After Filner resigned as mayor, Todd Gloria was fairly quick in announcing that he was not going to run for mayor in the special election. The decision stumped some at the time, because Gloria is arguably the most popular local politician. While I obviously have no clue what he was thinking, it may have been an extremely shrewd political move given the current situation in San Diego.
Although it is far from certain, it seems it is more likely than not that the Chargers are going to be leaving San Diego, most likely after the next season. The statements being made by the Chargers have suggested they are finished with negotiating and it's time for the city to put up or shut up. Given this stance, many were expecting Kevin Faulconer to make a big announcement at the State of the City address last night regarding the stadium. Instead, he said he plans to form a task force. Wait, what?
This seems wholly inadequate to turn the Charger's attention away from LA and back to San Diego. Plans in LA are moving forward, and if the best San Diego can do is to form a task force that won't be making a recommendation until the fall, Falconer must know that there is no way to get a new stadium built in San Diego. By way of example, Missouri Governor Nixon appointed a "task force" to make a decision on a new stadium in St. Louis and gave them a 60-day deadline. That's what you do when you're serious about a new stadium. Their plan has already been released. The members of our task force still haven't been named.
The most reasonable explanation is that Faulconer's task force is just be political cover so he can say he did something when the Chargers announce their move. The writing is on the wall is that a public vote could never reach the 66.7% threshold for a new tax and a massive donation of city land without a vote is politically untenable.
So how does this affect Gloria? The Chargers have already committed to playing the next season in San Diego, so if they announce their move, it will likely be in February 2016. Right as the next mayoral election is heating up.
Faulconer is going to end up being the mayor that lost the Chargers. While plenty of people could care less, the fans that will be the most upset about this tend to be more conservative (NFL fans tend to vote for Republicans). Not to mention the hatred that will emanate from Papa Doug at the UT, who has been one of the loudest voices pushing for a new stadium. In what is already expected to be a close election, Democrats will have a huge finger to point at Falconer that will knock out his base. If this all comes to pass, Gloria will likely walk into the mayor's office.
And what will Gloria be campaigning on? Obviously the minimum wage, which will also be on the 2016 ballot. But the new, huge issue in San Diego politics will be what do we do with the Qualcomm site. Gloria will have a chance to propose a legacy-defining project, if he so wishes. Which can only benefit the city. To prove he is not in the pocket of the developers, he is going to have to come up with something better than just selling the land to build condos. Perhaps by tying the sale of the Qualcomm site into a "megabond" for city infrastructure, Gloria can cruise into the mayor's office with a mandate to enact his new plan and rebuild the City. If Gloria can claim a win on the minimum wage, start a legacy project on the Qualcomm site, and resolve the infrastructure mess, he will have quite the credentials going forward to propel him into higher office.
So what should his Qualcomm site plan be? My ideas in a post coming soon...