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Musings on the state GOP, Congress, pot & Kansas

A few observations on Tuesday’s elections, with a hat tip to my colleagues Paul Rogers and Ken McLaughlin for their thoughts:

CALIFORNIA GOP: Tuesday’s results seem to be a vindication and victory for the “Brulte Doctrine,” spelled out by the state GOP chairman at his party’s convention in March: Don’t waste much effort trying to win unwinnable statewide races, but instead rebuild the party by “grinding it out on the ground” in local races – a strategy that will take several election cycles to bear larger fruit.

Despite their buzz, Ashley Swearengin and Pete Peterson couldn’t make it happen statewide: as it stands now, it looks like a 5.6-point loss for Swearengin in the controller’s race and a 5-point loss for Peterson in the secretary of state’s race. Those are respectable losses but losses nonetheless, and I submit that the GOP putting more money and party resources behind them might actually have resulted in wider margins of loss – I think they did this well in part by distancing themselves from partisanship.

Instead, Brulte’s GOP concentrated on denying Democrats their legislative supermajorities – and now it’s “mission accomplished” in the state Senate while the Assembly still hangs by a thread as vote-by-mail ballots are counted.

In doing so, the GOP is hatching a new generation of up-and-comers. Exhibit A: Catharine Baker, who at this hour is up 3.8 points over Democrat Tim Sbranti in the East Bay’s 16th Assembly District race. Baker, an attorney hailed as a cream-of-the-crop “California Trailblazer” at her party’s convention in March, was far outspent by Sbranti, who already had some name recognition among the electorate as Dublin’s mayor. But GOP officials and activists came from around the state to pound the pavement for her, and it looks like it could pay off with the first Bay Area Republican sent to Sacramento since Guy Houston was term-limited out (in the same part of the East Bay) in 2008.

CONGRESS: Anyone who’s surprised that Republicans took control of the U.S. Senate and gained seats in the House isn’t very well-versed in history. A two-term president’s party almost always loses ground in his sixth-year midterm.

Sure, President Barack Obama’s job-approval rating stood at 42 percent (per Gallup) on Tuesday. And President George W. Bush’s job approval was at 38 percent in November 2006 as Democrats picked up five Senate seats and 31 House seats, making Harry Reid the new Senate Majority Leader and Nancy Pelosi the new House Speaker. And President Ronald Reagan was riding high with a 63 percent job-approval rating in November 1986 (although he was about to take a precipitous dive as details of the Iran-Contra scandal came to light) as Democrats picked up eight Senate seats, putting Robert Byrd in the driver’s seat, and five House seats to cement the majority they already had.

The exception was President Bill Clinton, who saw his party pick up five House seats in 1998 – a stinging defeat that left Republicans in control but forced Newt Gingrich to resign as Speaker – while the Senate was a zero-sum game. Clinton, under fire for the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal, still was at a 66 percent job-approval rating at the time.

But Bubba always had a way of defying the odds.

MARIJUANA: If Oregon and Alaska got enough younger voters out to the polls in this midterm election to approve marijuana legalization, just imagine what California can do in 2016’s presidential election with an initiative forged in the trial-and-error of four other states’ experiences.

KANSAS: Kansas has had private-sector job growth that lags the rest of the country, and adopted tax cuts big enough to blow a still-widening hole in the state budget requiring school closings, teacher layoffs and increased class sizes – but doubled down with its Republican governor and Republican U.S. Senator. I guess you can lead a Jayhawk to water, but you can’t make it drink…

Posted on Wednesday, November 5th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Assembly, California State Senate, marijuana, Republican Party, Republican politics, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 10 Comments »

GOP steps it up for convention, Sec’y of State race

California Republicans are trying to build some momentum headed into November’s elections, scheduling the state’s most powerful Republican as a convention keynote and putting a former state chairman in charge of fundraising for one of their statewide candidates.

Kevin McCarthyRep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, who takes over later this week as House Majority Leader, will speak at the state GOP’s 2014 Fall Convention on Saturday, Sept. 20 in Los Angeles.

“Majority Leader Elect McCarthy personally understands the importance of California in protecting the Congressional majority,” California Republican Party Chairman Jim Brulte said in a news release. “He is an innovative thinker whose policies are making life better for Americans each day, and he fights for California each and every day.”

Vice Chairwoman Harmeet Dhillon said McCarthy “supports policies that encourage job growth by freeing the private sector to do its job. Those policies are exactly what we need here in California, and I am excited that our delegates will get to hear this message from him.”

