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Bipartisanship In San Diego Mayoral Race: Strategy or Sincerity?

by Faith Eischen, published

(from left to right) Carl DeMaio, Bonnie Dumanis, Bob Filner, and Nathan Fletcher

Democratic San Diego Mayoral Candidate, Rep. Bob Filner, announced this week to a local newspaper that if elected he would offer Nathan Fletcher, an independent, as well as Donna Frye, positions within his administration. Interestingly enough, Filner just ran against Fletcher in the open primary in June. The admission adds another layer of intrigue to an already dynamic San Diego mayoral race.

San Diego has the one of the largest proportion of independent voters in California. As such, political candidates must appeal to a diverse group of voters and not just their political parties for the upcoming general election. In an era where party affiliation and partisanship trumps effective legislation, San Diegan candidates are crossing party lines, and making headlines for it, before the general election. Whether candidates are embracing bipartisanship for the San Diego mayoral race to ensure a more effective city government, or simply strategizing to get independents’ votes, is up for interpretation.

Rep. Bob Filner is a registered Democrat currently seated as congressman of California’s 51st District. In California’s first-ever open-primaries, Rep. Bob Filner (D) competed against City Councilman Carl DeMaio (R), Nathan Fletcher (NPP), and Bonnie Dumanis (R). Filner and DeMaio advanced to November's general election.

Although in the end, it was the two status quo party candidates that came out on top, Nathan Fletcher made waves by disaffiliating from the GOP just a few months prior to the open-primary. He came in third, trailing behind Bob Filner. Since losing in the primary, Fletcher’s political insight has not gone unnoticed or maybe his newly declared independence is seen as a key piece to winning the mayoral election?

Regardless, on Monday, Rep. Bob Filner announced that if elected as San Diego’s next mayor, he would offer a high-profile civic-project position in his administration to independent Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, according to the U-T San Diego.

Filner told the U-T, “he became friends with Fletcher on the campaign trail where he often joked about offering various jobs to Fletcher after hearing his answers to debate questions.”

“I became very impressed, as you were, with (Fletcher’s) creativity, with his articulateness, with the vision that he had for the city, especially in terms of the economic development issues that we’ve been talking about,” Filner told the U-T. “And as mayor I’m going to create a position that’s concentrated on these big projects ... Nathan Fletcher is my first choice for such a position. I think he would have the trust of all the community in dealing with that. As you said, he has the intelligence and creativity to do that.”

Filner’s expressed excitement about Fletcher indicates he is more than willing to look outside his Democratic Party in creating his mayoral administration if elected come November.

Nathan Fletcher is set to leave his California Assembly seat in December, which happens to be around the same time the next San Diegan mayor will be sworn in. Fletcher told the U-T, “he was open to the idea without naming Filner directly.”

“I care deeply about the future of San Diego and believe it is vital the next mayor bring coalitions together to get things done,” Fletcher said in his statement to the U-T. “The mayor is the leader of our city and if asked to do something to help the community, I would have to seriously consider it.”

However, Rep. Bob Filner is not the only one trying to intensify his competitive edge. Councilman Carl DeMaio recently announced Art Castañares, “the former chair of the local Democratic Party, was joining his campaign as a strategist.”

Both candidates are making moves to appeal to more moderate voters and define themselves as political candidates outside their stereotypical party labels. But the question remains, are these campaign decisions in place to get them elected? Or are their attempts to create moderate administrations genuine and for the good of San Diego?

Nathan Fletcher, a retired military serviceman, was elected Assemblyman representing the 75th district as a Republican in 2008. He was reelected again in 2010 as a Republican as well. His long-time Republican-party affiliation was severed when he changed his party affiliation to No Party Preference in March, just a few months shy of the open primary. His decision to do so, incited speculation as well as support. Critics wondered if he changed his party affiliation to differentiate himself in the open primary because he was running against three other similarly well-established Republicans. Or was his switch sincere? And if it was, did he believe switching to an independent was most suitable for San Diego’s needs?

Assemblyman Fletcher is still young and relatively new to the political game. Rep. Bob Filner’s attempts to diversify his administration if he wins, may suggest alternative motives. By including Nathan Fletcher, Rep. Bob Filner may appear to break down partisan walls while curbing Fletcher’s political future: Keep friends close, but keep enemies closer.

For now, Nathan Fletcher’s political future remains unknown. If he continues to affiliate as an independent, he may find independent voters on his side in ever-increasingly moderate San Diego, as well as the potential political success this brings in the future.

With an increase in more independent-minded and moderate voters, politicians must do what they can to garnish these voters support. Only time will tell if politicians will change their way of thinking to remain relevant to society’s political changes or if they will merely change their parties to continue serving special interests while in office.

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