Funny how a truly awful option can make a fairly mediocre one look super-swell. Like when Al Gore was running against George W. Bush for president in 2000. Gore was certainly nothing to sing about, but next to Bush, he looked like the only possible answer to all of life's problems. And contrasted with the eventual Republican nominee in 2012, Barack Obama, who's not always a pure progressive delight, will appear as the embodiment of [insert your favorite deity here].
That's the sort of sensation we're feeling in the wake of this week's official confirmation that Republicans Carl DeMaio and Nathan Fletcher will indeed run for mayor of San Diego.
Given the current lineup of suitors, we'd like to announce that we've decided to start dating Fletcher.
It feels weird, yes—considering endorsing a white male Republican over a gay man and two gay women, especially a white male Republican who we once thought was stoking irrational public fear of sex offenders and still hasn't completely seen the light on the sex-offender issue. But standing next to a hyperventilating, truth-challenged, self-righteous, narcissistic ideologue like DeMaio—wow, Fletcher looks downright dreamy.
Now, before you Democrats freak out, know this: We're only dating. Fletcher could end up breaking our heart. We could start to flirt with someone like Chris Kehoe, who, frankly, has never really ignited our passion the way Donna Frye has. Or Bob Filner. And if Frye jumps into the race, we'll dump Fletcher down the drain like an expired gallon of milk.
At this early stage, City Councilmember DeMaio has to be considered a front-runner for one of the two spots that will advance from the June 2012 primary election to the November general. He's gathered a base of rabid, anti-labor, anti-tax conservatives while state Assemblymember Fletcher and District attorney Bonnie Dumanis are in danger of splitting the remaining pool of conservative voters who are turned off by DeMaio's divisiveness. Should they enter the fray as expected, state Sen. Kehoe (who's officially exploring a mayoral run) and Congressmember Filner, both Democrats, will likely vie for the other runoff slot.
Fletcher first must find a way to rise above Dumanis. He can do that by playing up his back-story and connecting with people in a way in which DeMaio and Dumanis don't seem capable.
Fletcher is a young and fresh 34 years old. He served five years in the Marines and did a stint in Iraq, picking up a few medals along the way. He doesn't come from wealth, and he and his political-strategist wife Mindy have two adopted children. To boot, he's a triathlete and marathon runner. Mainstream voters will eat that stuff up. The one blemish on his résumé is his stint as currently imprisoned Duke Cunningham's chief of staff; he might want to downplay that.
One-on-one, Fletcher is engaging, seems sincere and displays obvious intelligence. He has the capacity for empathy toward concerns that are typically associated with liberals, having participated in an early-morning homelessness survey last year and voted against the discriminatory Proposition 8.
Two weeks ago, Fletcher and San Diego City Council President Tony Young launched their "education listening tour" at Crawford High School in City Heights, an invite-only series of conversations about improving schooling. We were there and were impressed with Fletcher's comportment; he actually listened. DeMaio would have used the event to bloviate ceaselessly about how the teachers union is destroying education. After the meeting, Fletcher talked excitedly about his favorite school—Los Peñasquitos Academy, a public school in the Poway district that he says is succeeding wildly under union rules.
Fletcher's apparent courting of union workers—he spoke at his candidacy announcement about not blaming employees for the city's plight and has declined thus far to support a ballot measure that would force new employees to switch from a pension to a 401(k) plan—might be calculated, but we like it.
The Assembly member will take heat from DeMaio for his successful yet covert coup to extend the life of Downtown redevelopment, and we'll toss him like chum from the back of a fishing boat if it turns out that his reason for that move was so he can build the Spanos family a new Chargers stadium Downtown at taxpayer expense.
When it comes time to put the ring on the finger, could we really bring ourselves to endorse a Republican over a halfway decent Democrat? A lot will depend on how Kehoe and Filner handle themselves. For now, we're giving Fletcher a long look.
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