Nathan Fletcher Signed Anti-Tax Pledge In 2007, Says He Would Not Sign It Now
CAVANAUGH: Nathan Fletcher currently serving in the California assembly representing the 75th district. And welcome. FLETCHER: Well, thank you for having me. It's a pleasure to actually be in studio as opposed to on the phone CAVANAUGH: You have seen a big boost in the polls after announcing that you were switching from the Republican party to become an independent. Is that when you expected? FLETCHER: Well, it is. I've had a long running frustration in my time in office with both parties. And the simple reality that in today's environment it is so partisan, and so dominated by the extremes, by the far right, and the far left, are there's an inability of people to sit down and negotiate and come to solutions. CAVANAUGH: You say you've had this frustration for quite some time, but until recently, you were campaigning for an endorsement by the Republican party for your mayoral candidacy. Therefore that's attracted some criticism that you're an Independent in name only. >> Well, you're always going to get criticized. And we knew that we would never get that endorsement. But we have a long track record, from the first time I was elected all the way through. Of working with people regardless of party. The legislation that was lest known was certainly Chelsea's law. But we've authored other legislation to allow people who have lost their job to keep thirds requirement health insurance. We did legislation to help homeless youth out there. We worked on legislation to help preserve and protect our environment. And time and again, we've demonstrated a willingness to buck the Republican party when I believed that was the right thing to do. And even before the move to independent, was the only candidate running who had colleagues of mine who were Republicans and Democrats supporting me because I focus on solutions, stepping out of your comfort zone, if it's the right thing to do, is exactly what I'll bring for mayor. We've just formalized it. And sent a powerful signal to the voters of exactly the type of mayor I'll be in elected. CAVANAUGH: And yet going back to that independent in name only, you signed the ultraservetive Grover Norquist's no tax pledge. Are you now backtracking on that commitment? FLETCHER: Well, I knowledge you build a stronger economy, help people keep jobs by keeping taxes low. And I have said by moving forward, my only pledge is to do the right thing for the people I represent. CAVANAUGH: So this doesn't apply to you anymore? FLETCHER: Well, it does. And I don't believe that coming in and raising your taxes is the way we put people back to work. But we've got to be able to have conversations. I worked with Jerry Brown on a loophole that would have brought millions. Dollars of new money intoical California. If you read the Union Tribune, they say that violates the pledge. Then so be it, we provided working relief to the working poor, small balance businesses, and manufacturers. And because of today's environment, you can't have rational conversations like that. And if I'm the mayor, we're going to have rational conversations about being economically competitive, investing in infrastructure, education, and making sure we're the best place for small businesses to create jobs. CAVANAUGH: On what issues do you really differ from the other Republicans in this race? It seems as if the three -- the independent and the two Republicans seem to have the same ideas on pension reform and other issues facing the mayor. FLETCHER: Well, I think that there is a stark and clear difference between FLETCHER and myself. We are two c9ompletely different people. I was in a meeting with someone, and about ten minutes into the meeting, I said you should support Carl FLETCHER. I'm hearing what you want, and what you want is not who I am, and I can only be who I am. He promises to make us the Wisconsin of the west, and he's not talking about cheese. He's talking about a state defined by paralysis and chaos, and conflict, and riot, he refers to people he disagrees with as the enemy. Well, I have fought in a war, I have seen an enemy. We don't have enemies here. My approach is to sit down in good faith, if we disagree, we're just going to disagree. I don't have to think you're a bad person or you're trying to destroy, we're just going to disagree. And I don't think there could be a greater contrast than develop the two of us. CAVANAUGH: You mentioned that you have seen combat. There are candidates who have said they want to run the city like a business. You often sound like you want to run the city like a marine battalion. [ LAUGHTER ] CAVANAUGH: Is that going to work with other elected officials at City Hall? FLETCHER: What will work is bringing that can-do, Marine Corps attitude that says we can get it done. I could never go out on a mission in Iraq, get halfway through, and then decide it wasn't convenient for me and go back and report that I hadn't gotten it done. So that will work. The other thing that will work, in the Marine Corps, you understand that it is about leadershiping and teamwork. I was a team commander, a team that operated in remote regions, and I was only as good as my ability to inspire and to lead and to motivate those that I serve with. I'll bring that same approach in, but you don't as mayor, you really have to be able to work with people. You got to be able to work with the council. You saw Tony Young come out and endorse my education plan, I've worked on working with Lorie Zapf on legislation reform, and David Alvarez, I've worked with Marti Emerald on the pedi-cab negotiation. If you talk to my colleagues, they'll say he'll work with you and treat you well, and I'll do