Fletcher’s Chutzpah


Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, who is running for mayor of San Diego, has received national publicity for his decision to leave the Republican Party and re-register as independent. He's also come under criticism.

Jon Fleischman, the Republican Party operative who publishes the conservative site Flashreport.org, posted the text of Fletcher's speech seeking the endorsement of the Republican Party in San Diego -- a speech given 17 days before the assemblyman and mayoral candidate left the party.

I was struck by how partisan the speech was. It began: "Thank you for having me. I’ve been a Republican my entire life, which is telling because I came out of a Democratic household." And it included boasts about his opposition to taxes and his work pressuring Republicans to toe the party line.

Fletcher also described the party as a team of which he was proud to be a member.

"I was the political director of the California Republican Party, where we gave more money and support to our grassroots causes and our county parties than at any point in our history, because I believe in that effort. I traveled around the country teaching youth outreach and voter registration at the request of the National Party. Then I went abroad to promote our principles and ideas in East Timor and Cambodia and Serbia. And time and again I’ve demonstrated commitment to our cause as a team player."

But what's most striking was a passage at the end, where he asked for the endorsement -- and suggested he would love to be on the GOP's team even if the party didn't issue an endorsement.

"If this party chooses to endorse, I’d be honored to be your endorsed candidate. If you choose not to endorse, I’ll be honored to join our team either as a member or as a nominee for mayor after the primary as we defeat Bob Filner and as we get our city back on track."

Of course, Fletcher didn't get the endorsement. And the party chose to endorse -- someone else. Some Republicans are reading Fletcher's original speech as deceptive, given that he left the party and didn't remain on the team. At the same time, this speech could also be read as a warning -- since he didn't say what he would do if someone else got the endorsement.

I'm not a big fan of political loyalty; political leadership often requires betrayal of one's strongest backers. And Republicans have done themselves no favors with a scorched-earth approach to their own party members who challenge party orthodoxy. But giving a speech like that and leaving the party a little more than two weeks later? That's chutzpah. And Republicans are right, in this case, to be a little angry.

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