Convenience, Not Conviction – Nathan’s Play In The San Diego Mayor’s Race

Jon Fleischman Jon Fleischman 39 Comments


This year San Diego voters are being treated to a very lively contest to see who will succeed Republican Jerry Sanders as mayor of California’s second largest city.  I have and will continue to write about this and other races taking place in the City of San Diego – but I think it is important to share with you that I have not endorsed any candidates for mayor or city council, nor have I made any financial contributions.  The only bias I bring to any analysis of the mayor’s race is my conservative perspective, and a disclosure that one candidate, Nathan Fletcher, has been a personal friend of mine for many years.  In fact, it has been my friendship with Nathan that has made it a bit awkward for me as I have contemplated for many days what to write about his sudden decision to leave the Republican Party and become a decline- to-state voter.

Let me just throw out there that I believe Nathan’s decision to re-register was strictly a tactical maneuver for the purpose of attempting to rebrand his campaign, and improve his odds at making it into the runoff election after June.  It’s pretty clear that something had to be done as survey after survey kept showing Nathan was not even close to making the top two (those spots have been comfortably occupied by Nathan’s former Republican colleague Councilman Carl DeMaio and Democrat Congressman Bob Filner, with Republican District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis behind them).

Hats off to Nathan and his campaign advisers – if “shaking up” the race for mayor was the goal – clearly that has been achieved.  Presumably Nathan’s goal now will be to try to carve out some real-estate both with decline-to-state and Democrat voters and try to get more votes than Filner (which may be a bit challenging for Nathan, a point on which I elaborate further into this column).

I have to admit that it comes off as a bit disingenuous for Nathan to summarily announce that he was leaving the Republican Party and that it was a decision he’s been contemplating for some time – when just seventeen days earlier he was delivering a very partisan speech at the endorsing convention of the San Diego County Republican Party.  The San Diego GOP endorsed DeMaio on the first ballot, a two-thirds vote.  I can understand why this would have been disappointing to Nathan, who has been a Republican activist, operative and legislator for a very long time.  Still, there is a “sour grapes” component to this decision that leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

It is certainly the case that Nathan has a track record that confounds some in the Republican Party.  But there are times when I have been at odds with the GOP, yet I have not left it.  Heck, just last year Nathan and I both supported the elimination of a big tax break for out of state businesses in favor of broad based tax relief – a position for which we both took criticism.  But the thought of leaving the party never occurred to me.  Which brings me back to my original point – which is that I believe that this was a decision borne of political convenience and strategy, rather than some sort of point of principle.

It took about a nanosecond for the left-of-center folks in the main-stream-media to grab onto Nathan’s decision and use it to engage in their favorite blood-sport – Republican bashing.  These same folks proclaimed Nathan as a “rising star” in the GOP because in their mind viability for a Republican statewide is all about finding someone on the right side of the aisle that is willing to participate in growing the size and scope of state government.  David Brooks, George Skelton, Bruce Maiman, Bill Bradley and more – all columnists that spend their time calling for higher taxes – desperately want Nathan’s decision to be less about a risky tactical maneuver in a hotly contested local government election, and instead turn it into a larger-than-life principled decision to walk away from a Republican Party that Governor Schwarzenegger once characterized as, “losing at the box office.” (Note:  Arnold is still a Republican.)

Of course more than one of these columnists in their frenzy to assault the GOP neglected to mention that Nathan was passed over for an endorsement by the local Republican Party, who instead endorsed San Diego Councilman DeMaio, who is openly gay, for mayor.  That inconvenient point ruins their narrative.  Matt Welch over at Reason really drives home this point in this piece.  It is also worth pointing out a column from the politically ambiguous Joe Mathews that ran on Fox and Hounds Daily where he makes the case that this tactical decision by Nathan was a very poor one (“political suicide in real time” is his phrase).

Nathan’s controversial decision to leave the Republican Party begs yet another question.  I will preface it by throwing out a date in history – January 5, 1983.  It was on this date that another legislator, a federal one, changed his party registration in his second term in Congress.  U.S. Representative Phil Gramm of Texas changed from Democrat to Republican.  But in doing so, Gramm thought it was only fair to step down from the seat to which he had been elected as a Democrat.  The Governor of Texas called a special election, and Gramm ran in that election and won (and rather notably went on to serve in the U.S. Senate representing the Lone Star State).

