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Mayoral candidate Nathan Fletcher made his surprising announcement last Wednesday to cast off the Republican Party and become an independent. At the time, Fletcher was mired near the bottom of the polls. But since his decision, Fletcher is being treated like the biggest story in the race as it enters the final nine weeks until the June primary.

NBC 7 San Diego’s Gene Cubbison devoted his Sunday morning public affairs show, “Politically Speaking,” to Fletcher. Cubbison interviewed Fletcher alongside the local Republican Party’s Barrett Tetlow and Democratic Party’s Jess Durfee. Tetlow and Durfee hammered Fletcher and the assemblyman responded.

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Cubbison later had a segment with myself and Republican political analyst John Dadian to discuss the implications of Fletcher’s decision. The consensus: It’s a bold move that either could catapult Fletcher into the November general election or end his political career.

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Don’t forget that just three weeks ago, Fletcher tried to argue he was the most conservative, authentically Republican candidate in the race, quite a turnabout from where he is now. At the time, Fletcher was trying to block the local Republican Party from giving City Councilman Carl DeMaio its endorsement. Fletcher failed.

In the speech, Fletcher detailed his long history of Republican activism starting when he walked precincts for Republicans as a teenager and slept on floors while working for candidates later on. I quoted liberally from Fletcher’s speech before the party’s endorsement in my story the day Fletcher announced his decision. The party’s deliberations weren’t public and I obtained a recording of Fletcher’s remarks from a source. Later in the week, someone posted the entire five-minute speech on YouTube. It’s well worth a listen to see how much Fletcher tied himself to the party very recently.

YouTube video

Fletcher’s decision has prompted a lot of coverage in California and across the country. Here’s a roundup of some of the most interesting takes and some other tidbits.

• The biggest story that emerged from Fletcher’s decision was from New York Times columnist David Brooks, who wrote a paean to Fletcher, using Fletcher as the example of whether more moderate Republicans could survive anywhere in politics:

Fletcher is the decided underdog in the June 5 voting. But he represents a nationally important test case. Can the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, who were trained to be ruthlessly pragmatic, find a home in either political party? Can center-right moderates find a home in the G.O.P., even in coastal California? As the two parties become more insular, is it possible to mount an independent alternative?

Fletcher’s campaign said the publicity from Brooks’ column has paid national dividends with donations coming in from people across the country. Fletcher’s decision also appeared on MSNBC liberal commentator Rachel Maddow’s blog.

• Two thoughtful, reasoned articles from Fox & Hounds, a statewide politics and business blog, took differing positions on Fletcher’s decision. Joe Mathews, a journalist and longtime follower of California politics, called Fletcher’s move “political suicide.” Political commentator John Wildermuth said the decision said more about state Republicans than Fletcher. On Monday, Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton followed along the same theme: “Tell me why any California politician with statewide ambition would want to be tagged a Republican!”

• One important note about both Brooks’ and Skelton’s columns. They label DeMaio an “orthodox conservative,” but that’s hardly the case. We’ve had a lot of trouble defining DeMaio’s political ideology simply. But an “orthodox conservative” label would seemingly need to fit the traditional GOP stance on social issues. DeMaio doesn’t believe local government’s role is to weigh in on many of them. DeMaio, however, does fit the more combative stance taken by the local GOP on fiscal and development issues. Here’s our recent look on how he came to be the politician he is.

• Jon Fleischman, publisher of the influential conservative FlashReport blog on state politics, was so distraught that he wrote a whole story on Thursday night about how he couldn’t write a story about Fletcher’s decision.

• It’s also worth noting that Fletcher’s wife, Mindy, switched from the Republican Party to become an independent, too. Mindy Fletcher used to be a campaign spokeswoman for President George W. Bush and worked as a deputy for former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. CityBeat editor Dave Rolland asked Mindy Fletcher on Twitter if she was switching, too. Here’s her response:

@drolland @nathanfletcher just saw this Dave — yes I am leaving too. The Reps killing the tax cuts last year was my last straw.

— Mindy Fletcher (@mindytf) March 29, 2012

• The funniest one-liner about Fletcher’s switch came from Bob Filner, the lone Democrat in the mayor’s race. Toward the end of a forum on the day Fletcher made his announcement, Filner told the crowd: “I wanna tell you, Nathan and I were scheduled to have dinner this Sunday and he just postponed it a week. And I said, ‘Well, by then you may be a Democrat!’”

Liam Dillon is a news reporter for He covers San Diego City Hall, the 2012 mayor’s race and big building projects. What should he write about next?

Please contact him directly at or 619.550.5663.

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Liam Dillon

Liam Dillon was formerly a senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He led VOSD’s investigations and wrote about how regular people...

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