- Associated Press - Saturday, June 4, 2016

SAN DIEGO (AP) - Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s low-key style has gone down well in San Diego after the high drama of a predecessor who resigned and pleaded guilty to a felony for harassing women.

An ambitious plan to address climate change and other successes in a Democratic-leaning city has made the Republican leader a heavy favorite to win a second term and a rising star in his party.

Faulconer says he will finish his four-year term if re-elected, ruling out a run for California governor in 2018. Even so, a decisive win would reinforce the view that he offers a template for Republicans in other big cities across the country.

The city’s best-known Democrats declined to challenge Faulconer, pitting him against Ed Harris, Democratic leader of the lifeguards union, and Lori Saldana, a former Democratic state assemblywoman who is now independent. If Faulconer wins a majority June 7, he would avoid a November runoff of the top two finishers.

It would be a rare piece of good news for Republicans in an overwhelmingly Democratic state. In Sacramento, former state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Councilwoman Angelique Ashby are running for mayor after eight years under former NBA star Kevin Johnson, who has drawn accolades for retaining the NBA Kings but been criticized for failing to address homelessness and for allegations of inappropriate behavior with women. All are Democrats.

Faulconer, 49, describes his philosophy as pro-business and pro-environment. In 10 years on the City Council and as mayor of the nation’s eighth-largest city, he vetoed a minimum wage increase and supported measures to curb public pensions and allow more private bidding on government services.

He embraces more liberal positions on social issues like immigration and gay rights. Of Donald Trump, he says, “He hasn’t earned my vote.”

Detractors say he is too averse to controversy, sticking to scripted talking points and unoriginal ideas. Even the plan to tackle climate change was drafted before he took office, though he guided it through.

“There isn’t anything you can point to and say, ‘That was a bold statement or a bold decision,’” said Councilman David Alvarez, who finished second to Faulconer in the last mayoral race. “It has been very cautious, well-managed and controlled by an extensive public relations arm of the city.”

Faulconer doesn’t mind being called cautious. He portrays himself as a steady hand after Bob Filner, who resigned in 2013 as the city’s first Democratic leader in 20 years amid a torrent of allegations that he kissed, groped and made lewd comments to female employees.

Filner seemed to offend everyone with his combative style, even allies. Faulconer seems to offend no one, even when they disagree.

“A huge advantage and strength for me is being able to work well with people, being able to reach across the aisle and do what we promised, which was to get the city back on track,” Faulconer said.

Faulconer brought together environmental and business groups to support the legally binding plan to make San Diego the largest American city to run 100 percent on renewable power, including wind and solar, by 2035 and to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by then. Environmental groups were pleased that Faulconer kept the plan’s lofty targets intact.

Business leaders went along after assurances that steps to achieve the targets would be subject to public review, said Aimee Faucett, executive vice president of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.

“His style is very collaborative,” said Faucett, who was Faulconer’s chief of staff on the City Council. “He’s open to everybody’s opinions and sides no matter where you’re coming from and he tries to reach a consensus.”

Faulconer, a student body president at San Diego State University who began his career in public relations, has failed to find common ground with the NFL’s Chargers, who are backing a November ballot measure for a new downtown stadium and threatening to move to Los Angeles if voters reject it. Faulconer, who wanted another site, hasn’t taken a position on the team’s proposal.

The mayor, who lives in the well-to-do Point Loma area and unwinds at the San Diego Yacht Club, has worked to win support in predominantly black and Latino neighborhoods that have historically been neglected and vote Democratic. At the same time, he has solidified his position as the city’s undisputed Republican leader.

Douglas Manchester, a real estate developer who ran conservative editorials as owner of The San Diego Union-Tribune from 2011 to 2015, called Faulconer to express disappointment when the mayor publicly rejected Trump in May. Still, the big Republican donor went ahead with a fundraiser at his home for the mayor’s re-election, telling the crowd when he introduced Faulconer that they disagreed on the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

“He’s a wonderful mayor,” Manchester said later. “You can’t agree on everything.”

• Associated Press writer Juliet Williams in Sacramento, California, contributed to this report.


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