Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher threw a wrench in the San Diego mayoral race Wednesday morning by announcing that he is leaving the GOP and running for mayor as an independent.
The candidate’s Twitter account updated a status just before 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday: “Today I’m announcing my decision to leave the GOP and re-register as an independent.”
In a YouTube video on the his website’s homepage, Fletcher said partisan politics shaped his decision to become an independent candidate.
“I’ve been told by people in the Republican Party that I’m not very good at this, and there’s a reason,” he said. “I could care less about playing games. Because I don’t believe this is a game.”
San Diego Republican Party of San Diego County issued a biting response to Fletcher's transition, calling it a panicked decision.
"It’s never pretty to watch a panicking politician, but that’s what we saw with Nathan Fletcher today," said the party's chairman Tony Krvaric. "Fletcher running for office as an independent is about as credible as Rick Santorum trying to run as a Green Party Candidate."
Later Wednesday afternoon, Krvaric sent another statement emphasizing the political nature of Fletcher's decision, saying Fletcher is merely pandering.
The San Diego Democratic Party also came out against Fletcher's decision.
“Not even a month ago, Mr. Fletcher wanted to be the endorsed Republican candidate in this race. When that didn’t work, he decided to paint himself as an ‘independent.’ Voters will recognize that he’s just another leopard trying to change his spots in an election year," said the party's Chair Jess Durfee.
Click here to see how others reacted to Fletcher's move on social media.
Fletcher's critics have called him a "Republican in name only," as his policy decisions often stray from party affiliation on issues such as gay rights, taxes and the environment. Fletcher acknowledged this notion in his statement Tuesday morning, saying his values won't change on the political spectrum, only his party affiliation.
"The only thing that's changed is that I'm sending a commitment and a statement that the people's interest will be my interest. Not what some party insider would want me to do," he said in the video.
In a news conference Tuesday morning, he added assembly Republicans who have endorsed him still stand behind him as an independent candidate. This includes former Assemblyman and former Mayor Pete Wilson. The San Diego Police Officers Association also announced Wednesday that their support remains behind Fletcher for mayor.
However, the Log Cabin Republicans of San Diego County did rescind their endorsement of Fletcher. The group, which advocates for gay and lesbian issues, said it was mostly because their bylaws mandate they endorse a registered Republican.
In the most recent poll, Fletcher and his opponent District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis trailed in last place, each with just 10 percent of voters in their favor. City Councilmember Carl DeMaio took first with 24 percent. DeMaio won the endorsement of the Republican Party earlier this month. The lone Democrat in the race, Congressman Bob Filner trailed in second.
In response to the news, DeMaio released a statement saying he has "taken on powerful insiders from both political parties to fight for reform on behalf of taxpayers."
"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."
Without mentioning Fletcher by name, Dumanis stated San Diego needs a mayor who is "tough, calm and steady when things heat up."
Filner said he agrees with the Republican criticism of Fletcher in that the move was nothing more than political pandering.
"I have lived in San Diego a long time and I know San Diegans are too smart to fall for this political ploy," Filner said.
More than one-third of San Diego's voters are still undecided.
For more election coverage, visit our Decision 2012 page for mayoral candidate bios and related stories.