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Election notebook: Fletcher responds to crossfire

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Symbolically flanked to his left and right by enlarged attack ads sent out by his Democratic and Republican mayoral opponents, Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher at a press conference this week said the other San Diego mayoral candidates were making his point that he’s the only choice who isn’t driven by ideological rigidity.

The two attack ads were completely contradictory, he said, demonstrating that he isn’t the guy either of them portrays him to be.

The mailer from a political action committee for Republican City Councilman Carl DeMaio featured a picture of Fletcher and Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown following a budget compromise that would have raised taxes on out-of-state corporations.

Another mailer paid for by those loyal to Democratic Congressman Bob Filner pushed the long-standing conservative pedigree of the until-recently Republican Fletcher with pictures of former President George W. Bush, for whom Fletcher’s wife Mindy used to work, former congressman Newt Gingrich and Sen. John McCain.

“They are both right,” Fletcher said, hitting upon his campaign theme that he’s the candidate who can bring opposing parties to the table to find agreement. “I will stand with anyone who has solutions that move us forward. The problem with our politics today is that you aren’t allowed to stand with someone of a different party if you agree with their ideas.”

Fletcher’s campaign hasn’t hesitated to go on the offensive, either, releasing its share of negative ads, and going after other opponents directly in press conferences and debates.

But Fletcher said the difference is that he’s the subject of two attack ads that fundamentally contradict the other’s message.

DeMaio hits Fletcher on missed votes

The DeMaio campaign has settled on a favored line of attack against Fletcher. District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis has picked it up, as well.

The two full-time San Diego-based candidates have zeroed in on Fletcher’s spotty attendance and voting record in the state assembly.

Running their mayoral campaigns here, both Fletcher and Filner have missed a number of days and votes in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., respectively.

Specifically, the DeMaio campaign has hammered Fletcher’s 19 days in attendance out of 64 legislative sessions, a 70 percent absence rate.

A U-T San Diego report this week debunked the Fletcher campaign’s rebuttal, which claimed Fletcher had a better attendance record than either DeMaio or Filner.

It revealed that Fletcher had voted 47 percent of the time, while Filner missed just over 50 percent of house votes.

DeMaio, meanwhile, has voted nearly 100 percent of the time this year, according to the U-T report.

Previously, the Fletcher campaign had touted missed vote totals from the three candidates during 2011.

The campaign’s totals had Filner missing 137 votes, DeMaio 88 and Fletcher just 52.

The campaign’s totals for Filner and DeMaio were largely accurate, but held Fletcher to a much lower standard.

Procedural, consent and amendment votes weren’t included in Fletcher’s total, though they were in Filner’s.

Dumanis has been able to jab the others, Fletcher especially, for missed votes without having to fear a return attack.

As district attorney, she has no voting record. She and DeMaio, however, have the benefit of working in the same city in which they’re campaigning.

Dumanis argues against SDUSD insolvency

San Diego Unified School District Trustree Scott Barnett on Thursday said the district is insolvent, faced with a budget shortfall of more than $100 million.

He called current attempts to close the shortfall desperate, and told City News Service that at the next board meeting he’d recommend allowing the state to take over the district.

Dumanis has made giving the mayor greater control of the school district the centerpiece of her campaign.

She’d do so by expanding the size of the board from five to nine, by adding four mayoral appointees.

She released a statement saying San Diego Unified needs to accept the difficult path of reform, just as the city did in 2005, rather than declaring bankruptcy.

“A state takeover of our schools would be a disaster for our kids, and our local economy," the statement read. "No CEO is going to relocate their company to a city where their employees’ kids will be attending schools that have financially gone belly-up, and a state takeover would only make it easier for the governors of other states who come to San Diego and attempt to lure businesses and jobs away.”

DeMaio says budget’s still bloated

The city’s budget last year contained more than $130 million in waste, according to DeMaio, despite claims that service reductions have brought the city to the point that there’s no more room for cuts.

In a press conference at City Hall, meaning he was acting as a councilman and not a mayoral candidate, DeMaio released his annual report on waste in the city, and called on the rest of the council to push for change.

The majority of his list of wasted funds was employee benefit programs and overtime pay, along with duplicative services and payment overages.

He also said other council offices and the Independent Budget Analyst should be benchmarked to the same 15 percent budget reduction he subjected himself to when he took office.

As a symbol of waste, DeMaio used an air filter as a prop during his press conference.

He said the city had paid a 359 percent premium on air filters after being overcharged by a contractor.

Darren Pudgil, Mayor Sanders' press secretary, quickly responded to the report, saying DeMaio’s figures were out of date.

The air filter, for instance, he said was caught by the city’s auditor and rectified immediately.

The report also considered waste in the city’s fleet services, which in the time since has gone under a new contract after coming through the competitive bidding program DeMaio has supported. He said he still has questions about the fairness of the program.

New wave of endorsements for Fletcher

In a series of press conferences this past week, Fletcher announced he had received various levels of support from city leaders.

City Council President Tony Young endorsed Fletcher’s education plan. The previously released plan aims to end the digital divide for city students and expand work force development programs in school and for retraining adults.

Economic Development Corp. CEO Mark Cafferty also signed off on the plan, along with a group of educators and parents.

He also announced the endorsement of Gary South, a loyal Democratic political strategist.

“I've never supported a Republican,” South said. “But I made the maximum contribution to my friend Nathan Fletcher because I've seen him in action.”

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