The party in May announced U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kent., will speak at the convention as well.

Meanwhile, Pete Peterson – the Republican candidate for secretary of state – announced today that former state GOP chairman Duf Sundheim of Los Altos Hills will serve as his campaign’s finance chairman.

Pete Peterson“Whether you have known Pete Peterson for years as I have, or you have recently met him, as the San Jose Mercury News Editorial Board has, you reach the same conclusion: Pete Peterson is the superior candidate for Secretary of State,” Sundheim said in a news release. “Peterson has the fresh ideas and experience to make a real difference.”

Peterson said he shares Sundheim’s “focus on government reform and increased citizen participation in the political process. With rampant corruption in Sacramento, one of the lowest voter turnouts in the country, and businesses fleeing the state, it’s clear that we need to change the way things are being done.”

Sundheim will need to shake the money trees vigorously. Peterson’s campaign had only about $12,000 cash on hand as of mid-May, and has reported raising only about $25,000 in major donations since then. His opponent, state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Van Nuys, had about $340,000 banked for the campaign as of mid-May, and has reported raising about $40,000 in major donations since.

Posted on Tuesday, July 29th, 2014
Under: Kevin McCarthy, Republican Party, Republican politics, Secretary of State, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

Cleveland Rocks (the RNC’s world)

Look out, Cleveland, the storm is comin’ through/ And it’s runnin’ right up on you…

The Republican National Committee’s Site Selection Committee on Tuesday named Cleveland as its recommendation to host the 2016 Republican National Convention. The RNC and the city now enter into exclusive negotiations on the details, and the recommendation will be presented to the full 168-member RNC when it meets next month in Chicago.

“Cleveland is a phenomenal city, and I can’t think of a better place to showcase our party and our nominee in 2016,” Site Selection Chairwoman Enid Mickelsen said in a news release. “Cleveland has demonstrated they have the commitment, energy, and terrific facilities to help us deliver a history-making Republican convention.

The committee previously had narrowed the field to Cleveland and Dallas, but Ohio’s battleground-state status probably helped Cleveland carry the day.

The Band’s “Look Out Cleveland” (quoted above) is a bit of a downer lyrically, so one assumes the RNC will also open negotiations with Ian Hunter for the rights to use his song over… and over… and over again…

Posted on Tuesday, July 8th, 2014
Under: Republican Party, Republican politics | 6 Comments »

Mark Meuser launches Bay Area Republican PAC

What’s Mark Meuser up to?

Mark MeuserMeuser, you’ll recall, is the Walnut Creek civil litigation attorney who ran against state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, in 2012 (a race DeSaulnier won, 61.5 percent to 38.5 percent). More recently, he’s been donning Minuteman garb to deliver speeches on the nation’s Founding Fathers at meetings of local Republican groups.

Reports filed Friday with the Secretary of State’s office show Meuser, 39, this year created the Bay Area Republican Political Action Committee, which he funded with $10,500 of his own money. Most of that money already has been spent, including $7,000 on television ad production and $2,500 for print ads in the Antioch Herald. He also registered a BARepublican.com website, though it’s not active yet.

But Meuser is being a bit cryptic about what it’s all for.

“The PAC has not spent any money on behalf of any candidate,” he said in an email conversation Monday. “The PAC is preparing for this November’s election and the money it spent was in preparation for that.”

Posted on Tuesday, July 8th, 2014
Under: Republican Party, Republican politics | 3 Comments »

What Eric Cantor’s loss might mean to you

Rep. Eric Cantor, the Virginia Republican who was defeated in a primary election Tuesday by tea-party challenger Dave Brat, will step down as House Majority Leader.

Cantor’s upset defeat has repercussions far beyond Virginia’s 7th Congressional District, and even far beyond the Beltway. When the second-most-powerful Republican in Congress is taken down by a challenge from within his own party, the political and policy implications are sure to be significant. Here are a few:

1.) Immigration reform

Cantor’s loss probably means any shred of chance for comprehensive immigration reform in the foreseeable future is now gone.

One of Brat’s biggest criticisms of Cantor was that Cantor favored “amnesty” by supporting some sort of path to citizenship for children of undocumented immigrants. Actually, Politico is reporting that a poll found most of the voters in that district – including most Republicans – favor a plan that would include letting undocumented immigrants without criminal records gain legal status.

