Non-Partisan Republicans Offer No Hope to GOP


kevin-faulconer-imageWe have no idea who will be California’s next governor after Jerry Brown rides into the sunset at the end of 2018 but we know this: all the hype around San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who last week said he will not run, represented a lot of magical thinking by Republicans.

Over and over, GOP leaders and some of our gullible colleagues in the news media, have referred to Faulconer as the “best hope” for a statewide Republican contender. But here’s the catch: Faulconer may be a registered Republican, but he hasn’t run as a Republican, there’s no mention of the GOP on his blue campaign website and, most important, his stands on issues like immigration and gay rights conflict with California Republican orthodoxy.

Faulconer holds a non-partisan position and has run as a municipal reformer– not a Republican leader. Consider the issues he outlines on his website: fixing roads and infrastructure, investing in neighborhoods, creating jobs, education, environment, public safety, building relations with Mexico, pension reform, transparency and efficiency and homelessness. Any Democrat could run on these issues as easily as a Republican.

Party, What Party? We haven’t seen any polling to back this up, but we suspect many voters in San Diego haven’t a clue what party Faulconer belongs to because his slogan is “One San Diego,” a wholly non-partisan appeal to municipal unity.

This is not to say Faulconer couldn’t mount a statewide campaign as a Republican like former San Diego Mayor Pete Wilson did when he first ran for the U.S. Senate in 1982 (four years earlier Wilson also made a failed bid for the GOP nomination for governor). But those were different times: The California Republican Party was not then in the habit of advancing, for the most part, its most extreme right-wing candidates for high office, as it has in more recent years.

As we noted back in 2013 and again in 2014, the idea of backing Republicans in non-partisan local races and then pushing them along toward statewide partisan office, has been one of the cornerstones of GOP chairman Jim Brulte’s strategy to rebuild the state party. We even pointed out that Faulconer could be the test case for Brulte’s strategy. But, as we said then:

Their problem is not a “failure to communicate.” It’s the content of what’s being communicated: the GOP’s overarching commitment – as an organization – against abortion rights and gay marriage, against containing global warming, against the interests of labor and the working poor, against universal health care and gun control and against a path to citizenship for undocumented workers.

swearenginAs a result, the Republican Party brand is so toxic in California today, it’s hard to see how even a moderate like Faulconer could win statewide, once he became formally associated with the GOP. Consider what happened to Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, an attractive candidate for State Controller in 2014 who, once burdened with the Republican label, got crushed 54-46 by Democrat Betty Yee.

All this helps explain why thus far, as far as the 2018 governor’s race is concerned, we’ve only heard from Democrats Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Treasurer John Chiang, with potential entries that include former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa , former State Controller Steve Westly, billionaire climate activist Tom Steyer and current Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Perhaps there’s a Republican out there who could overcome the scarlet “R.” Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, comes to mind, except that she’s pretty much insisted she’s not interested in subjecting her personal life to the kind of scrutiny she’d get as a candidate.

But let’s stop the spin about Faulconer, Swearengin and any other officeholders who happen to be Republicans but who have only succeeded in non-partisan elections.

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There are 6 comments for this post

  1. avatar smoker1 says:

    Republican hope that they can get one of their Senate candidates to the general election. It seems that is a pretty distant possibility. But what does that say for 2018? Will there be a Republican on a general election ballot then? Ever? We need a second party and I don’t think the GOP has enough heft to be that party.

    • avatar konnyu says:

      None of the ’16 crop of Repub Senate candidates has the dominant personality or the do re mi connections to run a competitive governor’s race in ’18. We have to find another self financed fish to the tune of maybe $100 mil like Maggie just to get in the runoff probably against lawless debaucher Newsome. As the only alternate party to the Ds, the Republican time for governor will come in this century but have no idea in which decade.

  2. avatar gdewar says:

    What if someone like Faulconer or Swearengin ran as Not a Republican or Democrat? a “non partisan” candidate of some sort? Oh wait, with the top 2 system we’ve wiped out any party not the Dems off the statewide ballot. Really stupid system that top 2 thing…

  3. avatar Chris Reed says:

    Pretty mind-boggling that Calbuzz thinks San Diego voters don’t know what party Faulconer belongs to. As mayor, he may be moderate to liberal on many issues, but he’s been at the center of partisan wars in San Diego in recent years, and was part of the coalition that in 2012 persuaded voters to end defined-benefit pensions for new hires (not including police).

    • avatar pjhackenflack says:

      Chris – As the piece stipulates, we’ve seen no polling to stand up our speculation, but unless SD is vastly different than other towns, low-information voters outnumber those who pay close attention to politics. We’d make a bet with you on it, but you still haven’t paid up on your “pretty mind-boggling” wager against our confident forecast that Obama would win re-election 2012.

    • avatar Tigershark says:

      Chris “Inevitable Romney Victory” ring a bell? Your prognostication skills are sketchy, at best.

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