Republican City Councilman Kevin Faulconer handily defeated Democrat City Councilman David Alvarez with 54.4% of the vote in a February 11, 2014 special election runoff for Mayor of San Diego. The result went against usual expectations.
Contrary to the common perception that campaign spending by “big business” often overwhelms humble community-based union-backed campaigns, more money was spent in support of the Alvarez campaign than on the Faulconer campaign.
Preliminary campaign finance reports show that at least $5.2 million was spent for Alvarez and at least $4.2 million for Faulconer. As is typical with Democrat candidates running for significant local government offices in California, the majority of money to Alvarez came from unions.
The biggest spender on the Alvarez campaign was the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO in Washington, D.C. Cross-referencing the reports on the City of San Diego Office of the City Clerk Electronic Filing of Disclosure Statements web database and the information on the www.inewsource.org web database shows that unions spent more than $3.1 million on direct contributions and independent expenditures that could be tracked as of February 11. That’s 60% of the total amount spent on the Alvarez campaign.
Labor unions were also prominent local backers of Alvarez with precinct walkers, phone bank workers, and endorsements. As commentator Joel Pollack noted, “The unions helped Alvarez outspend Faulconer, and it was presumed by many that the cash would go into building an unstoppable ground game for the Democrat.”
Alvarez also had the benefit of a sizable party registration advantage (40% Democrat, 26% Republican) and touted endorsements from Governor Brown and President Obama, who rarely stoop to picking favorites in a race for mayor.
Ordinarily, advantages in money, party registration, and endorsements would create a campaign juggernaut, especially in a case like this in which the election stood alone and neither candidate had any personal issues or scandals. Instead, voters handed Alvarez a defeat, in part because union interests generously (and excessively) supported him.
Because of union money, voters were barraged with a traditional union message to reject Faulconer because he was a Republican only interested in taking care of developers and other “downtown” business interests. This increased voter awareness that Alvarez would perpetuate the union demands adopted his predecessor Bob Filner, such as retreating on pension reforms for city employees, supporting Project Labor Agreements, and imposing state-mandated prevailing wage rates for city contracts.
Former California Republican Party and former Republican Party of San Diego County chairman Ron Nehring wrote the following:
The vast majority of spending on the Democrat side didn’t come from the Alvarez campaign itself, but rather from massive independent expenditures funded by the big labor unions in Washington and Sacramento. While the funding was formidable, the source of that funding proved especially controversial in a city that just a few years ago was driven to the brink of bankruptcy in a pension scandal blamed in large part on union pressure for benefits the city could not afford. The massive reliance on union funding tainted the Alvarez campaign and provided an opening to the Faulconer team to argue that electing the union-backed Alvarez could take the city backward. The Alvarez argument, that Faulconer was the tool of “downtown interests,” proved weaker than the Faulconer argument that Alvarez would be a tool of labor officials.
Other observers agree that the overwhelming crush of union campaign backing from November 19, 2013 (the date of the primary election) to February 11, 2014 defined Alvarez in terms that actually provoked citizens in San Diego not to vote for him.
While election observers credit Republican “ground game” and voter turnout efforts, these technical advantages were built on the basic impression of voters that Alvarez was accountable to unions before the people. Voters in the eighth-largest city in the country handed a major defeat to organized labor and their candidate.
Faulconer will complete the remaining three years of the term of Democrat Bob Filner, who narrowly defeated Republican Carl DeMaio in November 2012 but ended up resigning in disgrace in August 2013.