Does Nathan feel a principled calling to step down from his seat in the state legislature, one to which he was elected as a Republican?  It is certainly safe to assume that the Republican voters who put Nathan into the Assembly did not do so expecting that he would dump his party in his quest to become the mayor of San Diego.

Another date that might interest those following the saga of Nathan’s decision would be April 30, 2010.  This was the date Florida’s Republican Governor Charlie Crist (pictured below) decided to re-register as an independent.  In a situation quite similar to the one that was faced by Nathan, Crist had been a “Schwarzenegger” style Republican, in that he was simply unable to gain traction from Republican primary voters — polling showed Crist being handily trounced by conservative state legislator Marco Rubio.

In his speech announcing his abandonment of the party — whose infrastructure had helped him secure the Governorship — Crist made a lot of statements that now sound unsurprisingly like those made by Nathan: “Our political system is broken…,” “I haven’t supported an idea because it is a Republican idea or a Democrat idea…,” “For me public service has always been about putting the needs of our people first…,” “They (the people) want someone who is more interested in standing up for them rather than for special interests or a political party…”

Marco Rubio (who ultimately went on to be elected to the U.S. Senate) had this to say about Crist’s re-registering: “It’s about someone who wants to continue his career in politics and doesn’t believe he can do that this year within the Republican Party.”

As we all know from the now-infamous razor close Presidential election in Florida back in 2000, the Sunshine State is very competitive – just like the city of San Diego.  So how did Crist’s running as an independent work out for him?  Rubio got almost 49 percent of the general election vote compared to Crist who scored just shy of 30 percent…

So what now for Nathan?  He now has the unenviable job of trying to unroll himself from the vastly long GOP banner in which he has wrapped himself since I first met him so many years ago.  To quote Nathan from the speech he gave to the San Diego County GOP in seeking the endorsement just 17 days before leaving the party altogether:  “I am very proud to have a long and committed track record with this party and with this cause. I’m very proud to have stood with you for years, going back to the early days, walking door to door, registering voters. As a legislator I’ve raised and given more than a quarter of a million dollars to our candidates and causes, and will do the same.”

Heck, just a few minutes perusing Nathan’s campaign website allows one to check out photos of Karl Rove and Nathan, Meg Whitman and Nathan, Carly Fiorina and Nathan, and even Newt Gingrich and Nathan — mostly at events for Nathan himself.  And of course one cannot forget that former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, are both major donors to Fletcher’s mayoral bid.

The point I am making is that there is no magic wand that allows you to cast a “forget everything” spell on the voters.  For loyal Republican voters, Nathan’s decision to leave the GOP will sting, and make it harder for him to win over a constituency that was already problematic for him.  But in trying to win over Democrat or independent voters, it’s not going to be easy to shake the Republican label.

It is often very difficult to convey emotion in a written column like this one — especially a more subtle emotion like sorrow.  It took me the better part of a week to finally write this piece because Nathan is my friend, and my comrade.  I was very sorry to learn of his decision – one that I believe was made for short-term tactical reasons – and one that I know Nathan will regret for many years to come.

I take consolation in the fact that no matter what his voter registration says, Nathan and I will both be casting votes to ensure that President Obama serves only one term as President, and Commander–In-Chief.  And I suppose Nathan can take consolation that I don’t live in San Diego — where I would cast my vote for a Republican candidate for Mayor.

# # #

This commentary appeared on Wednesday’s FlashReport.


Comments 39

  1. Whatever Fletcher’s motivations are, he has said what has been on the minds of many for too long. Should he resign? I say, “Why not?”

    The Republican Party has become so effectively irrelevant in governing California through its lock-step approach to policy that there really isn’t any point in his staying there anyway.

    Keep drinking the kool-aid all you “conservatives” who are unwilling to admit that cutting spending alone isn’t going to fix the mess we’re in.

    And keep blaming all the ignorant people out there who are kicking your asses at the voting booth every election. I want to see this state fixed, but the way you keep going about it isn’t working…so like they say, “Get a clue.”

  2. Hey Kirk, pop quiz time.

    In the last few years, CA voters statewide have had SEVEN opportunities to vote for higher taxes at the polls. Every tax was strongly backed by the unions and the Democrat Party. Tax proponents spent many times what opponents did on each measure. Any of those tax increases could have passed by a simple majority vote.

    How many passed?

    You are bright enough to know that — given that the question was here posed — the answer is not good — from your myopic viewpoint.

