Some old-school civility briefly shined through the post-election blizzard of analysis, boasts and recriminations.
Four Republican county supervisors privately and publicly congratulated Supervisor-elect Nathan Fletcher, who ran heavily on his Democratic bona fides, among other things. They were also focused on the future.
“I look forward to working with you and seeking common ground on the big challenges facing our county and its residents,” Supervisor Dianne Jacob said on Twitter on Wednesday.
Jim Desmond, the Republican mayor of San Marcos who was also elected to the board Tuesday, received a similar welcome on social media from the incumbents. He and Fletcher also had a brief congratulatory conversation on election night.
The gestures almost seem from a forgotten era when politicians quickly and, hopefully, smoothly transitioned from the political heat of campaigning to a measured approach of governing. It still happens but is frequently overlooked.
There’s a fair amount of context that makes the supervisors reaching out to Fletcher noteworthy. None of them — Greg Cox, Ron Roberts, Kristin Gaspar or Jacob — was running against Fletcher. They backed his opponent, former District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, who also took to social media to congratulate the victor.
Fletcher had criticized the supervisors, though none by name, throughout the campaign for not being aggressive enough and falling short on addressing major concerns. He lumped them together generically as “Trump Republicans,” specifically because in the spring a divided board backed the president’s unsuccessful lawsuit seeking to overturn California’s sanctuary laws aimed at giving protections to certain unauthorized immigrants.
Gaspar, Jacob and Supervisor Bill Horn voted in favor of the lawsuit. Cox voted against it and the termed-out Roberts — whom Fletcher is replacing — missed the vote, but said he would have urged the board not to get involved.
Roberts is traveling in China this week but still reached out to Fletcher via phone, text and tweet.
“Congratulations @NathanFletcher,” Roberts said on Twitter. “The voters have spoken and the keys to the wonderful, diverse and beautiful Fourth Supervisorial District are in your hands. I'm confident you will treat the community’s 630,000 residents well.”
Fletcher said he also spoke with San Diego’s Republican mayor, Kevin Faulconer, and plans to meet with him in the next couple of weeks.
This all seemed to go beyond pro forma things people do after elections.
Fletcher, a former Assembly member, has been a top political target of the local GOP ever since he left the party more than six years ago. Though Faulconer, Cox, Jacob and Roberts are Republicans, they are hardly core partisans. They have disagreed with the party’s direction at times and clashed with party leaders in the past.
Jacob, Cox and Roberts have each served on the board for more than two decades, as has Horn, who also is termed out and is being replaced by Desmond. They’ve become very familiar with one another, though they wouldn’t be called clubby. They often reach consensus that includes Gaspar, another Republican currently serving as chairwoman who was first elected to the board two years ago.
Fletcher thanked his soon-to-be colleagues for reaching out.
“With the election behind us, it’s time to move forward and address the issues facing the county,” he said, “and I appreciate and am grateful for the encouragement and the support I received” from the supervisors, he said.
Fletcher said he will seek areas of agreement with other members of the board but added there will be times “where we’ll just have to disagree.”
Some analysts have suggested that Fletcher, the lone Democrat, may have to wait to fully push an agenda until there’s more turnover — and potentially more Democrats. Cox and Jacob are termed out in 2020, and Gaspar is up for re-election that year. Fletcher said he may not always win, but he won’t be waiting.
“As we take office, I want to focus on how we can deliver now,” he said.
County supervisor officially is a nonpartisan office and while political parties often play a big role in campaigns, local government decision-making too often is viewed through a partisan prism.
There seems to be consensus among the incumbent supervisors and those newly elected that the county needs increased focus on two growing concerns: mental illness and homelessness.
Both problems are particularly acute in Fletcher’s district, which covers most of the city of San Diego, including downtown.
Whether they agree on how to address those problems remains to be seen. During the campaign, Fletcher claimed the county was sitting on funds for mental health programs and was not doing enough to help the homeless.
“I believe the county needs to change, needs to be more proactive, more progressive,” he said Thursday.
Some of Fletcher’s fellow board members object to the notion the county has not been proactive. But as they all are confronted with divisive issues, perhaps the post-election tone will foreshadows a civil approach in how they grapple with them.
(This column has been updated to reflect that Supervisor Gaspar also reached out to congratulate Fletcher shortly after the election, but unfortunately her text apparently was sent to an old cell phone number.)