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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.