Republican Kevin Faulconer's victory in Tuesday's San Diego mayor's race provides the GOP with a chance to study how the 47-year-old city councilman pulled off the win and set an example for other candidates across the country.
"We demonstrated that Kevin was a true reformer who was committed to such issues as pension reform and binding arbitration for city employees," Faulconer campaign quarterback Jason Roe told Newsmax.
"And we campaigned in such a way that voters did not get hung up on what his party affiliation was, but instead focused on what his message was."
In defeating Democrat and fellow Councilman David Alvarez with 55 percent of the vote to become mayor of America's eighth-largest city, Faulconer emerged triumphant in a city in which Republican voters comprise only 26 percent of the electorate, compared to 40 percent who are registered Democrats and 34 percent who are "Declined to State" — California for "independent."
Faulconer also made major inroads with San Diego's black and Hispanic population — the latter being a particularly daunting task, as Alvarez is of Hispanic heritage.
In explaining the defeat of the 33-year-old Alvarez, Golden State Democrats usually cited the sexual harassment scandals last year that forced Democratic Mayor Bob Filner to resign in disgrace.
"I can tell you why Alvarez lost in two words — Bob Filner," radio talk show host and former Democratic State Chairman Bill Press told Newsmax. "He poisoned the Democratic brand in San Diego."
But Roe insisted that Faulconer's polling showed that Filner's name or scandals were not important in the race.
"What did come up a lot with voters, and what was very key to Kevin's win, was the $4 million in union contributions our opponent was getting," Roe said. "We drove home the point that someone with 85 percent of his campaign donations coming from government employee unions could not, in good faith, negotiate city labor contracts across the table from his major contributors."
Among the union political action committees that donated to Alvarez were the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, the American Federation of Teachers, the Communications Workers of America, and the Service Employees International Union.
Aside from emphasizing Faulconer's history as a supporter of reforms who would not be beholden to unions, his campaign also stressed that he was, in Roe's words, "not your typical Republican."
Faulconer was endorsed by Father Joe Carroll, a much-respected Roman Catholic priest who runs a large homeless shelter known as Father Joe's Village. Campaign spots showed Faulconer touring the village with the popular priest and talking to the homeless.
The Republican hopeful sought to appeal to all groups of voters. He opened a headquarters in San Diego's minority community, and vigorously courted and won endorsements from several black pastors as well as the city's Latino American Political Association. He also made a TV spot in which he spoke Spanish. It was shown on Univision, the Spanish-language TV network.
"If Mitt Romney showed us what the floor was with Hispanic voters in 2012, Kevin Faulconer showed us how much better a Republican could do with Hispanic voters in 2014 — and against a Democrat who was Hispanic, no less,” said Roe.
Roe estimated that Faulconer won 35 percent of the Hispanic vote and about 25 percent of black voters.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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