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Republican takes lead in San Diego mayor’s race

November 20, 2013

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A Republican city councilman took a big lead Tuesday in an election to replace the disgraced Bob Filner as San Diego mayor, but early returns showed him falling short of the majority needed to avoid a runoff.

Kevin Faulconer led a field of 11 candidates with 44.2 percent of the vote, according to a large batch of results released minutes after polls closed. His strong showing gives Republicans a chance to recapture an office they held for much of the last four decades and an opportunity for a rare win leading a major American city.

Two Democrats were locked in a tight contest to face Faulconer in a likely runoff. Nathan Fletcher, an executive at wireless technology titan Qualcomm Inc. and former state assemblyman, had 24.7 percent. David Alvarez, a first-term city councilman, had 24.6 percent.

If no one wins a majority, the top two finishers advance to a runoff.

Faulconer said he was “halfway there” in his quest to lead the nation’s eighth-largest city.

Filner, the city’s first Democratic leader in 20 years, resigned less than nine months into a four-year term after nearly 20 women — including a retired Navy rear admiral and a San Diego State University dean — publicly identified themselves as targets of his unwanted advances, including kissing, groping and requests for dates. He pleaded guilty last month to one felony count of false imprisonment and two misdemeanor counts of battery for his behavior toward women during his brief time in office.

Filner, a former 10-term U.S. congressman, was barely mentioned in campaign mailers or televised debates. But the major candidates have adopted his successful campaign mantra of pouring more money into neglected neighborhoods, promising to repair crumbling streets and sidewalks and faster fire and ambulance response times.

Democrats hold a 13-point advantage over Republicans in voter registration in San Diego. Barack Obama trounced Mitt Romney by 25 points among city voters in last year’s presidential election.

During his seven years on the City Council, Faulconer, 46, a mild-mannered former public relations executive, was a close ally of Mayor Jerry Sanders, Filner’s moderate Republican predecessor.

Fletcher has eluded easy definition, becoming a Democrat in May, barely a year after bolting the Republican Party to become an independent. He was endorsed by Gov. Jerry Brown, Attorney General Kamala Harris and several law enforcement labor unions.

Alvarez was backed by the San Diego County Democratic Party Central Committee and the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, the largest coalition of organized labor.

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Associated Press writer Michael R. Blood in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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