In recent days, San Diego Democrats have received mail from an unlikely interloper.

City Councilman Carl DeMaio, the GOP-endorsed mayoral candidate, wants voters to know that his rival Nathan Fletcher is more like him than them.

DeMaio has sent at least four separate mailers attacking Fletcher from the left, an effort to blunt the newly independent assemblyman’s standing with liberals. The strategy seems clear. DeMaio, the race’s presumed frontrunner, would rather face Democratic Congressman Bob Filner in the November general election than Fletcher. So DeMaio’s doing what he can to bury Fletcher.

The plan is resulting in some rather ironic messaging.

DeMaio highlights quotations from reliably liberal politicians Donna Frye, Lori Saldaña and Jerry Brown. He also plays up a commentary from lefty website, OB Rag. The site has recently called DeMaio “a dangerous mean-spirited liar” and “the snarling pit-bull of the hard right.” Not surprisingly, it got fired up about the DeMaio mailer.

The advertisements not only feature lefty politicians, but also lefty rhetoric. One mailer slams Fletcher for votes to, “cut off children and seniors.” By that DeMaio meant Fletcher voted for budget packages championed by Republicans in the state Legislature that cut education and welfare programs rather than raise taxes. Of course, in other situations DeMaio and his supporters criticize Fletcher for not being ideologically pure enough for Republicans.

Another hits Fletcher for authoring the “Midnight Deal,” last-minute legislation that eliminated a key limit on downtown San Diego redevelopment. The mailer says Fletcher “voted to take millions from local schools and give the money to downtown developers.” Of course, this ignores that DeMaio brought up eliminating the same downtown redevelopment limit more than a year before Fletcher’s bill. DeMaio can rightly criticize the lack of transparency surrounding Fletcher’s bill. But if DeMaio’s hitting Fletcher for taking millions from schools and giving it to developers, it’s worth knowing that DeMaio wanted to do that first.

DeMaio’s campaign spokesman, Ryan Clumpner, saw no irony in the mailers.

“People on both the left and the right should be aware that Nathan Fletcher is not who he says he is,” Clumpner said.

Asked if DeMaio was more concerned about going one-on-one against Fletcher rather than Filner in the general, Clumpner replied: “We’re pretty confident that we’re going to be facing Bob Filner in the general.” He added, however, that the DeMaio campaign is taking every opponent seriously.

Meantime, Filner realizes he’s the beneficiary of all this. So far the congressman has done far less advertising than DeMaio and Fletcher and hasn’t done a single television spot. Filner told local PR man Tony Manolatos on Wednesday night that DeMaio is his best weapon against Fletcher.

Clarification: This story originally said DeMaio and Fletcher sent more mail advertisements than Filner. We’ve clarified it so that it now compares the candidates’ overall advertising, including television.

Liam Dillon is a news reporter for Voice of San Diego. 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 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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