It is June 2011, and Nathan Fletcher, a 34-year-old California assemblyman and candidate for mayor of San Diego, is speaking at his campaign kickoff.
“Let me tell you how I got here,” he says to the crowd standing in a conference room at a biotech company in La Jolla. “I grew up in a blue-collar family.
“My dad was a factory worker.
“My mom, who is here today with us, is the inspiration for my desire to serve. She works helping crime victims. She taught me that, while no one gets rich helping those in need, there is a wealth of satisfaction that comes from a life of service.”
To a television reporter, the candidate later offers a few more details.
“My dad was a laborer for International Paper,” he says.
“I was from the factory-working Fletcher family.”
Later in the interview, he says, “I mentioned my dad. He became a police officer, and so I got a great appreciation growing up of hard work.”
He adds, “That’s a difficult job, it’s a hard job, it’s [an] under-appreciated and over-worked thankless job. They see things that people don’t want to see, they deal with problems, we want to act like they don’t exist, and they put their life on the line when they go to work.”
To another TV reporter, Fletcher says, “I grew up in Carson City, Nevada. I was born and raised in Carson City, and loved it.
“I remember as a kid, I remember people walking around with literally six-shooters on their hips.”
“Grew up there as a little guy, and then went to high school in Arkansas.
“All of my family was from Southern California.”
“You know, I was the first one in my family to graduate from college, and my parents worked really hard. You know, in factories, and my dad became a cop to give us a better life.”
That is one version of Fletcher’s family history.
What follows, based on an extensive review of public records and interviews, is another.
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Nathan Fletcher has had at least two father figures.
One, his birth father, Randall Earl Fletcher, was, for a time, a deputy sheriff in Carson City. Later, as a reserve officer, he was fired for lying. The other, Danny Farley, his mother’s second husband, was from Smackover, Arkansas, where he worked at an International Paper factory in nearby Camden. He later pursued law enforcement and contract security work.
The saga of Nathan Fletcher and his mother Sherrie involves a series of men, a nasty custody battle, bankruptcy, divorces and remarriages, children and stepchildren, and the death of a husband. In all, Sherrie has been married four times. Though she has managed to hold her life together, it has not always been easy.
“You know, there’s no part of the American Dream that says everyone gets the same size house” is a frequent Fletcher campaign line. “We don’t even guarantee you equality of ease.”
Nathan’s conflation of the lives and careers of Randy Fletcher and Danny Farley is perhaps understandable, given the domestic turmoil with which he grew up. For San Diego voters, it provides an intriguing hint of the true story of Fletcher and his upbringing in Nevada — where his grandfather served a prominent role in the rough-and-tumble politics of Reno, Carson City, and Las Vegas — and Arkansas, where he knew the privation of a working-class Southern lifestyle.
Over the course of his tumultuous relationship with Sherrie, and their subsequent fight over the custody of their young son Nathan, Randy Fletcher quit his deputy sheriff’s job, rejoined the force, then quit again. Then he became a Carson City reserve officer. According to testimony given during the custody battle, Randy Fletcher was fired in June 1979 by a review board for “falsifying a police officer report.”
Though he cared deeply for his son Nathan, Randy had a checkered work history. In addition to his work as a deputy, he was at various times a softball referee, casino security guard, management trainee for a drugstore chain, and an office worker for a pharmaceutical company.
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Nathan Blaine Fletcher was born on the last day of 1976 to Randall Earl Fletcher and his wife, the former Sherrie Ann Morgan, in Carson City, Nevada. The couple had been married in the Southern California city of Riverside, her hometown, on November 21, 1975. Sherrie recalled in an interview last week that she met Randy through her brother, John Morgan, Jr., who was working as a deputy sheriff in Carson City. Sherrie was 18 when they married. She later testified that Randall told her he was 21, when he was actually 25. It was just the first of many untruths, small and large, she said.
“He lies,” Sherrie said of Randy, “and I don’t think he can help it, and there is [sic] several instances during our marriage, and since our marriage, during our separation, and since our divorce, that he has showed me that he is just not, you know, not…I don’t know if…that he is just not always what he appears to be, you know?”
Randy’s marriage to Sherrie lasted less than three years.
Their final divorce decree, granted October 4, 1978, awarded custody of Nathan to Sherrie. Randy, having left the sheriff’s department, was making $714 a month working security at Reno’s MGM Grand Hotel and Casino. According to court records, he was granted regular visitation rights and ordered to pay $100 in monthly child support.
Sherrie insisted on one important limitation to her son’s visits with her ex-husband.
During testimony at the custody hearing, Sherrie’s lawyer said, “I notice the divorce decree, the original divorce decree, requires that Mr. Fletcher not leave the child at his parents’ [home]. Is that correct?”
“Yes, sir,” Sherrie said. “That’s correct.”
“What’s the reason for that?”
“I feel that his parents have a very unstable home life,” Sherrie said. “It’s oftentimes violent, due to the fact that his father, who is a diabetic, doesn’t always eat on time. I have seen him go into insulin reaction and become violent, where it has taken three guys to hold him down.