By Pablo J. Sáinz
David Alvarez is one step closer to becoming the first mayor of Mexican origin in San Diego.
The once relatively unknown Democrat councilmember, placed second in the Nov. 19th special mayoral election to replace Bob Filner, with 25 percent of the vote. He now will face Republican Councilmember Kevin Faulconer in another election early next year.
“The next campaign starts tonight,” said Alvarez after the election at a party in Barrio Logan, one of the areas he represents in the city council, and the place where he was raised. “We are moving this city forward in a way that represents all of us.”
That “all of us” includes, of course, Latinos, who have never seen a Latino mayor in the city, and usually had to settle to the District 8 councilmember to be their only voice in the San Diego City Council.
Without a doubt, the Latino vote was an important factor in getting Alvarez into the runoff against Faulconer. From San Ysidro to Barrio Logan, and from Otay Mesa to Sherman Heights, Alvarez’s District 8’s Latino majority supported Alvarez throughout the race, even though there were two other major Democrats running, former Assemblymember Nathan Fletcher (who placed in third place and has already given his endorsement to Alvarez) and former City Attorney Mike Aguirre, who was also the other Latino in the race.
Alvarez also had the endorsement of major organizations and individuals with strong Latino ties, including the San Diego County Democratic Party, San Diego Unified School District Board Member Richard Barrera, former California Assemblymember Lori Saldaña, and the San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association.
Perhaps the biggest boost came from several unions with many Latinos in their ranks, such as The Homecare Providers Union, Union Yes, and the California Nurses Association.
The Environmental Health & Justice Campaign, a non-profit that’s very active in areas with high concentrations of Latinos, was one of the most vocal Alvarez supporters.
“While ethnically diverse, the residents of these communities are largely Latino and these are the people who worked hard to advance David’s candidacy,” said Diane Takvorian, executive director for the EHJC. “We heard over and over again from voters that this is our time to elect a leader who has emerged from San Diego’s communities to guide our region into the next decade with a new way of thinking. For too long our communities have shouldered the burden of environmental injustice and Alvarez represents a sea change for the entire region.”
In addition to the traditional candidate forums and community presentations, Alvarez’s campaign had a strong social media presence during the special election. That will continue through the election early next year.
On his Facebook page, supporters poured in to post comments of encouragement, and to congratulate Alvarez on his victory.
State Senator Marty Block wrote: “Congratulations to Councilman David Alvarez for winning a spot in the runoff election for Mayor. I’m looking forward to a spirited runoff ahead, and know David will be focused on a positive future for San Diego.”
Supporter Liana Carbón wrote: “So excited you made the run-off!!! Voted for you early ballot and will keep spreading the word!”
Another supporter, Leticia Ayala, posted the following: “We are so proud of YOU!!! Last night we made history!! This is only the beginning!! Un fuerte abrazo.”
Alvarez truly made history this week. Born to a working, Mexican immigrant family, he was raised in Barrio Logan and attended local schools, graduating from San Diego State University. For Alvarez, all things were against him growing up: He was even homeless for a while during high school. But after graduating from college, he became involved in local and state politics, and in 2010, he was elected to the San Diego City Council.
With the Latino community’s strong support for Alvarez’s candidacy, the phrase “Si se puede!” takes on a completely different meaning, one that reaffirms that Latinos are becoming a major force in California politics.
For more information on David Alvarez, visit www.alvarezformayor.com.