    Follow-up question (extra credit) — when it comes to taxes, which political party is out of touch with the California electorate?

  3. Richard, pop question: how many Republicans hold statewide office? Another one: when was the last time the Republican Party was the majority party in either legislative house?

    Your bright enough to figure that one out.

  4. Yet Richard – we keep putting up candidates that scare the out of the California electorate on peripheral issues. Oh for a libertarian-leaning republican to get up….and ideally have some great karate-politics moments of telling off the social conservatives that want to pull him/her right.

  5. Oh, Richard…one more thing: if the electorate is so enlightened when it comes to voting down tax proposals, why are they so stupid when it comes to voting for spending proposals (Bullet Train, etc.)?

  6. Kirk, answer to your bullet train quesiton is because we were lied to. $10 billion max, privately operated, etc. After the vote the cost escalated ten-fold to $100 billion, timeline extended, possible public subsidy to operate because no private operator would go anywhere near it. Now because even the “we love to spend other people’s money” crowd realizes how out of control the $100 billion was, it somehow magically scaled down to $70 billion. How much you wanna bet the bullet train will cost at least $100 billion plus will require operating subsidies when all is said and done. I’d go Mitt Romney on that and bet you $10 grand.

  7. I recall hearing Mayor Jerry Sanders say when he ran for office he discovered who his friends were, but–more importantly–who his friends were not.

    This tortured opinion piece may prove that 1) Jon does not know Nathan well, 2) Jon is not a true friend, and/or 3) Jon’s friendship is not worth having.

    I have said this many times publicly in the last week: Nathan is an honorable man and leader. He had my support yesterday. He has my support today. He will have my support tomorrow.

    Integrity, loyalty, and friendship are valuable, scarce commodities that Nathan enjoys from many and offers many in abundance.

    I feel confident that as more San Diegans get to know him, they will discount self-serving criticisms and support this combat veteran whose fine personal and professional qualities make him the superior candidate for the important job he seeks.

  8. Janette,

    I couldn’t have said it better myself and I concur fully.


    You are right that the Democrats are sorely out of touch with the California electorate when it comes to taxes and yet they keep winning every state-wide election and most district ones. What does that say about the Republican Party of California?

  9. If the measure of “conviction” for a Republican is how well they bow to the RPSD leadership, then I’ll take was Fleishman’s definition of “convenience” anyday.

  10. Morton, can you give us an example of what you are talking about and how it relates to Nathan’s career choices?

    Also, do you think the elected Republican Central Committee should have endorsed in the race for San Diego mayor?

  11. Alger, I’ll not deny that the GOP has SERIOUS problems convincing voters to vote for Republican candidates. The party’s anti-immigration (often anti-Hispanic) myopia is CRIPPLING the GOP’s chances of winning the state.

    But I’m not here to defend the GOP’s strategies, or platform, or views on many social issues. I’m saying that complaints that the GOP is not winning because it opposes tax increases is factually incorrect.

    And I’ve seen zero rebuttals above. A lot of twisting and dodging, but no rebuttals.

  12. Kirk, you ARE a hoot. Why did voters approve HSR? Because EVERY FACT PRESENTED was a lie. EVERY PROJECTION. EVERY BENEFIT. Including that it would pay for itself — indeed, make a PROFIT.

    Proponents spent over $2.5 million — there was NO organized or fundraising opposition. It passed with less than 53% of the vote.,_High-Speed_Rail_Act_(2008)

    But now we KNOW every such HSR assertion was a lie. Only the MAGNITUDE of the lies is still in dispute. Some dispute!

    Put HSR on the ballot again — knowing what the voters know today — and say “goodbye” to this boondoggle.

  13. Jon Fleischman is one of the biggest reasons why the California Republican Party is dead. His seldom-read blog is nothing but selfish thuggery at its worst. He simply writes poorly written blog articles for the campaigns that he blackmails into paying for advertising on his outdated website. He is a “payola” scandal waiting to be exposed. I’m sure Carl Demaio and Jason Roe are paying him handsomely.

    From Admin: This borders on a Rostra rule violation, but the the level of intelligence speaks more to the writer than it does the integrity of those being maligned so laughingly and ineffectively, so we’re gonna leave it up. Have a nice day.

  14. Richard,

    For the second time this year I can say I agree with you: The GOP’s election losses are definitely not due to their aversion to tax increases.

  15. Jason Roe is one of the classiest and most ethical people I’ve ever met in Politics. This is false and malicious on its face, and cowardly for being made anonymously.

