In a telltale sign that San Diego’s mayoral race is getting ugly, a campaign ad released today isn’t just one candidate attacking another – it’s one candidate attacking another’s "robot."
Assemblyman and mayoral candidate Nathan Fletcher launched the race’s first attack ad, titled Carl Won’t Answer the Question.
When viewers click on a link posted to Fletcher's Facebook page, they see the video of opponent Carl DeMaio's interactive web feature which answers questions virtually -- something our partners at voiceofsandiego.org have referred to as a “robot version of himself.”
“We actually did not anticipate that question,” DeMaio answers to questions such as “Did you meet with lobbyists behind closed doors?” and “Why did you try to defund the ethics commission after they fined you?”
In response to the video, DeMaio's campaign manager Ryan Clumpner said the attack recycles labor union accusations, and that Fletcher's criticisms are in contradiction to his promise to solve problems.
Under the web video, Fletcher promised “more to come,” cueing the entry of television ads into what has proven to be a nasty campaign season in personal appearances, debates and on social media.
Attack ads in local elections typically arrive closer to the primary, which is June 5. Fletcher’s early start was likely a way to ride the momentum of his departure from the GOP – a move which garnered national attention, said communications strategist, blogger and former coucil aide Tony Manolatos.
“This is not going to be a friendly fight,” Manolatos said. “The next few weeks are going to get ugly, with more direct shots, as opposed to the snipping on social media and at debates we’ve already seen.”
Before his announcement that he had left the Republican Party on March 30, Fletcher raised just under $1 million. The campaign’s most recent finance report won’t be reported until mid-May, but Fletcher reportedly gained significant support from outside San Diego following the announcement. Just two days after the announcement, his campaign received $50,000 in donations, an advisor told the San Francisco Chronicle.
And Fletcher’s promise of more videos won’t dip far into those newly raised funds either, since many are exclusively web videos and less expensive than TV ads. The strategy fits into the campaign’s overall tactics using social media and the web to reach voters – much in the way the Obama presidential campaign succeeded in 2008, Manolatos said.
"Nationally, nobody has done that quite like Obama. But this is the first time we've seen social media and the web play such a significant role in a San Diego mayor’s race."
For more election coverage, visit our Decision 2012 page for mayoral candidate bios and related stories.