Lawsuit’s end may not ease county GOP’s strife

The war within the Alameda County Republican Party is over – or is it?

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch this morning ended a nearly 18-month lawsuit by agreeing to sign an election challenge regarding the June 2008 election of seven GOP county committee members who hadn’t been affiliated with the Republican Party for at least three months before their candidacy filing dates, and/or had belonged to other parties within a year before filing, in violation of the state Elections Code.

“I guess the evidence is rather clear and stark,” Roesch said.

Which is partly a moot point now, because the seven committee members in question – Walter Stanley III of Livermore; Casey Fargo and his wife, Lea Smart, of Livermore; David Latour of Hayward; Deslar Patten of Hayward; Christopher Kuhn of Hayward; and John Bartlett of Livermore – resigned earlier this month.

“They never, from the beginning, presented any evidence that they were eligible,” attorney George Benetatos, representing plaintiff committee member Paul Cummings Jr. of Oakland, said after this morning’s hearing.

The subtext is that Stanley et al are “Constitutional Republicans” affiliated with the Republican Liberty Caucus, a libertarian-leaning group often associated with former presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas. Fargo also is a former president of the Golden Gate Minutemen, an anti-illegal-immigration activist group, and Latour is a former president of the Castro Valley Minutemen.

Cummings belongs to what many call the “neo-conservative” wing of the party, and the infighting between these factions kept the county GOP more focused inward over the past 18 months than on building the party and supporting candidates.

“I feel completely vindicated, we knew the evidence was there from the start,” Cummings said today. “The judge said exactly what I wanted to hear.”

The neocon faction already last month had recaptured the committee’s chairmanship. Now, Cummings said, the judge’s ruling “sets the clock back to January 2009,” so the remaining committee members at their Jan. 19 meeting can start reviewing the past year and determine whether to void any important votes the now-resigned members made.

They’ll also consider how to fill the vacancies – and that’s where things could get interesting.

Stanley told me this afternoon he and several others who resigned earlier this month intend to seek re-appointment to their old seats next month. They believe the state Election Code dictates that only the remaining committee members from a particular Assembly district get to choose someone to fill a vacancy from that district, not the entire county committee, and they believe they still have enough allies to get them re-seated.

“I’m expecting a little bit of a task to convince these people (the neocons) what is right,” Stanley said. “Maybe there will be another lawsuit – who knows?”

Maybe. But Election Code Section 7410 says, “In the event of the appointment or election to a committee of an ineligible person, or whenever any member of the committee dies, resigns or becomes incapacitated to act, or removes from the
jurisdiction of the committee, or ceases to be a member of this party, a vacancy exists which shall be filled by appointment by the committee in which the ineligibility or vacancy occurs.” So it’ll be interesting to see where, and how far, this goes.

He said he and the others resigned because they ran out of money to defend against Cummings’ lawsuit, which he said has been bankrolled by deep-pocketed neocon allies.

But he and LaTour remain California Republican Party delegates, he said, and are determined to “reorganize our group, we’re going to come back in 2010 and we’re going to run the tables on these people” with a well-oiled grassroots campaign that should have Constitutional Republicans holding a supermajority on the county GOP committee by this time next year. “We’re going to come back stronger than ever.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • So Cummings finally got his way – but what did he really get? He outspent the true conservatives and was able to force them out on a technicality. So now he and the same old RINOs can head for their watering hole in San Leandro for another “do nothing” meeting. These are the same type of “Republicans” that lost big-time in 2008. Not the “R”s that I’d care to stand with and support the likes of Meg Whitman or Carly Fiorina.

    But come to think of it, I’m a RINO too. The difference being is that I’m a true Conservative. I became a Republican only for lack of a better party to join ten years ago. But that may change too.

  • Greg

    You hit the nail on the head Steve! I was never even interested in the Alameda Republican Party before even though I am a republican voter. I attended a few meetings in the past when Paul Cummings was chairman but quickly found out that it was a waste of my time/effort. I never felt like any thing was accomplished at the meetings.

