Inspired by the example of mayoral candidate Nathan Fletcher, more than three dozen prominent San Diego business executives have renounced their party affiliations, and registered as independent voters.
Fletcher famously departed from the GOP in March. The announcement on Wednesday made a big splash in the pond of local politics and comes at a time when an increasing number of voters are also declining to state their affiliation.
Roughly one out every four voters in San Diego is registered "decline to state."
Although Fletcher took a lot of heat from his rivals when he re-registered, he's been surging in the polls, raising more money, and attracting media coverage on a nationwide scale.
Now some of his many admirers in the local business community are following suit. Putting their affilations as Republicans and Democrats behind them, they've formed an organization called "Movement to the Middle".
"[Republicans and Democrats] continue to nominate candidates who represent special interests and the political extremes," said one of those executives, Qualcomm Inc. Executive Vice President Peggy Johnson. "For a long time now, we're faced with the lesser of two evils at the polls."
Wednesday morning, more than a dozen of the 39 charter members gathered outside Missile Park in Kearny Mesa, to tell journalists about their unhappiness with partisan politics.
The executives are among Fletcher's high-rolling contributors. They say his defection from the GOP last month inspired them to map out moderate public policy strategies and back candidates and causes that better support the "alienated majority."
The announcement Wednesday attracted some harsh criticism.
Mayoral opponent Carl DeMaio called it "Masterful gamesmanship...in an election-year ploy."
"This is a cheap political stunt by supporters of Nathan who are participating in his political press strategy, nothing more," said Tony Krvaric, chairman of the Republican Party of San Diego.
Another opponent in the mayoral race, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis agreed with Krvaric. Democratic mayoral candidate Bob Filner has yet to weigh in on the matter.
"This is the latest scene in his contrived political soap opera after losing the Republican Party's endorsement," she said.
Next stop: the County Registrar of Voters office, to fill out the paperwork to become independents.
The companies they run, or work for, are among the city's most blue-chip: Qualcomm, San Diego Connect, Ace Parking and venture-capital partnerships.
They say they expect a groundswell of converts to join them in mapping out "moderate" political strategies and supporting candidates and causes that fit that profile.
For more of Gene Cubbison's coverage on the issues facing this election, visit our Decision 2012 elections page.