Councilman Kevin Faulconer thanks his supporters/ Nicholas McVicker/ KPBS
San Diego's new mayor-elect
San Diego’s new mayor-elect. Credit: Nicholas McVicker/KPBS.


[sc_embed_player fileurl=”″]To hear this story as aired on KPBS radio, hit the play button.


Republican Kevin Faulconer defeated Democrat David Alvarez by more than nine points in Tuesday’s vote — 54.5 to 45.4 percent. inewsource crunched the numbers further and found three ways the second-term councilman returned the mayor’s office to Republican hands.

1. Faulconer racked up big wins in high-turnout precincts

Of the 100 precincts with the highest turnout, Faulconer won 96 — and he won them by an average margin of 33.8 percent.

Click here to see results of the 2014 runoff election, precinct by precinct.

Those precincts accounted for more than a quarter of all votes cast in the race.

In comparison, the lowest turnout precincts were some of Alvarez’s strongest. Of the 100 precincts with the lowest turnout, Alvarez won 72 — and by an average margin of 26 percent.

2. Faulconer dominated the mail voting

Not coincidentally, the early voting rate was slightly above average in those precincts. Data from the San Diego County Registrar of Voters showed 68.4 percent of all ballots cast in those precincts were cast by mail as compared with a citywide average of 66.4 percent.

One observer of local politics noted that the Faulconer campaign — as is traditional with Republicans — focused significant effort on people who vote-by-mail.

INTERACTIVE: Click here for a searchable, interactive map of election results by precinct.

“Certainly, he [Faulconer] did benefit from a very effective absentee mail program that the Republican Party in San Diego has,” said Vince Vasquez, a senior policy analyst at the National University System Institute for Policy Research, a local think tank.

That assertion is backed up by the results citywide.

Faulconer received 56.6 percent of the total mail ballot vote. That’s slightly above his 54.5 percent lead among all votes cast and well above the 43.4 percent showing for Alvarez.

3. Faulconer overperformed on Election Day

The final media poll of likely voters taken before the election called the race a dead heat but that’s not how San Diegans voted on Feb. 11.

Faulconer’s victory was so decisive that he even had the advantage in balloting conducted on Election Day — usually a strong suit for Democrats. Faulconer won 50.4 percent of ballots cast at polls.

In San Diego, registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans, 265,000 to 176,000. Alvarez played to those numbers, portraying himself as a progressive.

But in an off-year special election, those weren’t the voters who showed up at the polls.

“You really again have to go and really focus on those voters who you know will show up rather than the ones you want to show up,” said Vasquez.

Faulconer did just that.

Joe Yerardi is a freelance data journalist for inewsource, where he worked between 2013 and 2016 as an investigative reporter and data specialist. To contact him with questions, tips or corrections, email