#ShowUsYourMailers: Lincoln Club Mailer Is Attack Ad In Disguise
A recent mailer sent to voters in the county supervisors' District 4 reads like it should be targeting NRA-supporting Republicans, with a headline promoting Nathan Fletcher as "protecting our right to bear arms." In fact, the mailers were sent to registered Democrats.
The mailers are meant to confuse voters into thinking Fletcher, a Democrat since 2013, does not currently support stricter gun control. The tone of the ad is embellished with a menacing stock photo of a gun barrel coming from behind Fletcher's headshot. Below the headline, the mailer derides fellow Democrat and candidate Lori Saldaña as a "gun-grabbing" liberal.
The mailers were sent by a super PAC funded by the Lincoln Club of San Diego County, a conservative group that has endorsed Republican and retired district attorney Bonnie Dumanis. Also in the race are Omar Passons, a Democrat and land use attorney, and Ken Malbrough, a Democrat and retired deputy fire chief.
Lincoln Club President Brian Pepin sent the following statement via email: "While some Democrats may have received the mailer, it is inaccurate to state it was sent exclusively to Democrats. The mailer is based upon Nathan Fletcher's most recent NRA rating and the votes the NRA deemed to be its highest priorities. If Nathan Fletcher regrets those pro-gun votes, he is more than welcome to explain why he cast them. We would be willing to include his comments in future mailers on the subject."
While Fletcher's voting record on gun control is mixed, there is little ambiguity as to his current position — he supports gun control, as does Saldaña. Both Fletcher and his opponents, however, have misrepresented some facts in campaign mailers.
Whichever candidate wins in District 4, which stretches from southeastern San Diego to La Jolla, he or she is unlikely to have a great impact on gun control since county supervisors have little authority in that realm.
The flip side of the Lincoln Club mailer shows Saldaña's picture above a sea of hands waving American flags and protest signs supporting gun control. The imagery echoes recent gun control protests like the March for Our Lives, which Democrats are likely to sympathize with.
Fletcher said in a Facebook video that the Lincoln Club sent the mailers to try to boost support for Saldaña among Democratic voters because they see her as a weaker challenger to their endorsed candidate, Dumanis. If no candidate receives a majority of the vote on June 5, the top two finishers will compete in a November runoff.
In his email, the Lincoln Club's Pepin said he had "no idea" which candidate would be easier to beat in November. Campaign finance disclosures show the Lincoln Club's anti-Fletcher super PAC spent $40,370 this month on polling.
When Fletcher was a Republican in the state Assembly, he did cast votes against gun control in line with the NRA. Those votes are cited on the mailer. But after Fletcher left the GOP and became an independent in 2012, he cast his votes against the NRA in favor of stricter gun control, which he now supports.
Fletcher's campaign has pointed to a handful of gun control bills that he supported when he was still a Republican. Most of those bills were not controversial, however, and none attracted opposition from the NRA.
One vote cited by the Fletcher campaign and repeated in a separate mailer had nothing to do with gun control. When that bill was first introduced, it would have expanded gun-free school zones from 1,000 feet of a K-12 school to 1,500 feet. As the bill made its way through committees, however, its language was gutted and replaced with revisions to trespassing laws. Fletcher never had the chance to vote on expanding gun-free school zones, which are still limited to 1,000 feet.
Republicans have derided Fletcher as a political opportunist who left the GOP only after he failed to get the party's endorsement in his 2012 bid for San Diego mayor. Fletcher has explained his changing parties as coming from a growing discomfort with the party and a genuine shifting of his own convictions.
"I think the real question before someone is if you look back over the past decade, it's not why did someone leave the Republican Party — it's why has anyone stayed?" Fletcher said in an interview with KPBS last month. "I saw a Republican Party just stray further and further to the right. But along that same time and trajectory, I changed. And as we go through life, we have experiences that change how we view things and how we shape things."
County supervisors have little direct oversight of gun control, which is mostly regulated by the state and federal governments. Their primary responsibilities include social welfare programs, public health and land use in the county's unincorporated backcountry.
Both Fletcher and Saldaña have argued county supervisors could support gun safety by petitioning for gun violence restraining orders. State law allows courts to take away a person's firearms if a close family member or law enforcement officer can prove they pose a serious threat to themselves or others.
Neither Fletcher nor Saldaña have put out written policy proposals explaining how the board of supervisors could seek gun violence restraining orders. The county sheriff or district attorney would likely be the ones to petition courts for those orders. The supervisors do oversee the budgets of the sheriff and DA, but both those positions are elected directly by the voters and thus have a degree of political autonomy.