  16. OK. david posts here so I gotta ask. Why didn’t you ask him about his quotes at the central committee meeting? Why are reporters simply unwilling to put up the quotes he made at CC – which are on tape and have him respond.

    David – 18 days ago he brags about having raised HUNDREDS OF THOUSAND OF DOLLARS for GOP candidates and then you let him say, without retort,

    “My goal has never been— as an elected official my goal has never been to do what’s in the best interest of the Republican Party. It’s always been to do what’s in the best interest of the people of California and the people of San Diego, and that hasn’t changed at all.”

    I just am at a loss as to how Nathan has been able to get the SD press corp to roll over and play dead.

  17. Erik – Maybe David respects the fact that the endorsement was done during “closed session” which means that it takes a vote of the committee to disclose information from inside the meeting. A rule that was ignored by the chairman when the tape was leaked. Normally the Committee only releases the result and sometimes the actual vote count if it benefits the committee.

  18. Chevy Sam has the facts wrong about the endorsing session. I was there, sitting outside the main meeting room, for several hours. Had MSM reporters been there (I did not see any) they could easily have gotten the news from the CONSTANT Stream of people entering and leaving those endorsing discussions. Further, the public address system in the room caused much of the discussion to be clearly audible outside.

    Thus the ominous phrase (“closed session”) used by Chevy Sam paints a false picture of what really occurred there. Back in the Day, there would have been TWO print reporters there, 1 each from the Union and the Tribune, and likely KSDO and KFMB radio (Reid Carroll) too.

    The lack of detailed MSM coverage of this crucial event is on THEM, not on Tony Krvaric.

    Too bad the folks who blame Krvaric for everything but a cold winter are not brave enough to sign their own names to such laughably incorrect accounts.

  19. Jim,

    “Jason Roe is one of the classiest and most ethical people I have ever met in Politics.”

    I have no reason to doubt this. One question, however: since Republican Woman made a disparaging comment about Mr. Rowe AND Carl DeMaio, I wonder why you limited your defense to Mr. Rowe. Could it be that you couldn’t honestly say the same about Mr. DeMaio?

  20. William F. Buckley Jr. had a favorite Latin phrase which rendered in English means, “Because I specify one, does not mean that I exclude the other.” It applies here.

    Mr. Roe is a regular writer and contributor at the Flash Report, and thus has a DIRECT connection to that site. I respect all the major candidates for Mayor, including Carl DeMaio.

    Despicable charges made by cowards deserve your condemnation too, Alger. You don’t engage in that behavior and have earned wide respect here as a result.

  21. Jim,

    Thanks for the compliment and I certainly agree that unsubstantiated attacks, especially those that impugn character, have no place on Rostra, or in any other intelligent discourse.

  22. Jim,

    Also it is good to know that you have respect for Bob Filner. I wish more people would admit that disagreeing with someone politically doesn’t make that person an enemy, somehow evil or even unworthy of respect.

  23. Bob Filner has some very good qualities that could make him an effective mayor. He’s highly educated and highly intelligent (the two don’t always go together), and he’s very experienced politically.

    I saw Filner speak several years ago to scientists who were at some convention here. He cogently discussed their challenge in dealing with attacks on evolution. Filner has a Ph.D. in the history of science, which gives him perspective in this matter. And at 69, Filner is presumably nearing the end of his political career, so he’s not going to self-promote to seek higher office.

    These qualities don’t guarantee Filner would be a good mayor — there’s always his politics to consider — but they do mean Filner has the intelligence and ability to be one.

  24. I just am at a loss as to how Nathan has been able to get the SD press corp to roll over and play dead.

    The explanation is absurdly simple: Fletcher is saying what most of the media already believe about Republicans and conservatives. David Brooks’ silly NYT column is an example.

    It’s a rule of human nature that if you tell people something they already “know”, you’re less likely to get challenged than if you tell them something that clashes with their beliefs. And it’s been well established that the media leans disproportionately left compared to the public. If a journalist is not a Democrat, it’s a good chance it’s because they’re more lefty than the Democrats.

    The surest way to earn media praise for someone identified as a Republican and conservative is to say bad things about conservatives and Republicans. Then when you’re attacked, you become a media martyr for your tremendous courage.

    Any inconvenient truths, such as your having vigorously campaigned just weeks ago for the endorsement of the party you left, or that you were last in the polls and had little to lose, are discounted because it doesn’t fit Teh Narrative.

