Originally published March 28, 2012 at 8:32 a.m., updated March 28, 2012 at 4:41 p.m.
SAN DIEGO San Diego mayoral candidate Nathan Fletcher announced Wednesday he's leaving the Republican Party and re-registering as an Independent.
Fletcher originally made the announcement in a video posted on his web site, saying he was done "playing games" in partisan politics. He then explained his reasoning further to KPBS.
“It’s important now, in this election, to let San Diegans know the type of mayor I’ll be, what my focus will be, and that I’m not going to be a mayor that’s going to play games or worry about what party insiders think,” he said.
Fletcher was originally one of three Republican candidates, along with Councilman Carl DeMaio and District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. Congressman Bob Filner is running as the lone Democrat.
Earlier this month, the Republican Party of San Diego chose to endorse DeMaio after committee members received an anonymous packet in the mail with documents questioning whether Fletcher is conservative enough. Fletcher responded with a post on the conservative blog sdrostra.com outlining his conservative stances.
"I have never voted for a tax increase," he wrote. "I have consistently stood up to labor — I have one of the lowest labor scorecards."
Fletcher told KPBS he never expected to get the party's endorsement.
"It has devolved to a point where it takes a Carl DeMaio-type candidate to say, 'I’m going to make San Diego the Wisconsin of the West,'” Fletcher said.
When asked why he did not decide to leave the GOP before its endorsement, Fletcher said it's a decision he's been "struggling with for a long time," and that he "got grief" from Republicans for some of his past decisions, including his support of repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and for promoting renewable energy.
Although Fletcher is not running again for his state Assembly seat, his decision to leave the Republican Party might hurt his chances in future elections. But Fletcher said he does not care.
“I don’t care about future success. I care about San Diego," he said. "I care about the opportunity we have in this election, with this mayor. That really is my highest priority.”
Because Fletcher has been consistently ranked low in polls of potential mayoral candidates, some have criticized his decision as a last ditch effort to advance past the June primary. But Fletcher said critics will criticize everything you do, and that some asked why he would leave the GOP when he's the only candidate steadily rising in the polls.
“I believe absolutely that I could have won the race as a Republican, but I don’t think I could govern the city the way it needs to be governed as one,” he said.
DeMaio released a statement today about Fletcher's decision.
"From my time as a watchdog who helped uncover the city’s financial problems to my leadership on ending sweetheart deals at City Hall, I have taken on powerful insiders from both political parties to fight for reform on behalf of taxpayers," he said. "That’s why my campaign has attracted the broadest and deepest level of support from Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike – and I look forward to reaching across all political parties to finish the job of reform."
Dumanis also issued a statement citing her experience making "tough decisions."
"When you're in a tough spot, you stick to your principles," she said. "You stay true to who you are. You don't panic, you don't get desperate. My principles haven't changed."
Filner released a statement saying "today is just like every other day in my campaign" and questioning whether voters could trust Fletcher.
"Although I usually don’t agree with Republican Part(y) Chair Tony Krvaric, I think this time he has gotten it right: 'It is impossible to trust Nathan Fletcher, because he isn’t about ideas, principles or solutions,'" the statement said. "Today’s move is all about his own personal ambitions for higher office, nothing more. This is pandering at its worst.
"I have lived in San Diego a long time and I know San Diegans are too smart to fall for this political ploy."