The local GOP and its allies are sending a familiar picture of an empty chair into San Diegans’ mailboxes.

The empty chair represents former Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, who’s supposedly missing from his job. Hitting Fletcher for missing votes in the Assembly was the most persistent attack against him in the last mayoral campaign. A new mailer, matched with a website titled “WhereIsFletcher.Com,” and Twitter account “@noshownathan,” debuted this week.

The reason you’re seeing the empty chair again is simple. It worked last time.

Polling done by a political action committee supporting GOP-endorsed mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio on the eve of the last mayoral primary showed 81 percent of Fletcher supporters were less likely to vote for him once they heard about his absenteeism. It was the most effective line of attack against him, the poll found. Following a brief surge after Fletcher left the Republican Party to become an independent, Fletcher ended up third in the primary.

In the last campaign, Fletcher defended himself from the attack by saying nothing was happening in Sacramento on many of the days he missed, and that he should be judged by his ability to get legislation and policy passed rather than how frequently he pushed a button.

The absence narrative has followed Fletcher, now a Democrat who works as a senior director for corporate development at Qualcomm, into the current campaign thanks to a spiraling series of events.

10News relied on anonymous sources for a September story that claimed Fletcher didn’t log into Qualcomm’s internal system for more than a month, and made more than $400,000 a year. Fletcher and Qualcomm denied that not logging onto the system meant that he wasn’t working, and that he made $400,000, though he declined to disclose his salary.

Soon after, another television station, KUSI, ran a story without any attribution claiming Fletcher was being paid $400,000 “for what amounts to a no-show job at Qualcomm.” Fletcher’s campaign told U-T San Diego Fletcher earned $220,000 a year at Qualcomm and that he was taking a pay cut while he was running for mayor.

This week, the GOP-friendly Lincoln Club of San Diego County began sending mail pieces quoting the 10 News and KUSI stories on Fletcher’s attendance at Qualcomm and his salary.

A look at the 2013 mailers:

2013 Fletcher Empty Chair Ad
Lincoln Club vs. Nathan Fletcher mailer side 2

And from 2012:


The most recent mailers prompted an exchange between Qualcomm’s CEO Paul Jacobs and Lincoln Club head Bill Lynch. Jacobs, a major supporter of Fletcher, again denied the claims about Fletcher’s salary and work attendance and demanded a retraction. Lynch said he was unaware Qualcomm had criticized 10 News and KUSI’s reporting.

A new round of stories followed, asking Fletcher for proof of his earnings, which he provided Friday afternoon. Fletcher’s pay stubs show what he said: He made $220,000 and took a pay cut for the mayoral run.

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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