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Should GOP Follow New San Diego Mayor's Example?

Moderate Republican Kevin Faulconer will become the only Republican mayor of a top 10 U.S. city and the only Republican mayor in a California city with his victory Thursday in the special election for mayor of San Diego.

Faulconer’s 55%-45% win over fellow City Councilman David Alvarez (D) comes on the heels of the sexual-harassment scandal that ousted Democratic Mayor Bob Filner, the first Democrat to win as mayor in San Diego in more than 20 years.

As Dave Weigel points out, San Diego has a long tradition of electing moderate Republican mayors. Faulconer is no different – he’s (now) in favor of same-sex marriage and doesn’t think bike-sharing programs “threaten our personal freedoms,” like the Republican who tried to win in Denver in 2010 charged.

But Faulconer’s victory should make Republicans stop and think twice about how his path and message might be an important one to learn from nationally. Faulconer ran on a message -- in a city Obama won by 25 points in 2012 and where Democrats outnumber Republicans by 13 percentage – of good governance and compassion. That was captured by this ad showing him on bended knee in the streets talking to the homeless, the city’s most vulnerable.

Despite the Republican National Committee touting Faulconer’s win, the word “Republican” doesn’t appear anywhere on Faulconer’s website and party identification is not on the San Diego mayor’s ballot. Alvarez, on the other hand, hoped the city’s changing demography could make him the first Latino mayor. He ran largely on the standard Democratic platform and was endorsed by President Obama and several labor unions.

Faulconer was undoubtedly helped by the Filner scandal and was always at least a slight favorite, but if national Democrats took a message from Bill de Blasio’s (D) progressive win in New York, then Republicans should probably at least think about taking one from Faulconer’s centrist victory.

Of course, getting through a primary for any pro-same-sex marriage, pro-bike-sharing Republican is a tough task for a Republican running nationally.

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