Unlike Democrat-run cities, San Diego stands out from the pack with Republican Mayor Kevin Faulconer at the helm.
A former San Diego City Council member, he was elected in 2014 after Bob Filner resigned in disgrace eight months into the job. In 2016, Faulconer won a full term to office.
The city’s 36th mayor has prioritized fiscal conservatism throughout his tenure—a focus that’s won him immense praise in deep-blue California.
Now term-limited, Faulconer is leaving his post in January and a new mayor, Democrat Todd Gloria, will succeed him.
The mayor spoke to Town Hall about his accomplishments, his balanced approach to COVID management, and how to challenge Democrat dominance in California.
Tackling Difficult Problems Head-On
Throughout his time in office, Faulconer has aspired to be action-oriented and pragmatic.
Chief among his goals was to address homelessness.
“We're the only major urban county in California where homelessness has gone down over the last two years [by] double digits,” Faulconer expressed to me. “I've made a real significant effort on working to get folks...off the streets. Not just for a night, but for good.”
He also pursued infrastructure projects without raising taxes on residents.
“I've really focused on infrastructure since I've been there,” he added. “We just hit a milestone: we paved half of the streets in the entire city since I've been mayor. That is in marked contrast to past administrations. And... we did this without raising taxes.”
In contrast to other big-city mayors, Faulconer loudly rejected calls to defund the police.
“I did not defund the police department in San Diego,” noted the two-term mayor. “We actually increased the budget, because you want the best and brightest men and women out there helping to protect you.”
Juggling COVID Management Without Encroaching on Liberties
As other mayors enacted COVID policies absent of science, Faulconer took the opposite approach.
He stressed personal responsibility with respect to mask-wearing, social distancing, and hygiene.
“I think what you've seen is so much frustration...different sets of rules coming out of Sacramento seemingly every other week. This whipsaw effect. You're open, you're closed, you're open, you're closed,” remarked Faulconer.
“We've had small businesses in San Diego that have been open and closed five times. That's unsustainable. And again, people want to do the right thing. They want to keep their employees safe. They want to keep their customers safe.”
Hope for a Republican Resurgence in CA
While other parts of Southern California flipped back to the GOP column this year, it skipped over this once Republican stronghold.
Nevertheless, Mayor Faulconer is optimistic about a Republican resurgence in the Golden State.
“I think that this was very much a bellwether election,” the mayor said. “With some of these congressional seats that flipped, I think it sends a strong message—as you've seen the pendulum swing so far to the left. That these policies and candidates are out of touch with Californians, again, who want results [and] who want solutions.”
Like other Californians, Faulconer was pleased to see 52% of voters reject Proposition 15. Had it passed, it would have been the largest tax increase in state history. He also praised the passage of Proposition 22, which, to him, “would have forced them [Uber and Lyft drivers] out of the independent contractor business.”
On His Possible 2022 Bid for Governor
When I asked him about his 2022 prospects, he said he’s seriously considering it.
“I believe we need new leadership in California,” he emphasized. “I'm giving that serious consideration because I think that people want that competition of ideas and they want to have a choice.”
“One-party rule—what's happening in California—is not serving our state well. It is time for change.”
Should he decide to run for Governor in 2022, Mayor Kevin Faulconer will need to build a broad coalition uniting Democrats, Independents, and conservative Republicans.
Can his work in City Hall translate well statewide? California voters could soon find out.