San Diego's really, really bad news for Democrats
San Diego, the eight-largest city in America, elected a Republican as mayor by a 9% margin that surprised all the "experts," 54.5% to 45.5%. Republican city councilman Kevin Faulconer defeated Democratic Councilman David Alvarez in a city that has been trending both Democratic and Hispanic.
There are two hard lessons for the Democrats here in the election.
Lesson one, as noted by John Fund of NRO,
..the vaunted Obama election model - flood the zone with negative attack ads and excite the base of the Democratic party - flopped. Faulconer defeated fellow City Council member David Alvarez by nine points in a city that Barack Obama carried by 63 percent to 37 percent only 15 months ago.
Democrats were stunned at the margin. In the November open primary, Democrats had won 54 percent of the ballots cast and were convinced they could win the runoff between Faulconer and Alvarez.
In the wake of Obamacare's very public and ongoing disaster, it is going to be harder for Democrats to excite their base and drive turnout. With a key mid-term election this year, that is terrible news for the Democrats. The election (and re-election) of The First Black President is no longer on the table. The best the Democrats can come up with in 2014 and 2016 is going to be demonization of the GOP, their perennial means of asking voters to ignore their own shortcomings.
But that strategy faces another, even worse limitation for the Democrats. Fund again:
Unions pitched in a record $4.2 million to promote Alvarez, compared to only $1.7 million from business interests backing Faulconer. In the end, Alvarez outspent Faulconer in total by a million dollars.
Partly the Faulconer blowout was the result of the lower turnout of a special election called to replace disgraced Democratic Mayor Bob Filner. But partly it came from a renewed ability of Republicans to reach out to independent and moderate voters with the need to practice fiscal restraint and sound management. "It's been less than a decade since public-employee unions drove San Diego into near-insolvency, and people were reminded of that," says Jason Roe, a political consultant in San Diego.
Voters in California, the bluest of blue states, recognize both the seriousness of deficits -- owing to the prominent bankruptcies of major cities such as Stockton and San Bernadino - and the rapaciousness of public employee unions. This is a message that the GOP can take nationwide.
In a very under-reported story, voters in San Bernadino delivered a stunning humiliation to the Democrat-union combine. Tim Reid of Reuters:
Residents of bankrupt San Bernardino, California on Tuesday voted to complete a rout of the city's pro-union old guard, electing business-friendly pragmatists who have pledged to try to reduce pension costs and take on vested interests.
As San Bernardino enters into a fourth month of mediation with its creditors, the biggest of which is Calpers, California's giant retirement system, voters on Tuesday elected Carey Davis as the crisis-hit city's new mayor.
Davis, a businessman and political novice, ran in part on a campaign to reduce the city's pension obligations. In an interview in November, when he became one of two mayoral candidates, he said the city had to cut spending on police and fire departments, currently more than 70 percent of the budget.
"You have to roll the pensions back," Davis said in November. Davis did not return calls on Wednesday.
Davis will play a big role in how the city approaches negotiations with its creditors. He will be part of a small team of elected officials who represent the city as the debtor in the bankruptcy.
Along with Detroit, the biggest U.S. city to seek Chapter 9 protection, San Bernardino is likely to set precedent on whether retirees or Wall Street bondholders suffer the most when a city goes broke.
It was not just the mayor's race where voters rejected then unions:
Also on Tuesday, another political novice, Henry Nickel, became a new council member, saying he wanted to take on special interests. Nickel's biggest challenger was Randy Wilson, a police sergeant endorsed by the police union, the only candidate for that seat who did not support pension reform efforts. (snip)
Tuesday's results follow elections in November, when the balance of power in San Bernardino's seven-member council shifted dramatically away from an old guard reluctant to take on unions and reduce pension obligations.
After Tuesday night, six of seven council members are now on record as saying they want to explore reducing San Bernardino's pensions, along with Davis, the new mayor, and a new city attorney, Gary Saenz.
Republicans have a potent issue before them, if they have the wit to exploit it: unions have been abusing taxpayers to the point of bankruptcies, most prominently in Detroit, but also at the federal and state levels. Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin, has taken on the public employee unions, and his state has mightily prospered, to the pot where tax reductions are now in prospect, while the economy has improved.
The many scandals involving waste and abuse by federal bureaucrats also taint the image of public employee unions, even when the miscreants are not themselves union members. The many stories about Washington, DC prospering as the rest of America suffers provide another key subject for this message.
The Democrats are completely in bed with unions, most especially public employee unions. The GOP can use this against them. That is the biggest message from California.