Forget 2016. It looks like the San Diego mayoral race is going to be a dud. No major Democrat has yet to step up to challenge Republican Kevin Faucloner, so he could actually make a few Trump-like statements (Please do so to make it fun!!!) and still cruise to his second term.
However, there is 2020 … And that's when the voting booth could be the hottest go-to, need-to-be-seen place in San Diego. (If craft beer were available, it'd be perfect.)
For one thing, the mayoral seat will be wide open; Faulconer will be termed out, so there will be no incumbent to contend with. Secondly, Democrats will be waging the fight of their lives, given they can hardly afford to lose the office to yet another Republican. After all — besides Bob Filner's short but scandal-ridden stint — Republicans have pretty much controlled the office since 1992.
A win will mean almost 32 straight years of Republican rule. And that likely becomes 36 if he or she gets a second term. That's some streak, particularly when you consider that San Diego has had more registered Democratic voters than Republicans since 2000, and progressives keep chirping about how the tide has changed.
Really now …
Another compelling aspect of the race is that many San Diego politicians will be hitting their primes in 2020. It's hard to remember a similar time with so many rising political stars approaching what could be the apex of their careers. And don't count out the old-guard, either. Some political veterans may be looking at 2020 as their last chance to win the plum of governing the nation's eighth largest city.
So Our City decided to handicap the possible candidates when it comes to their chances of winning. Of course, much can change in a short time — just ask San Diego County Supervisor Dave Roberts, who's facing allegations by former staffers that he misused taxpayers' money, among other naughty things.
But, given the stakes of 2020, the crystal ball is already calling, and we couldn't resist but give it a gander.
We begin with the Democrats.
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If he runs — and that's a big if — he would be a considerable foe. He's a lock for the state Assembly in 2016, which would follow his eight years on the City Council. That's quite the resume for the youthful politician. However, Gloria is shying from running against Faulconer in 2016, causing some to wonder if he has the stomach for a fight. In 2020, he could just stay in the Assembly (he would have two more possible terms) or even look to run for Congress, should Susan Davis step down. However, he served as interim mayor when Filner resigned. He liked it.
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She's also in the Assembly and is said not to have an interest in running against Faulconer in 2016. However, in 2020, the post may become more enticing, even if she has to give up her Assembly seat four years early. Becoming the first Latino mayor of San Diego would be quite the jewel for the former labor leader.
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Atkins is showing all signs of running in 2020 — for the state Senate. She's already created a fundraising committee called Atkins for State Senate 2020. That's when Marty Block terms out, opening the seat for Atkins, who's the current House Speaker. She terms out in 2016 and has yet to commit to running against Faulconer then. Will the former City Councilmember shoot for 2020? Just because Atkins created something called Atkins for State Senate 2020 doesn't mean Atkins has to run for state Senate.
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He's run for mayor before, surprising many with his second place finish in the special election to replace Filner. However, he lost handily to Faulconer in the run-off — even with oodles of labor money and an endorsement from President Obama. The City Councilmember was only 31 at the time, so many believed he still over-achieved. He terms out of the council in 2018, so 2020 might his best bet to make another run it.
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After finishing third in that same special election, Fletcher vowed never to run again. However, we all know how politicians make such bold proclamations after a bitter defeat only to change their minds later. Fletcher, a veteran of the Iraq War, remains a compelling figure. He's the founder and chairman of Three Wise Men, which raises money and awareness for vets. He got banged up for changing parties in the election to replace Filner, but that criticism might lose punch by the time 2020 rolls around.
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He holds one of the more the contentious seats in Congress, which is routinely targeted by both parties because there's no significant registration advantage in the district. He has to go through two more elections before 2020 and who knows what will happen. Even if he keeps hold of the seat, a shot at mayor might be something to think about in 2020. He's a former City Council president, after all. The biggest chink in his armor is the city's pension crisis. He was there when it went down. However, he's proven he can win with that monkey on his back. Another reason he might make a strong candidate: His popularity in his Congressional and City Council district is a boon, since those areas of the city have a rich concentration of high-propensity voters.
