I had been thinking about this for some time — maybe for as long as three years.
From the time I was first elected by the people of San Diego to represent them in the state capital, I have repeatedly asked myself whether affiliating with a political party truly reflects the type of public servant I aim to be.
Still, the decision was a difficult one.
My wife Mindy and I have always thought of “Republican” as one of the key words to describe who we are politically. I had worked in politics before returning to active duty in the Marine Corps, she at the national level. We identified ourselves with the party.
However, in recent years, it seems party insiders on both the Democrat and Republican sides have retreated to their extreme left and extreme right corners. They treat each other like enemies. They are more concerned with winning election cycles than with getting things done.
And then we see things like the ridiculous discussion about contraception in the Republican presidential primary. I cringed as my national political party offended average Americans by dragging women’s reproductive rights into a debate that should have been focused, instead, on putting people to work, improving our children’s schools, and putting people back to work.
I ran for public office because I believe in public service. I believe in solving problems and making a difference in people’s lives — all of the people, not just the ones who come with a particular political label.
So, last month Mindy and I made the difficult decision to leave the Republican Party and register instead as independent voters. Sitting in a friend’s home on a Tuesday evening, I recorded a simple video announcing my decision. As soon as I finished speaking into the camera, a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders.
I know I have made the right decision, despite — and maybe a little bit in part because of — the fact that my candidacy is now being criticized from both the left and the right. You know what they say when extremists from both sides of the spectrum are attacking you: it means you’re doing something right.
I think the partisan status quo feels threatened.
This may not have been a politically wise decision. I have been told time and again that I need to “play the game” if I want to be successful in politics. Insiders have told me that there is no way to win an election without walking in lock step with one of the two political parties.
But this is the right decision because it is what I have felt in my heart. The word “independent” is a better reflection of the type of public servant I have been and of the type of mayor I will be to San Diego.
And you know what? I think we can prove the party insiders wrong. I think, through working together, we can show San Diego, and California, and the rest of the nation that there is another way to succeed in public service — by collaborating, solving problems, and getting things done.
No matter which political label we wear, that should always be our guiding principle. If we keep it in mind, the tough decisions become a lot easier and the right answers become very clear.
Join the conversation: Has there ever been a time in your life when you’ve moved beyond a label that was limiting you?