    I attended a meeting back in March 2009, and again in May. Things were alot different when I went then. There was energy, and lots of people at the meetings. Nothing like any thing I witnessed before in 2008.

    I’m not sure if that was because of the constitutional republican group or what — but if it is — the “neo-conservatives” have made a huge mistake hitting other republicans with a lawsuit.

    Pretty sad because I was hoping for good things in 2010 from the republican party.

  • I really hope the Tea Parties get involved in the central committees this next year. After listening to talk radio 24-7, I realize there certainly is a difference between a ‘small government’ vs. ‘constitutional’ conservatives, as Mark Levin might note. It comes down to defining our principles. Are we defined by polls or foundational principles enshrined by our national documents? The neo-cons, given they have no confidence in these foundational principles, unfortunately set these two methods at odds.

    Watching how candidates are filtered through the grassroots by CA state GOP leaders and county quislings, makes an “outside strategy” (that of protests, phone calls, and voting) doubtful. I constant hear from conservative pundits, ‘we must take the party back’. But the only way to do it is through the central committees. I have yet to hear a radio commentator suggest this approach. Nor am I confident about the outcome of the Tea Parties until there is movement in this direction.

    What is interesting is how the conservative populist movement had precursors amongst groups like the minutemen and ‘support the troops rallies’. We now see these movements on large scale. There has been an important shift. Four years ago it would be inconcievable to call the leftwing of the Democrat party (it’s leadership) ‘socialist’. Now, this is common knowledge. We are finally increasingly defining terms. Vocabulary is important, and I’ve noticed the change. The next word we need to demystify is “conservative”. Small Government is the enemy of Constitutional government. These are not necessarily the same, and the ambiguities enjoy saboteurs. I say this is a provocative sense, just to stir some thought. But we are looking at a last breath, in a time-wise fashion. The vestiges of our Republic quickly pass us. What latitude we might have is measured in election cycles, and this emerging populist movement has two or three cycles before time is up. I pray it gains its own footing soon, and look forward to constitutionally minded patriots closing ranks.

  • BJD

    I love reading this canned rage.

  • Brian

    It will be interesting to see what happens with the vacancies. Cummings has already asserted that he is all for reappointing the members in question should they resign. After all he is just interested in “doing what is right.” The only problem is he is turning out to be a liar. When Leah Fargo was reappointed by her AD Cummings was foremost in apposing her. So much for doing what is right. That is the caliber of folks in control of the Republican Party in Alameda County. Choose for yourself who you want running the party, as for me, I don’t trust liars.

  • Jon

    Paul Cummings may have won the lawsuit but he and his anti-gun/pro-war friends are still a bunch of losers!

    Paul Cummings legacy is this: He filed a lawsuit against Republican volunteers. What a fantastic receipe for permanant minority status. I’m sure the Democrats will be laughing all the way to the ballot box in 2010.

  • Don’t worry BJD, the liberal GOP remains in firm control of the party despite Tea parties, MM, or Paulers. Nothing will change either way between Dems or Republicans. You can play the fiddle as Rome burns. Surely you will enjoy this sick pleasure…

  • BJD

    who doesn’t enjoy watching partisan infighting? It makes for good humor writing fodder.

    Rules are rules. Don’t break them and you don’t have to resign.

  • Edi Birsan

    Did someone use the word Liberal and GOP as respective adjective and a corresponding noun? Surely there must be a line of type missing somewhere. Those two words have not been linked for two generations now.

  • RR, Senile Columnist

    I don’t get it. When did judgeships become consolation prizes for unsuccessful politicos? As for “electing” these guys and gals, it’s no improvement on appointments. The “special interests” everybody here seems to fear like the plague, knows how to find friendly courts.

  • John

    Mr. Walter Stanley misunderstands the Elections Code regarding appointments to Central Committees. He is citing sections 7460-7470, where the law allows a Committee to let Assembly Districts appoint their own members. However these sections are not active unless implemented by the Committee’s bylaws (stated in sec. 7460)! Sorry, but the entire central committee gets to vote on its members.

    Why not try to get along with people, rather than fighting windmills?