Preliminary List of Union Contributions in Support of David Alvarez for San Diego Mayor – Special General Election – February 11, 2014
|American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO||Washington, DC||$596,405.00|
|United Food and Commercial Workers Western States Council Issues PAC||Sacramento||$400,000.00|
|American Federation of Teachers Guild, Local 1931 San Diego and Grossmont – Cuyamaca Colleges Committee on Political Education (aka AFT Guild, Local 1931 – COPE)||San Diego||$307,824.69|
|United Domestic Workers of America Action Fund||San Diego||$210,537.62|
|California State Council of Service Employees Political Committee||Sacramento||$210,000.00|
|Service Employees International Union Local 1000 Candidate PAC||Sacramento||$200,000.00|
|San Diego Works! Sponsored by San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council AFL-CIO||San Diego||$153,935.79|
|United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 135 PAC||San Diego||$150,000.00|
|American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees – CA People Independent Expenditure Cmte||Sacramento||$100,000.00|
|D.R.I.V.E.- Dem., Rep., Ind. Voter Education (The PAC of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters)||Washington, DC||$75,000.00|
|SEIU United Service Workers West (SEIU USWW) Candidate PAC||Sacramento||$55,943.26|
|American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees California District Council 36 PAC||Los Angeles||$50,000.00|
|United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Pipe Fitting Industry||Annapolis||$50,000.00|
|Protect Neighborhood Services Now, Sponsored by San Diego Municipal Employees Association||San Diego||$47,500.00|
|Local 770 United Food and Commerical Workers Union PAC||Los Angeles||$40,665.92|
|SEIU United Healthcare Workers West PAC||Oakland||$40,000.00|
|Service Employees International Union Local 1021 Candidate PAC||Oakland||$40,000.00|
|Service Employees International Union Local 1000, Keeping California Healthy, Safe and Strong||Sacramento||$33,888.45|
|Dignity CA SEIU-United Long Term Care Workers Local 6434||Los Angeles||$25,000.00|
|San Diego Education Association PAC||San Diego||$25,000.00|
|State Building and Construction Trades Council of California PAC||Sacramento||$25,000.00|
|United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, CLC||Washington, DC||$25,000.00|
|United Food and Commercial Workers Western States Council Independent Expenditure PAC||Buena Park||$25,000.00|
|Orange County Dignity PAC, sponsored by Orange County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO||Orange||$24,730.20|
|International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 569 Candidate PAC||Sacramento||$20,000.00|
|Service Employees International Union Local 221 PAC||San Diego||$19,128.00|
|American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO Committee on Political Education||Washington, DC||$19,005.78|
|International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers PAC||Washington, DC||$15,000.00|
|Plumbers & Steamfitters Local Union No. 230 PAC||San Diego||$15,000.00|
|Southern California Pipe Trades District Council #16 PAC||Los Angeles||$15,000.00|
|California Nurses Association SCC||Sacramento||$10,000.00|
|Committee for Working Families, Sponsored by the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO||Oakland||$10,000.00|
|Rising Majority Supporting Alvarez for Mayor 2013 – AFT Local 1931-COPE||San Diego||$10,000.00|
|San Diego Area Municipal Employees Local 127, AFSCME||San Diego||$10,000.00|
|Service Employees International Union Local 521 Independent Expenditure Committee||San Jose||$10,000.00|
|United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1167 PAC||Bloomington||$10,000.00|
|International Union of Painters and Allied Trades Political Committee||Hanover, MD||$5,000.00|
|Operating Engineers Local Union No. 12 Political Fund||Pasadena||$5,000.00|
|PowerPAC.org Voter Fund||San Francisco||$5,000.00|
|United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Local No. 1442 PAC||El Segundo||$5,000.00|
|Communications Workers of America Committee on Political Education PCC||Washington, DC||$4,000.00|
|I.B.E.W Local Union No. 302||Martinez||$2,500.00|
|Southern CA District Council of the Operative Plasterers and Cement Masons International Assn. PAC||Pomona||$2,500.00|
|AFSCME 2626 – Librarians Guild PAC Fund||Los Angeles||$2,000.00|
|Sheet Metal Workers Local 206 PAC||San Diego||$2,000.00|
|Management and Professional Employees Association – MAPA PAC – AFSCME Local 1001 PAC||Los Angeles||$1,500.00|
|CRA AFSCME Union Local 585||Los Angeles||$1,000.00|
|Local Union 440 International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers||Riverside||$1,000.00|
|UAW Region 5 Western States PAC||Pico Rivera||$1,000.00|
|New Majority Matters||San Diego||$950.00|
|IBEW 332 Education Fund||San Jose||$500.00|
|United Food and Commercial Workers Western State Council||Buena Park||$444.19|
Republicans Take San Diego Mayor’s Office With Kevin Faulconer In Stunning Special Election Victory – commentary by Ron Nehring – www.FlashReport.org – February 11, 2014
5 Lessons for the GOP from Faulconer’s Win in San Diego – commentary by Joel Pollak – Breitbart News – February 11, 2014
Will GOP Learn from Faulconer’s Win in San Diego? – commentary by Chris Reed – www.CalWatchdog.com – February 12, 2014
The Untold Story in San Diego – commentary by Jason Cabel Roe – www.FlashReport.org – February 27, 2014
Kevin Dayton is the President & CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC, and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at www.laborissuessolutions.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.