KPBS Special Series: The Race For San Diego Mayor
Monday, March 5, 2012
SAN DIEGO The sun was just coming up in Little Italy, but on a recent Wednesday morning, Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher was already hard at work. Fletcher is a devotee of Cross Fit, a demanding workout that focuses on stretching, weightlifting and shorter, intense bursts of cardio. On this morning his routine consists of lifting nearly 200 pounds several times. That’s followed by 500 yards on a rowing machine, 50 kettle bell swings, 100 squats and rowing 500 more yards. Fletcher completes the cycle in 8 minutes and 25 seconds, which he’s satisfied with.
Republican Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher often says it’s time for a new era in San Diego politics, and he wants to be the one to usher it in as San Diego’s next mayor.
The Race For San Diego Mayor
Fletcher tries to work out four days a week. The married father of two boys said he will often give up an hour of sleep to get in a good workout.
“I find my physical health and my mental health are really closely aligned,” he said. “And so, it’s a great stress relief, I have more energy during the day, I feel better. I also like the competitive nature of this workout.”
Fletcher goes through his workout with a focused concentration. It’s the same concentration he’ll need to bring to the mayor’s race if he wants to come out on top.
Fletcher faces competitors who have high name recognition. And while he shares his name with San Diego’s wealthy Fletcher family, he’s not related to them. His opponents are also steeped in local politics. But Fletcher has spent his time in office in Sacramento where state issues rule the day. He was first elected to the Assembly in 2008. Prior to his election, the 35-year-old spent 10 years in the Marines, including a tour in the Sunni Triangle region of Iraq. Fletcher is the youngest major candidate in the race. Still, he doesn’t see himself as a newbie. In fact, he said his experience is his greatest asset.
“I’ve led men in combat. We’ve literally made life and death decisions under direct enemy fire,” he said. “We’ve demonstrated the ability to lead in challenging and difficult environments. And, more importantly, we’ve demonstrated an ability to grasp complex and difficult issues and build those coalitions that are necessary to achieve important things.”
Fletcher often cites his ability to work across party lines. And several pieces of legislation have made him better known in San Diego, though for different reasons.
Perhaps his most high profile bill was Chelsea’s Law, which increases penalties for violent sex offenders. It was named after Chelsea King, who was raped and murdered by a convicted sex offender in Rancho Bernardo in 2010. Fletcher said King’s parents approached him about authoring the legislation, which passed unanimously in both the state Assembly and Senate. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed it into law.
It was a different bill that brought Fletcher more critical attention. In October 2010 Fletcher authored a state bill that allowed more tax money to be diverted for downtown San Diego redevelopment. The City Council had begun considering the issue on its own and some members blasted Fletcher for swooping in on the issue. But Fletcher makes no apologies for the bill.
“If I have the opportunity to go and get billions of dollars for infrastructure which is crumbling, provide more money for our city, more money for our schools and let San Diegans keep more of their money in a way that there’ll be a full debate on how it’s spent, I’ll do it every single day,” he said.
Despite that rocky entry into local San Diego politics, Fletcher stresses he’s the man to guide the city into a new political era.
“Our city has really been through an awful decade. It’s a period of time that’s really defined by 'Enron by the Sea,'” he said. “And I think that this election offers us an opportunity to close that chapter on San Diego… But that does require a new mayor. It requires a new vision, a new energy and a new generation of leadership.”
And Fletcher is weighing in on hot local topics as well. He supports the pension reform measure that would replace pensions with 401(k)s for most new city hires. He wants to streamline City Hall bureaucracy to make it easier to fix San Diego’s aging infrastructure. And he said city government should be more involved with local schools, which he calls an economic and moral issue. Fletcher said local businesses are telling him they need a better skilled workforce.
“I was meeting with a group of executives at Qualcomm and they said, 'we have hundreds of jobs open today. And we have thousands of applicants and none of the applicants have the skills for the jobs of today,'” he said. “And so I think, what we really need to drive, if we want to be the economic base of the future, we have to have the education system of the future.”
Fletcher isn’t concerned about polls that have shown him trailing his three main rivals. He said there’s a clear difference between him and the other candidates, and he’s ready for the race.
Full interview below:
Video by Nicholas McVicker