Nonetheless, I think the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza is right when he says Cantor’s defeat will make any House Republican who’d been considering supporting some similar reform think again.

Meanwhile, immigration reform activists say Cantor’s loss is the nail in the coffin, and so are urging President Obama to offer deportation relief and other forms of administrative relief immediately.

2.) California’s clout

Cantor was the GOP’s number two in the House; House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, is number three. But Cantor’s loss doesn’t necessarily mean McCarthy’s ascension – a bunch of House Republicans already are jockeying to snap up Cantor’s post.

As both a Californian and a national GOP leader, McCarthy has had to walk a knife-edge on immigration reform; he has called for legal status, though perhaps not citizenship, for undocumented immigrants without criminal records. If Cantor’s loss makes House Republicans gun-shy about speaking up on immigration reform, McCarthy – along with other California Republicans like Jeff Denham and David Valadao – may be in the majority’s minority, and that’s not a great place to be when you’re gunning for a higher party leadership post.

More, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, June 11th, 2014
Under: Immigration, Kevin McCarthy, Republican Party, Republican politics, U.S. House | 14 Comments »

Texas GOP endorses ‘reparative therapy’ for gays

The Texas Republican Party now endorses what it calls “reparative therapy” for gay and lesbian people.

The party adopted this as part of its platform at its convention Sunday in Fort Worth after the Texas Eagle Forum tea party group urged endorsement of therapy to turn gay people straight. Thus the party now recognizes “the legitimacy and efficacy of counseling, which offers reparative therapy and treatment for those patients seeking healing and wholeness from their homosexual lifestyle.”

Speaking for myself, I endorse reparative therapy and treatment for Texas Republicans because, after all, who would want to live that way?

As a practical matter, the willful ignorance here is staggering. The American Psychological Association and other major health organizations have condemned such counseling, especially for minors, because of the danger of serious psychological harm.

As a political matter, it’s suicide. Consider Gallup’s trend lines:

gallup - legal

gallup - marriage

Please note that I confine this criticism to Texas Republicans. I know there are Republicans across the nation – and perhaps particularly here in California – who read news of the Texas GOP’s whack-jobbiness, do a swift facepalm and exclaim, “What is WRONG with you people?”

It’s amazing that anyone who claims to stand for conservatism, small government, individual rights and personal responsibility would simultaneously believe a political party should say anything about whom one can be sexually attracted to and/or love. It’s hypocrisy of the highest order, piled atop a foundation of bigotry based either in fundamentalist religious dogma or plain old xenophobia.

I believe the Republican Party has a future, but I also believe the Texas Republicans who are now holed up in their ideological Alamo are standing in that future’s way.

Posted on Tuesday, June 10th, 2014
Under: Republican Party, Republican politics, same-sex marriage | 1 Comment »

Tim Donnelly: ‘We have not yet begun to fight!’

Assemblyman Tim Donnelly has conceded fellow Republican Neel Kashkari‘s win in Tuesday’s gubernatorial primary, his congratulations thus far haven’t been accompanied by an endorsement, leaving Kashkari’s call for GOP unity unfulfilled at least for now.

Here’s the note Donnelly sent to supporters Wednesday afternoon:

Dear Patriots,

There are no words to express the debt of gratitude I owe to each and every one of you for your tireless efforts in defense of liberty.

As many of you know, last night our campaign ended as we came in third in a race where only the top two advance to the general election.

It was a tough night, but once it became clear that there was no chance of closing that gap, I called my opponent, and congratulated him on the result.

Our campaign may have failed to win the top spot, but we showed that grassroots and meeting people in person is a powerful way to build support. This campaign brought together an amazing array of people from every walk of life, and background. I am honored to have served alongside some of the finest people on the planet over this past year and a half.

This part of the journey may have ended, but one thing became clear: the political establishment remains the greatest threat to California’s future, and last nights result showed that without spending a penny on traditional advertising, we nearly matched the millions spent to defeat us.

It is a credit to each and every one of you who contributed your time and financial resources that we reached almost 470,000 people simply by word of mouth, door-to-door, and on social media.

I am deeply grateful to you for taking a stand to defend our Liberty, when it’s future is most fragile. This campaign may have ended, but take heart; we have united a small, but hardy band of Californians who refuse to be controlled by their government, and our numbers are growing.

We have not yet begun to fight!

