Kevin Faulconer
Kevin Faulconer after his re-election in June. Photo by Chris Stone

By Colleen O’Connor

What a surprise.

Just a few months after coasting to re-election in June, Mayor Kevin Faulconer may be running on fumes as early as December. That is when the new City Council members are sworn in.

If the early polling and absentee citywide ballot counts are any indication, the mayor may be looking at a hostile work environment.

Going into this election cycle, the mayor had three plans to increase, or just maintain his power.

But two of those plans have already ended in defeat.

Plan A: defeat Barbara Bry in District 1. He lost. Bry won a near knockout victory in the primary. Her opponent conceded in July ,and she is now cruising to be the new Democratic Councilwoman-elect.

That makes it a 5-4 Democratic City Council.

Plan B: control the council president. That, too, failed with Bry’s win. Too early to determine who the next council leader will be, but odds are against the choice being a Faulconer puppet.

Plan C: elect a Republican city attorney. He needs this to get legal opinions that support his political ends.

This plan requires defeating Democrat Mara Elliott and electing a Republican, and a good friend of the mayor, Robert Hickey.

If early county absentee ballot returns are any indication, Plan C is also in serious jeopardy.

Ordinarily, Republicans bank their get-out-the-vote tallies early. However, this season, it is the Democrats that are ahead, and impressively so.

As of Sunday, Democrats have returned 42 percent of their requested mail-in ballots. Republicans have returned only 35 percent. And independents 23 percent.

Plus, Democrats are returning almost 5 percent above their registration numbers, while Republicans are only 4 percent above. Independents are coming in almost 9 percent below.

These early returns tend to stay consistent throughout the voting period. They are also indicative of interest, ground game, and early trend support.

Things could change. However, as of this writing, Democrats appear to be punching above their weight.

Perhaps the Republican establishment has gone to sleep, given up, or is splintering into factions.

Some of this is due to the national contest, but most likely it is also a direct result of more parochial concerns.

Elliott is running a sophisticated, people-oriented campaign and drawing from a new surge in Republican women voting Democratic. For example, Hillary Clinton enjoys a whopping 48 percent lead over Trump among college educated women.

Hard to determine if this has a spill-over effect for Elliott, but this is certainly a year friendlier to women candidates than men.

If Elliott does become the city attorney-elect, then Faulconer will be out on a limb—politically speaking. No longer will city hall remain in a cozy “whatever the Mayor wants” atmosphere.

Enter the emergency back up—Plan D—hug Dean Spanos.

Here, the Mayor may have seriously misjudged. He has ambitions for statewide office. Hence, the Spanos plan.

Remember, former Mayor Susan Golding, who also wanted to be a U.S. Senator and delivered the now infamous “Charger ticket guarantee” to the Spanos family? That was then. This is now.

Now, taxpayer support for a Charger football stadium is unpopular. Indeed, according to the latest poll, it is way, way behind the 66.7 percent needed for passage. Only 39 percent say “Yes” while 43 percent say “No.” Others remain undecided.

Even the U-T editorial board has chosen to split the difference and oppose both the Spanos plan (Measure C) and the Cory Briggs plan (Measure D), which is polling at 39 percent “Yes” versus 26 percent “No,” in order to “get a better deal.”

That, too, seems unlikely to work—as it rests on more “promises” from Spanos (increasingly unpopular), some insider deal with the mayor (facing a Democrat-controlled council, and a possible Democratic city attorney), and a vote leaning “No.”

Add the latest National Football League domestic violence flare-ups and you see the mayor’s pickle.

Any attempt to thwart the voters’ decision—no matter how cleverly cloaked in hype and spin—will lead him into unhappier times.

Something no mayor likes. Losing.

Colleen O’Connor is a native San Diegan and a retired college professor.