On paper, local Republican State Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher has set himself up as a formidable political candidate. He’s a 33-year-old Marine veteran of the Iraq war. He’s had high-profile positions and legislative successes. Fletcher even talked a suicidal man down off a bridge in Sacramento. His wife, Mindy, is a former staffer for President George W. Bush and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
But what launched Fletcher to prominence was his sponsoring of Chelsea’s Law, which brings tighter restrictions to sex offenders. The effort came after the murder of Poway teenager Chelsea King earlier this year by a registered sex offender.
Fletcher has been mentioned as a potential San Diego mayoral candidate in 2012. We spoke with him about the King legislation and city issues.
Can you explain how you first became involved with the King family and the legislation?
When Chelsea went missing, it rocked the whole community. I think it kind of traumatized everyone. We took a step back. Our office volunteered very quietly in the search and did a lot of things like that.
Through a mutual friend, the Kings reached out and said they’re interested in trying to make a difference. Even in these early days out of this tragedy, is there some good that can come? They arranged a meeting and I went.
So they reached out to you?
Yeah. I went to their house on a Sunday and spent several hours. I gave them a variety of options. I said you can partner with me, but I think you should meet with some other folks as well because you’re making a big decision. I suggested a few members of the legislature that had been there longer. I said I’m just a freshman. I suggested a few Democrats. I said they’re the majority party and you may have better success there and asked them to take some time and think about it. I said I would arrange some of those meetings.
But they made a decision and said we want to partner with you. That started what was a long process.
Your name has been floated as a potential mayoral candidate in 2012 and many people I’ve talked to have said you’re following the Pete Wilson playbook: Marines, state Assembly and then mayor. I’m wondering if you run for mayor would you pledge to serve your entire term without running for a higher office off of that?
Let me back up. I don’t know if I’m going to run yet. I haven’t made the decision. I think any time you run for an office, whatever that office is, that’s a question that’s going to come up. I think any office that I ran for, particularly the first time, I think you would have to commit to serving the entirety of your term. But I haven’t decided and I want to be clear I don’t know what I’m going to do in ’12.
Where do you stand on gay marriage?
I think marriage is between a man and a woman because my family and my faith teach me that. But I don’t believe it’s government’s job to make that same determination for everyone else.
So if you were in Mayor Jerry Sanders’ position when he had to decide whether he was going to veto that resolution (supporting gay marriage in 2007), what would you have done?
I don’t know. I voted against Proposition 8. I don’t think it’s government’s job to make that determination for everyone else.
What are your thoughts on the city’s Proposition D, (a half-cent sales tax increase coupled with 10 financial reforms)?
I think the most important thing and the best way to deal with the budget deficit is to try to get the economy going again. I don’t think you do that by raising taxes.
So you would be against it?
What do you do to balance a 2012 budget deficit? The mayor has said not passing it means you’re going to have to lay off public safety workers.
I think it’s the same problem we face at the state. These are difficult issues. I think you have to go through line-by-line and say what are the reforms we can make? What are the changes we can make? And then you have to make some difficult decisions. A lot of these problems that we’re encountering weren’t caused in one year and you’re not necessarily going to fix them all in one year.
We’re going to have to have a real conversation about what is the role of government. Is it there to provide jobs or to provide services? We’re going to have to have a real conversation about pensions, and about the out year obligations. We’re going to have a real conversation about how we restrain spending in the good years and hold excess money in reserve for when we have these downturns.
Opponents of the measure basically say the same things, that we have to look at pensions and health care and outsourcing, but whatever you do on those things you’re not going to solve the problem immediately. Is there anything you can point to do immediately?
On the city budget, I don’t know because I haven’t spent a lot of time looking at it. At some point in the future, if I become a candidate, I’ll have to deal with those issues and spend time and get up to speed on them.
At the state level where we face these similar types of these situations, you have to go back and say, where were we a few years ago and what services have been added since then?
Let’s talk about the Department of Corrections for a second. They’ve had over the last five years a 30 percent increase in the number of administrators. Why? They don’t have any more prisoners and they don’t have any more guards. What are you administering more of? They have 17 offices in Sacramento. Why? These are the types of things we have to ask.
— Interview conducted and edited by LIAM DILLON