The San Diego County Republican Party’s relationship with Nathan Fletcher is complicated. Jilted lover might be the most accurate description.
So it has caused some conservative consternation that Fletcher, the Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat former assemblyman, was named the 80th Assembly District’s 2016 veteran of the year.
It surely didn’t help that the Marine Corps veteran received the award from Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, one of Sacramento’s most liberal Democrats – and Fletcher’s girlfriend. In the days since Gonzalez announced the award, she and Fletcher have been regularly tweeting photos from a joint family vacation, complete with a custom hashtag.
“Out of thousands of deserving vets in her district, @LorenaSGonzalez picks her boyfriend, @nathanfletcher. Seems legit,” San Diego County GOP digital director Sage Naumann wrote in one of the more restrained responses from the California Republican social media world (others attempted a #hubris hashtag).
As founder of the Three Wise Men Veterans Foundation, Fletcher has led efforts to help returning service members. His social media accounts abounded with congratulatory messages and gratitude for his work.
“It‘s hard to argue that anyone has done more for veterans, especially recently returned veterans” than Fletcher, Gonzalez chief of staff Evan McLaughlin said in an interview. “They’re in a relationship and they talk about these issues all the time,” he added. “The assemblywoman thought it would be a nice gesture to reward him for all the hard work he’s done for veterans.”
Lawmakers have an established habit of honoring their nearest and dearest. In handing out his final Woman of the Year award before term limits force him out of the Assembly, for example, Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Salinas, chose to commemorate his mother. To critics, that’s exactly the problem.
“Of course Nathan has done good work for veterans, and I don’t want to take away from that,” Naumann said in an interview, but “I’m sure Gonzalez has thousand of veterans in her district who do good work in their community and don’t have the privilege of dating a politician.”