Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher’s decision to leave the Republican Party to run as an independent drove much of the coverage and conversation of San Diego’s mayoral primary.
After finishing in third place, Fletcher is now left without a party to help him lick his wounds before deciding what’s next.
In the meantime, he said he hasn’t considered whether he’ll endorse either of the candidates who defeated him, or if he’ll have any involvement in the general election.
He called a press conference Wednesday to say he congratulated Councilman Carl DeMaio and Rep. Bob Filner for advancing to a November runoff, and said he had no idea where his career in public service would take him. (video)
“I’m going surfing,” he said. “Beyond that I don’t know.”
Fletcher said he has no regrets over his March decision to leave his party, a gambit that took him from polling in the low digits to a third-place finish with 23 percent of the vote.
“I think it really tapped into something that a broad base of the public feels, which is a frustration with politics as usual,” he said.
Though he said he wished he had left the Republican Party sooner, he doesn’t think people who were drawn to his message of compromise need to leave their parties, and wasn’t looking to start a movement.
“I slept great last night,” he said. “There is something about going to war that changes you. I woke up this morning, and all my limbs were attached to my own body.”
Though he said he hadn’t taken the time to think about the fall election, Fletcher has quickly become the object of Filner’s political affection. The longtime representative told KPBS on Wednesday that he was meeting with Fletcher later in the week to ask for his support against DeMaio.
Over the course of the mayor’s race, Fletcher became the most-attacked candidate, with his opponents leveling accusations over his past associations with various political figures, and also criticizing his attendance in the state Legislature while running his campaign.
DeMaio and Dumanis in debates frequently mentioned the 70 percent of legislative sessions he had missed and also labeled him the hand-picked candidate of downtown insiders.
Filner circulated mailers filled with photos of Fletcher arm in arm with Republican heavyweights Sen. John McCain, former President George W. Bush and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. DeMaio’s campaign, from the other side, filled mailboxes with fliers of Fletcher with Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown.
Fletcher said he’s not interested in analyzing whether things would have turned out differently if he had spent more time in Sacramento.
If he weren’t attacked for that voting record, he says, he would’ve been attacked for something else.
Likewise, he said he has no interest in imagining the race if Dumanis, who took 13 percent of the vote, hadn’t been in it.
“At the end of the day that’s not the world we live in,” he said.
Fletcher refused to speculate why he wasn't able to get more support, saying only that he lost because he didn't get enough votes.
Campaign observers speculated before the election that low voter turnout would hurt a moderate candidate, as partisan voters are generally the most driven to vote in primaries.
Just 24 percent of registered voters turned out for the election, which lacked a big-ticket choice like a competitve presidential race to draw attention.
Fletcher said he’d return to Sacramento to finish his term in the Assembly that runs through the end of the year, and then decide the next step in his commitment to public service.