San Diego will elect its next mayor today. Here are 5 reasons you should care.

Voters in San Diego will elect their next mayor today, months after Democrat Bob Filner resigned in disgrace amid mounting sexual harassment allegations.

Democrat David Alvarez (D), left. (Lenny Ignelzi/AP)
Democrat David Alvarez (D), left. (Lenny Ignelzi/AP)

The outcome of the race will carry implications that will resonate well beyond San Diego's city limits. After a fall election whittled the field, the contest comes down to two city councilmen: Republican Kevin Faulconer and Democrat David Alvarez. Here are five reasons you should care when the returns come in tonight.

1. Alvarez could become a rising Democratic star if he wins 

When voters went to the polls last fall, Faulconer had the upper hand. He won 42 percent of the vote to Alvarez's 27 percent. Since that time, Alvarez has narrowed the gap, making a competitive race. He has a real chance of winning on Tuesday, and if he does, he would make history as the city's first elected Hispanic mayor. Paired with the fact that he's only 33, we have the makings of a potential rising star in Democratic politics in one of the country's largest cities. (Side note: The election is technically nonpartisan. But it's clear the battle lines are clearly and sharply drawn along party lines.)

2. Faulconer could be a rising Republican star if he wins 

The country's most populous cities are dominated by Democratic mayors. A Faulconer win would give the GOP a counterexample -- one in city that just lived through a short and scandal-plagued tenure of a Democrat. Filner was the city's first Democratic mayor since the early '90s, so a Faulconer victory would restore San Diego to its recent tradition of electing Republicans. That's not a bad platform from which to launch the next stage of one's political career. And while Faulconer isn't as young as Alvarez, he's only 46 47 -- youthful by political standards.

3. President Obama is involved 

The White House doesn't involve itself in just any race. But Obama endorsed Alvarez on Saturday, signaling the the highest level of the Democratic Party is watching this campaign and believes it is winnable. (Obama is not going to hand over an endorsement at the eleventh hour for a candidate destined to lose.) If Alvarez wins, he will trigger a natural alliance between the White House and the new head of one of the nation's largest cities.

4. Labor spent big

One of the main reasons Alvarez has been able to compete is the strong backing of organized labor. The news Web site inewsource.org has a good rundown of the seven-figure investment unions have put behind Alvarez. This race has very high stakes for labor community.

5. It's probably going to be a close one 

Forget the Olympics or college hoops for one evening. This race looks like the most competitive contest out there! Polling shows the two candidates are running neck and neck.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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