  25. Teh Narrative, that should have been.

    Bradley, our apologies, you had it right; we thought it a typo and changed it to “The” … We get it now and have changed it back. Your additional comment here with the link will assist others, possibly. –Admin

  26. Jim – I wasn’t going to get into this but now that you are trying to publicly question my understanding of the process, I’ll fight back.

    1. Was the endorsement session open to the public or was it restricted to committee members in closed session? Judging by the fact that you sat outside, I bet I can guess.

    2. Was there a motion at the end of the session to report the results of the vote to the public? (yes)

    3. Within that vote, was there a motion to allow for the release recordings of the proceedings?(no)

    4. As the chair, is it Tony’s job to ensure order and respect the decisions of the committee? (yes)

    5. Can Tony and the committee censure those who do not follow the rules established by the committee? (yes)

    6. Did they take any such action regarding the leaked recording? (no)

    I don’t always agree with Tony but I like him. And like most folks in politics, I know he will choose where to spend his energy and in this case, he decided not to launch an investigation into the leaked tape. Doubt that would be the case if it had not benefited the RPSD endorsed candidate.

  27. Some people showed up for the most-important primary endorsing
    meeting of 2012, and thus they know what they are talking about.
    ‘Chevy Sam’ can only second-guess and accuse with no facts to
    back it up.

    In the days of Harold Keen, Reid Carroll, Otto Bos, Gerry Braun,
    George Flynn, Lynne Carrier and Nancy Ray [solid reporters] every
    detail would’ve been in the paper, on Radio and TV. All of the
    details, vote counts, and speeches were there for the asking.

    The failure is that of today’s MSM, which did not appear and do
    their job. The laughable attempt to blame Tony Krvaric for this
    is not getting any fresher. How “open” are the meetings at which
    Big Labor picks their choices?

    And… Please…phrases like, “I’ll fight back” have no credi-
    bility coming from someone hiding behind a fake name. If Chevy
    Sam believes in what he is saying, and he probably does, then
    he should stand behind it. Self-respect feels pretty good.

  28. Jim,

    Agree that the MSM does not a good job of covering activities of the political parties. I do, however, have a problem with one of your comments:

    “How “open” are the meetings at which Big Labor picks their choices?”

    “Big Labor” is not a political party and the Labor Council is not permitted by law to give unlimited funds directly to the candidates like the Democratic and Republican Parties now are. As such, the Parties should be held to a different level of transparency in their processes.

  29. Jim…if that is your real name.

    If you want to use labor as the gold standard in how to conduct endorsements and run meetings than more power to you, not how I roll. You are the one missing the point, since it was initially that David King (owner of SDNR who is a long time central committee member and legal counsel) may have been respecting party rules when SDNR conducted their interview. My comments about Tony ignoring the leaked tape, while 100% true, were a side note on how rules are interpreted to benefit those in power in almost all cases in any form of government. Call me all the names you want but I’ve made my point and am moving on.

    We are assure you that Jim is his real name, as is Sills. –Admin

  30. Is saying “a different level of transparency” like saying “some people are more equal than others”? Or maybe saying someone is “kind of pregnant”?

    It’s either transparent or it’s not.

  31. Michael,

    There definitely are different levels of transparency: Cumulative final vote totals only, individual vote totals, on-the record discussion before the vote, all discussions (including off-the record), work processes leading up to a vote, etc.

  32. Calls for “Transparency” from People who use Fake Names to do so!

    Does SD Rostra have great comedy writers, or what??


  33. Admin – Thank you for clarifying my bad attempt at humor. I know it really is Jim Sills.

  34. Wow, a lot of comments on this one. I was at the central committee meeting too, and Jim Sills’ description is accurate.

  35. Jim,

    Wouldn’t you agree that there probably is a greater need for transparency from our politcal parties and our elected leaders than there is from someone commenting on a blog, even a blog as prestigious as this one?

  36. Quick comment — I didn’t conduct the interview (please see the byline). I founded SDNR 4 years ago to make up for some of the loss of information caused by the decline of the MSM. However, big and small media both suffer the same reality that we can only do as much as revenues allow. (Now tweets count as news to quote??) SDNR went nonprofit last year, so I own absolutely nothing–it’s a public asset that everyone can support…just a click away…

    I think this dialogue has run it’s course and gotten off-point, personal, etc.

    Vote for Tebow!!

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