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He's got a safe Congressional seat and could likely hold it for as long as he wants. However, the former City Councilmember could also be tempted by earning the title of first Latino mayor in San Diego history.
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He's safely in the state Senate, but only until 2022. However, he's also eligible to run for the Assembly for one more term, given the changes in term limits passed by voters in 2012. (Elected officials can serve a total of 12 years, either in one house or a combination of the two.) Hueso, too, is a former City Council president and might not want to pass at the chance to make history.
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Young was much admired when he served on the City Council, as well as when he became City Council president, the first African-American to hold that post. He left to lead the local Red Cross and is now president of a nonprofit called Rise San Diego, which seeks to foster urban leadership. He's also a lobbyist. He's also a believer in crossing the aisle politically. He supported Faulconer in the race to replace Filner. He might find a stab at mayor enticing, given he'd be the first African-American to hold the seat.
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Donna Frye has not held elected office since being termed out of the City Council in 2010. However, she remains one of San Diego's more iconic politicians. She'll be 68 in 2020, but she only has to look to Sacramento to see how age doesn't necessarily have to be a factor in elections. Gov. Jerry Brown is still going strong at 77. Frye nearly won the office through a unconventional write-in campaign against Dick Murphy. She later lost to Jerry Sanders to replace Murphy when he resigned. She might be tempted to give it one more go.
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Will the former bombastic City Attorney give it one more shot? He ran a distant fourth in the special election to replace Filner. However, he was considered one of the more disarming candidates, showing charm, grace and humor. The problem is: He's still Mike Aguirre, holder of much baggage.
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Photo by Morganka/Shutterstock
As noted, five years can be an eternity in politics. Will someone come out of the blue and make a run for it? Might it be someone from San Diego's private sector? We will see.
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Kersey terms out from his City Council seat in — get this — 2020. Talk about timing. And what else does he have to do? Kersey has been rumored to be a possible candidate for Roberts' supervisor seat in 2016, but he has not decided. Roberts, as mentioned, is embroiled in a controversy and could be vulnerable. Could Kersey be eying the mayor's seat instead? He's been a non-flashy, nuts-and-bolts kind of councilmember, focusing on infrastructure primarily. It might not sound sexy, but it's a key issue. A small business owner, he's also focused on job creation. Does he have enough experience? Faulconer had about the same amount of time on Council before running.
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Sherman also terms out in the magical year of 2020. He's been more vocal than Kersey, particularly during the Filner scandal and about the current Chargers' stadium dilemma. Also a small business owner, he's quick to point out he's an average guy and a straight shooter who doesn't like to play politics. To be mayor, you have to play politics. Is running for such an office in his DNA?
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He's another local pol in the state Assembly and a former City Councilmember. He terms out in 2024, but the mayoral seat could be on his radar. Yes, he risks losing four years. The reward? The 11th floor. Unlike the Democratic side, the Republican side for mayor is thinner.
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Zapf is currently on the City Council, having won the District 2 seat in 2014. She gets to run for it one more time in 2018. That means she could run for mayor in 2020 without risking her seat. It's a good-luck seat. Faulconer held it before she did.
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Zimmerman is the first woman to be chief of the San Diego Police Department. History has shown that a former chief can be mayor. Indeed, recent history has shown that, when Jerry Sanders won office in 2005. Zimmerman must retire in March of 2018 because she's in the city's DROP program. Hmm. That's about the time when one can start campaigning. She's had a stellar, ground-breaking career in policing, which could overcome her lack of political experience.
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DeMaio is a wild card. A darling of fiscal conservatives, the former City Councilmember went against Filner in 2012, but lost. He was tempted to run in the special election to replace him, but instead bowed to party leaders and took on Peters in 2014, hoping to snare his Congressional seat. He lost. Does he have any political juice left? If he does, he's the type that would squeeze every last drop out.
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Photo by hafakot/Shutterstock
A Republican come could storming out of the blue (red). We just don't know who it might be. We don't think it will be Dean Spanos, though.