The idyllic setting—a sunny day at Ellen Scripps Browning Park in La Jolla, overlooking the beautiful Pacific Ocean—belied the sadness of Nathan Fletcher’s news conference on Wednesday announcing his endorsement of David Alvarez in the San Diego mayor’s race. The endorsement wasn’t the most enthusiastic affirmation ever recorded, but that’s understandable considering Fletcher’s trajectory from front-runner for the city’s highest office to dropping out of public life altogether.
Fletcher invoked his wife Mindy and his two little boys when he said he’d be going low-profile for the foreseeable future—he promised his wife that if he lost, he’d drop out of politics. He smirked when a TV reporter asked him about a “rumor” she’d heard about him running for Congress, and he shot it down emphatically. He has a good job at Qualcomm and enjoys teaching at UCSD, he said.
When reporters had no more questions, he walked off alone toward his car. His spokesperson, Rachel Laing, teared up behind her sunglasses. She didn’t just work for Fletcher; she truly believed in him as a human being and his capacity to lead San Diego. It’s easy to forget that politicians are real people.
Fletcher noted that he was in a difficult position, trying to run as a business-friendly moderate Democrat in a race against a business-centric Republican and a liberal Democrat—and doing so much sooner than he ever expected to, thanks to Bob Filner’s spectacular implosion. But, he said, campaigns are expected to be tough. And he’s right, of course; those with thin skin should stay out.
Still, it’s hard not to feel for the guy. He was prodded by some high-profile Democrats to run for mayor again, after coming in third in the 2012 primary behind Filner and Carl DeMaio. He didn’t see Alvarez coming. And once Alvarez was in, the Republicans, who coalesced behind one candidate, the safe, milquetoast Kevin Faulconer, saw their opportunity to take Fletcher down by propping up Alvarez and attacking Fletcher relentlessly—they knew that he’d likely cream Faulconer in a head-to-head runoff race. Alvarez, meanwhile, knew that the only thing that stood between him and a spot in the runoff was Fletcher, so his forces had to target Fletcher, too.
CityBeat endorsed Alvarez over Fletcher because we’re liberals, and Alvarez was the better choice for liberals—the ongoing battle over land zoning in Barrio Logan, where Alvarez grew up, illustrated that. Alvarez fought for a plan that protects residents from industrial air pollution; Fletcher declined to back him up. More broadly, while Fletcher expressed support for liberal policies during the campaign, we couldn’t take that leap of faith, having only his record as a Republican with which to judge him. Our view was that he was likely to side with business interests more often than we’d like when those interests are at odds with the common good.
Yet, we cringed every time our landlines rang and a recorded voice, paid for by the conservative Lincoln Club, told us that Fletcher was too conservative for San Diego. It was fair to challenge the new Democrat on his Republican record, but the Lincoln Club being the ones doing it made our skin crawl. As I said on Twitter on the eve of the election, getting yet another one of those robocalls made me consider voting for Fletcher just to spite those deceitful bastards.
Yes, politics, as they say, is a blood sport, but knowing that doesn’t make it any easier to watch a person who seems to mean well get sliced and diced.
On the other hand, it feels as though Fletcher should have been able to overcome the attacks. He was in a solid position going into the race. Maybe his team was too confident and a little complacent. In retrospect, his campaign seems limp, in sharp contrast to the candidate’s sturdy Marine stature. It felt tentative and vague, not nearly as sharp and specific as it needed to be. I admire his vow to run a positive campaign, but it left him unprotected amid Faulconer and Co.’s constant jabs, allowing an aggressive Alvarez to speed past him in the home stretch—if you’ll pardon the mixed sports metaphors. I’m not saying he should have gone negative; I’m suggesting maybe he should have been more forcefully positive.
Heading into the race, I thought Fletcher was precisely what the San Diego electorate wanted—a politically moderate politician who’s confident and pleasant in demeanor. But his rapid makeover from Republican to independent to Democrat left him vulnerable to questions that only time and a new track record could answer effectively. He just didn’t have that kind of time.
I told him that there may be people out there who didn’t vote for him this time but might like to see him back on a ballot after he’s had time to build a more progressive résumé.
“I’ve given a lot,” he said. “I’ve given almost 20 years of service [counting military and politics], and so I think it’s time to move on to some other things. My boys are at an age when they need their dad around, and I think there’s a lot of other things that I can do and be fulfilled in it. Contrary to what’s been out there, I never had to be in elected office to be fulfilled in life.”
I was speaking of myself when I described the kind of person that might not want Fletcher to give up. I’d like to see him campaign enthusiastically and actively for Alvarez and then find ways to prove that his drift to the center-left is genuine. But it sounds like all he has for Alvarez is a name to put on an endorsement list and not much else.
That’s unfortunate—and sad.
I hadn't talked to former City Attorney Mike Aguirre for quite some time, and as the mayoral election drew nearer, I thought it might be fun and informative to challenge the colorful candidate on some harsh things he said about me online. Were these comments evidence that Aguirre hasn't changed that much since he was booted form office in 2008? Is his inclination still to attack?
City-owned nonprofit Civic San Diego’s plan to bring pedestrian-friendly commercial development to the working-class neighborhoods of Encanto and City Heights has drawn mixed reactions from community groups.
San Diego city officials say they plan to close a contract loophole that has allowed the city’s 911 ambulance provider Rural / Metro to routinely arrive late to emergency calls.
After significant delays, the city announced Wednesday that it would move forward with a competitive bidding process for its 911 ambulance service. The process, expected to be completed by January 2015, will require the city to extend Rural / Metro’s contract in June.
However, officials said the contract extension will likely strip out an antiquated provision that exempts any ambulances dispatched after 12 are already on the road from arriving on time.
In response to a recent effort to unionize by KPBS employees, the public-radio station’s management sent an email to staff last week, saying it opposes the move and is directing workers to meet with a hired consultant.