that as mayor. CAVANAUGH: You've been criticized for missing votes in Sacramento, around 200 votes, while you run for mayor of San Diego. FLETCHER: Well, I'll put my record of accomplishment up against anyone in this race. We have had more legislation passed and signed into law certainly than anyone from the party I was in. We have a track record of bridging people together and getting things don't. You don't have to be in Sacramento to serve your constituents, and mine know I'm working tirelessly every single day to make sure their interests are protected CAVANAUGH: One of them you missed was SB29. Do you support proposition A? FLETCHER: I do. CAVANAUGH: Why weren't you there for that vote? FLETCHER: This goes back to -- there's been days I've missed where we had mayoral debates, and I missed that, I'd be criticized for missing that. I just wasn't in Sacramento. CAVANAUGH: Say you represent a new generation of leadership in San Diego. In 2010, there was that so-called midnight deal, and it would have helped the power structure get the Chargers stadium financed. Is that any indication of your new leadership style? FLETCHER: I don't think there's an issue in my time in office that has been more misunderstood. What we did was in an open session of the legislature, with every member having a chance to read the legislation, to read the analysis, to debate it on the floor of the assembly, pas legislation, they gave San Diego billions of dollars of its own tax dollars to maintain here, and provided $300 million to the city's general fund, provided more money to San Diego's schools, and it did it all in a way that insured not one penny would be spent out a full and public debate by the City Council to determine where the priorities were. We provided a legal certainty. And we had an opportunity to bring Democrats and Republicans, business, and labor together to do the right thing for San Diego, our schools,ow city, and put people back to work, and I am proud of that effort. CAVANAUGH: We have to end it there.
But Fletcher told KPBS he would no longer sign that pledge today.
"I would not, I would not, I would pledge to say I'm going to do the right thing for the people I represent," he said. "That doesn't mean we're going to raise your taxes and I don't believe we should start raising taxes."
He added, "I don't believe you should raise taxes, I don't believe we build a competitive economic base, I don't believe we put people back to work by raising taxes."
But Fletcher added he does support a hotel room tax increase for an expanded Convention Center.
"That's a perfect example of a project where you have a specific fee or tax that's going to a specific purpose that has a broad-based economic impact," he said.
Fletcher also said he worked with Governor Jerry Brown to close a $1 billion tax loophole for out-of-state companies. Roger Hedgecock wrote in a U-T San Diego editorial that move violated Fletcher's Norquist pledge.
"Well if so be it, then so be it," Fletcher said. "Because we took that money and provided real relief to the working poor, to small businesses, and to manufacturers."
Since leaving the Republican party to become an independent, Fletcher has been accused of changing his stance on other issues as well, including abortion. But Fletcher said those accusations are false.
"You talk to supporters of mine who knew me before I ran for the Assembly, and they'll tell you I was pro-choice then and I'm pro-choice today," he said.
Fletcher also maintained he has always supported same-sex marriage.
"I opposed Proposition 8, I supported marriage equality, I support marriage equality today," he said.
While a mayoral scorecard created by Voice of San Diego shows Fletcher largely holds the same positions as the two Republican candidates for mayor, City Councilman Carl DeMaio and District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, Fletcher said that is not true.
"There is a stark and clear difference between myself and Councilmember Carl DeMaio," Fletcher said. "His vision is to make us the Wisconsin of the West, and he's not talking about cheese. He's talking about a state defined by chaos and confusion, riots and protests. He brings a very divided and polarizing approach."
"In an environment dominated by the extremes you'll have a Carl DeMaio who will stand up and use scorecards to paint me as a radical liberal and you'll have Bob Filner stand up and use scorecards to paint me as a crazy rightwing conservative, and it can't be both," he added. "In today's environment there is not an understanding that sometimes you agree with one, sometimes you agree with the other."
Fletcher also responded to attacks by the other mayoral campaigns for missing votes in the state Assembly.
'You don't have to be in Sacramento to serve your constituents, and my constituents know I'm working tirelessly every single day to make sure their interests are protected," he said.
One of Fletcher's missed votes was on SB 829, a law that means San Diego could stand to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in state construction funding if voters pass Proposition A to ban project labor agreements.
"There's been days I missed where we had mayoral debates, and if I missed the mayoral debate I'd be criticized for missing the mayoral debate, it's just a day I wasn't in Sacramento," he said.
Fletcher said he has been attacked by both conservatives and liberals. He said Republicans sent out a mailer with a picture of him standing with Governor Jerry Brown, while Democrats sent out a mailer with a picture of him standing with Senator John McCain.
"Heaven forbid we have an environment where we say, 'I'll stand with anybody, regardless of party' if you have a good idea," Fletcher said.