Sept. 25 2013 10:03 AM

Behind-the-scenes maneuvering goes public

7-20 news 1 photo
Nathan Fletcher, object of controversy
Photo by David Rolland
"A liberal is a man too broad-minded to take his own side in a quarrel."

—Robert Frost

It's still early in the electoral sprint to replace departed Mayor Bob Filner, but elbows are already flying—and Democrats seem to be sustaining the bloodiest noses.

While San Diego's dwindling Republican faithful have lined up in lockstep behind the Blonde ("Newly Rebranded Gentler") Bomber, City Councilmember Kevin Faulconer, as their allegedly centrist model, local Democrats spent the last week pummeling each other over their smorgasbord of mayoral candidates.

It was like a rush hour of dieticians at the Souplantation salad bar. Minus the sneeze guard.

The fun started when, unbeknownst to the candidate, a questionnaire submitted by newly minted Democrat Nathan Fletcher to the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council—the Walmart of local labor organizations (that is, by size and influence)—mysteriously landed in the hands of labor's most vocal hater, San Diego County GOP Chairman Tony Krvaric.

The questionnaire, which contained views that seemed 180 degrees from the Fletcher of his not-too-distant Republican days, became instant political fodder for social-media wonks and the mainstream media.

As an editorial in the all-in-for- Faulconer U-T San Diego growled Saturday, Fletcher is "a politician with the gall to sell spasms of expedience as principled personal growth." Ouch, coming from the paper owned by Doug "My Way or the Highway" Manchester.

The Fletcher camp immediately began spinning the leak as an inside job intended to boost the chances for the labor council's chosen mayoral son, City Councilmember David Alvarez, who seems to be gaining significant political steam heading into the Nov. 19 special election.

Fletcher folks wondered how a questionnaire that's distributed and collected in the same room where it's reviewed could have managed to walk itself out of said room. Fingers began pointing at Mickey Kasparian, an influential labor-council member who's not been shy about sharing his distrust of Fletcher's political shifts in the sand.

Kasparian, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Local 135, called such a suggestion "a blatant lie" unworthy of print. "I have no idea where these ridiculous stories come from," he told Spin Cycle via email. He also branded as "garbage" the suggestion that he had teamed up with nemesis Krvaric for a Fletcher beat-down in exchange for some Republican money rolling in the direction of Alvarez's campaign coffers.

"We are doing our own work to get Alvarez elected. That's the way labor works. Period," the union president scoffed.

As far as hunting down the leaker, Kasparian said the labor council has "a process going on and will deal with that internally."

Leaks seem to be the communications choice du jour for this stunted election cycle.

While Krvaric was no doubt enjoying the internal battles among Democrats, he was emailing his followers with perky news about Faulconer.

"Did you see Kevin's fantastic segment on KUSI's San Diego People over the weekend?" he gushed last week. "Kevin's enthusiasm and sincerity comes across so well. Mrs. Krvaric is hard to impress and she was impressed when we watched it together…."

The email also included mention that "David Alvarez is getting some REAL traction in Democratic circles" and that the labor council would be conducting its first walk for him later that week. Krvaric ended the email with a final Fletcher dig: "This man is an empty suit, selling himself to the highest bidder."

In another email Friday, Krvaric noted that a "friend" had sent the Fletcher questionnaire to him, which he then gleefully distributed publicly with his own comments "to highlight exactly how severely his positions have changed in just 18 months. It's incredible. Pathetic, really.

"NO Republican or business person should be supporting this man. Ever. For anything," Krvaric concluded.

Back at Democrat Junction, three former party leaders emerged from the shadows Tuesday to put their chips on the Alvarez line heading into that evening's much-anticipated (and ill-timed for CityBeat's deadline!) endorsement vote among local Democratic delegates.

The glowing remarks from former party chairs Kennan Kaeder, Bob Jellison and Maureen Steiner about Alvarez's progressive chops seemed a conveniently timed counterstrike to the support Fletcher has received from most-recent past party chairman Jess Durfee, who only last year played up Fletcher's links to odiferous Republicans like Karl Rove.

"As you all know my goal, as chair of the party at that time, was to get our endorsed candidate into the run-off," Durfee wrote in a letter to party members Thursday, referring to Filner. "My comments were made without having ever met or talked with Nathan Fletcher. That was then."

After "many conversations" subsequently, Durfee said he's convinced that in order to prevent San Diego from receding into "the dark past through the election of Kevin Faulconer," that "Nathan Fletcher will be our strongest candidate in a head-to-head race" with the two-term Republican council member.

Durfee also noted in the letter that he's convinced that packets of information about Fletcher that were mailed anonymously to Democratic Central Committee members emanated from local Republicans, since the post office used was nearby local GOP headquarters in Rancho Bernardo.

"Is that a coincidence?" Durfee wrote. "I doubt it. These letters attack Nathan specifically. To be honest, I'm more than a little concerned as to how the updated Central Committee list got into the hands of those behind this."

Added Durfee, who signed the letter "Chair Emeritus": "There is nothing the Republican Party wants more than to create a chaotic atmosphere within the Democratic Party and to influence who [sic] we support."

It appears the first opportunity to see all the major Democratic candidates in one room will be Thursday evening in Hillcrest as San Diego Democrats for Equality hold a mayoral forum.

Not that Spin Cycle doesn't enjoy the political infighting (builds character—and columns), but let's get to some specifics on how San Diego can keep moving down the progressive path. OK with you, candidates? Good!

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