 2014, 17:11

    Mehlman, the only thing “frightening” in California is your RAGWUS feeding machine that is stealing all the money in California.

    The filthy public unions (RAGWUS) have been feathering their own nest for the last 30 years. Putting in place politicians and thus passing laws to try and bind their control of the state taxes. Once the fraud becomes exposed the younger kids in their twenties and thirties are going to put a stop to the RAGWUS, and these evil tactics used by the crooks in the public unions. 🙂

    Reply this comment

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