SAN DIEGO - The San Diego mayor's race heated up Monday, with Councilman Kevin Faulconer saying unions have poured an "astounding" amount of money into supporting opponent David Alvarez, who announced a plan to ensure gender equity in the city government.
With about two weeks remaining before the Feb. 11 election, Faulconer held a news conference to highlight the amount of funding that his opponent and council colleague has received from organized labor.
He pointed to figures published Friday by inewsource, a partnership of KPBS, the Investigative News Network and San Diego State University, that showed Alvarez has received more than $3.4 million from the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council.
Alvarez has received $4.1 million total in contributions, according to inewsource, which tracks donations to the race on a daily basis.
"They're trying to buy this election," Faulconer charged.
Faulconer, who leads most polls, said the unions opposed fiscal reforms implemented by the city of San Diego over the past several years and want them rolled back should Alvarez be elected.
The city's ability to deliver services to neighborhoods would be hampered if that happened, according to Faulconer. He also said the mayor is the city's chief labor negotiator.
"San Diegans deserve a mayor that's going to be independent, that's going to stand up for them, and make sure they're fighting for their neighborhoods," he told reporters.
Alvarez campaign spokesman Stephen Heverly said Faulconer, meanwhile, has received heavy funding from business interests like the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Lincoln Club of San Diego County.
According to inewssource, Faulconer has received more than $828,000 from a committee called "San Diegans to Protect Jobs & the Economy Supporting Kevin Faulconer for mayor," and more than $378,000 from a group backed by the Lincoln Club.
While Faulconer has been hammering away at his opponent's labor support since the campaign hit high gear after the holidays, he has picked up backing from a public employee union -- the San Diego Police Officers Association.
Regarding gender equity, Alvarez said he would maintain balance in appointments to boards and commissions, city hiring and promotions within the mayor's office; would review the gender parity of city contracts to businesses owned by women and minorities; and make daycare, after-school and summer programs that are essential to working mothers a budget priority.
"I have an unwavering record of supporting gender equality issues, but the city can do more," Alvarez said. "Ensuring we are doing our part to level the playing field for everyone working, interacting and contracting with city government is one of my top priorities."
On Saturday, Alvarez gained the backing of Planned Parenthood and women's rights activist Sandra Fluke.
A poll released Sunday showed Faulconer leading Alvarez 49 percent to 44 percent. The poll, by SurveyUSA on behalf of 10News and UT San Diego, was much closer than one released two weeks ago showing Faulconer up by 53 percent to 37 percent.
Other surveys have shown the two in a statistical tie.