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Republican wins San Diego mayor special election

February 12, 2014

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A Republican city councilman has been elected mayor of San Diego in a special election to fill the unexpired term of Bob Filner, a Democrat who resigned amid a torrent of sexual harassment allegations.

San Diego becomes the largest U.S. city with a Republican mayor, and Kevin Faulconer will be the only Republican to lead a major city in California, where Democrats hold all statewide offices.

Filner had been San Diego’s first Democratic leader in 20 years. Another mayor, Dick Murphy, resigned in 2006 amid a crisis over city finances.

With all precincts reporting, the two-term councilman and former public relations executive led Democratic Councilman David Alvarez by 54.5 percent to 45.5 percent. Alvarez, 33, had been bidding to become the city’s first Latino mayor.

Faulconer, 47, said Wednesday that he was surprised by the “overwhelming” margin of victory. As he did throughout the campaign, he played down his party affiliation in an increasingly Democratic city.

The candidates scarcely mentioned Filner, 71, the disgraced former mayor who pleaded guilty in October to one felony count of false imprisonment and two misdemeanor counts of battery. The former 10-term congressman began a three-month sentence of home confinement on Jan. 1.

Faulconer alluded to the scandal when addressing supporters Tuesday night, saying, “We know that this city has gone through a lot in the last year but we knew as San Diegans we were better than that.”

Faulconer’s win comes as the eighth-largest U.S. city, home to large military bases and defense contractors, turns more Democratic. President Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney by 25 percentage points among city voters, and Democrats enjoy a 13-point advantage over Republicans among registered city voters.

The defeated Alvarez, a former legislative aide who grew up speaking Spanish at home, extolled his family’s immigrant roots to an electorate that the registrar estimates is 18 percent Latino.

Faulconer highlighted his opposition to a 2010 ballot measure to raise the local sales tax, which lost resoundingly, and his support for a 2012 measure to cut pensions for city workers, which passed overwhelmingly.