Godspeed,

Tim Donnelly

Posted on Wednesday, June 4th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Neel Kashkari, Republican Party, Republican politics, Tim Donnelly | No Comments »

Rand Paul to keynote California GOP convention

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., will keynote the California Republican Party’s fall convention this September in Los Angeles, the party announced Friday.

Paul, a tea party favorite and son of longtime libertarian icon and former Rep. Ron Paul, is considered a possible 2016 presidential contender. His focus on issues like privacy, avoiding foreign military entanglements and rethinking the war on drugs helps him draw a younger, more diverse crowd than many in his party, as demonstrated by his enthusiastic welcome at UC-Berkeley in March.

“Senator Paul understands that a balanced budget doesn’t have to come on the backs of taxpayers,” said state GOP chairman Jim Brulte. “He is a tireless advocate for freedom, an independent thinker, and a dedicated public servant.”

Party vice chairwoman Harmeet Dhillon said Paul “is working to preserve liberty for all Americans, as guaranteed by our Constitution.”

Paul said this is “a critical year for Republicans, especially in California,” and he’s excited “to join Republicans in California at the convention as we work together to strengthen our great nation.”

Posted on Friday, May 30th, 2014
Under: Rand Paul, Republican Party, Republican politics | 1 Comment »

New statewide college GOP chair is from Berkeley

The newly elected chairman of the California College Republicans is a former chairman of the Berkeley College Republicans.

Shawn LewisShawn Lewis, 22, was elected Sunday morning at the statewide group’s annual convention in Irvine. He succeeds Mathew Nithin, 25, of San Jose State University.

“I’m ready for the challenge,” Lewis said. “Our success this year is going to be driven by our efforts to elect Republicans across California by getting on the ground and making contact with voters.”

Lewis said his organization will target House and Legislative districts with the goal of ending the Democratic supermajority in Sacramento. He also said he’ll be in regular contact and coordination with California Republican Party Chairman Jim Brulte, State Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, and Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway.

Lewis now serves as a Senate Fellow for Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, in Sacramento; he was the California College Republicans’ political for the past year.

Other officers elected Sunday are Co-Chair Alice Gilbert of UC-Santa Barbara, Executive Director Lx Fangonilo of San Diego State, Administrative Vice Chair Jere Ford of the University of San Diego, Treasurer Ivy Allen of Pepperdine University, and Secretary Erick Matos of CSU-Channel Islands.

Posted on Monday, April 7th, 2014
Under: Republican Party, Republican politics | No Comments »

CAGOP14: Pete Sessions on building party unity

California conservatives need to put aside their differences and remember who the real threat is, House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions told reporters Saturday at the California Republican Party convention in Burlingame.

Sessions, R-Texas, said whether they identify as Tea Partiers, nonpartisans, Republicans or what have you, they must understand that “to win, and to have people in place to fight democrats and liberals, is what this is about.”

The alternative is “big government, expensive government, and we will fail to answer the bill for having our infrastructure, our military, our livelihood to build a better future,” he said. That should motivate “fear of where we are headed and why it’s got to be stopped.”

Regarding Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s continuing efforts to lure California businesses away to Texas, Sessions replied that some companies “chose to move because they had a fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders to run their businesses efficiently,” and that’s easier under the looser regulations and lower taxes that Texas’ conservative government offers.

But Sessions – who’ll address the convention’s banquet Saturday night – said “the Republican Party in California has a man in Jim Brulte who has a desire to win conservative Republican races” with an approach that’s less about ideological purity and more about running a pro-business, limited-government party.

Asked about Brulte’s strategy of focusing this year upon key congressional, legislative and local races rather than tough-if-not-unwinnable statewide contests, Sessions replied that “putting a person in every single race is not an effective way for you to use your money or resources.”

But rising food and gas prices, President Obama’s refusal to pursue “common sense” job and energy ideas like the Keystone XL pipeline, “the miserable failure of their healthcare” bill and Democrats’ “shrill liberalism and dogma” should give Republicans a strong message around which to unite in 2014, Sessions said.

Obamacare is the prime example, he said, with even some Democrats voting for bills to roll back certain sections of the Affordable Care Act after “they recognized they’re in trouble at home and they need to vote for repeal.” Meanwhile, other Democrats continue to stick to this “bad deal.”

That’s the trouble with liberal Democrats, Sessions said: “They want to tell you what you have to do. If it was so great, it should’ve been an option.”

Posted on Saturday, March 15th, 2014
Under: Republican Party, Republican politics | 2 Comments »