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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.”

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CAGOP14: Sessions touts CA17’s Vanila Singh

Dr. Vanila Singh, a Republican challenger to Rep. Mike Honda in the 17th Congressional District, had a big booster at this weekend’s California Republican Convention this weekend: House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions.

Pete SessionsSessions, R-Texas, helped host a small meet-and-greet between Singh and a group of Republican physicians, and then spoke highly of her after his news conference.

“She is a very interesting person who is deeply committed to helping families and communities to overcome the ravages of big government and high taxation,” said Sessions, who as former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee is no stranger to recruiting and shepherding new GOP candidates to seek House seats.

Singh’s parents came from India to America on Ronald Reagan’s promise of economic opportunity, Sessions said, and she has become not only a physician serving the community but also “a well-educated, thoughtful mom and wife who sees first-hand that big government is taking too many thing away.”

Singh said Sessions has been “unbelievable,” an invaluable mentor and adviser. “It gives me hope to know our leaders care about the folks around them and are willing to encourage and give their time.”

Honda, D-San Jose, is seeking an eighth term, and a challenge brought by fellow Democrat Ro Khanna – a former Obama administration official from Fremont – has been making national headlines for almost a year. Singh entered the race at the start of this year, and two more Republicans jumped in just before the March 7 filing deadline: Joel Vanlandingham and Vinesh Singh Rathore, both of San Jose.

Vanila SinghAsked about those last-minute entries, who threaten to dilute the district’s already small GOP electorate, Singh replied, “I’m running my horserace.” She said she “most likely” will attend a League of Women Voters candidates’ forum on Saturday, May 3; Honda and Khanna already have committed to attend.

California GOP Vice Chairwoman Harmeet Dhillon of San Francisco said having three Indo-Americans in this race – Khanna, Singh and Rathore – is “a sign that the Indian American community has reached political maturity.”

But Dhillon said Rathore’s candidacy is “fishy” – someone formerly registered as a nonpartisan with a similar name (V. Singh Rathore and V. Singh) entering the race at the 11th hour. Though party bylaws prevent Dhillon from endorsing anyone when multiple Republicans are in the race, Singh is “a refreshing voice in our party … who shares the same concerns as the people in her community, and she has a lot to say.”

Dhillon also noted Singh placed ahead of Khanna in a recent poll commissioned by Honda’s liberal allied at Democracy for America, despite Khanna’s aggressive campaign over the past year. “He has certainly had his people reach out to Republican donors, Republican players.”

More from Singh, after the jump…
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CAGOP14: Nehring calls for Newsom to debate pot

Ron Nehring, a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, said incumbent Democrat Gavin Newsom is dead wrong to be supporting marijuana legalization.

Ron Nehring“California has been a leader in fighting Big Tobacco… now we’re seeing the rise of Big Marijuana,” Nehring, a former state GOP chairman from El Cajon, said in a news conference Saturday morning at the California Republican Party convention in Burlingame.

Newsom last October became chairman of a committee convened by the American Civil Liberties Union to explore legalization and taxation, as voters in Colorado and Washington already have voted to embrace. He also gave a speech supporting legalization at the California Democratic Party’s convention last week in Los Angeles.

But Nehring said Saturday that legalization would bring down marijuana’s price and lead to a dramatic expansion in use of a drug that affects reaction time, memory and other brain functions for weeks, and is particularly harmful to still-developing adolescent brains. The medical community opposes legalization, he said, while the public costs would far exceed the tax revenues and job creation.

And, Nehring noted, Latinos oppose legalization by about a two-to-one margin, so this is an issue on which the GOP can connect with those voters.

Nehring said he supports the mission of Project SAM, an anti-legalization group that favors changing laws to favor treatment over punishment for those who use marijuana.

Nehring stood next to a poster displaying a photo of Gov. Jerry Brown and his recent quote that, “All of a sudden, if there’s advertising and legitimacy, how many people can get stoned and still have a great state or a great nation?”

“We should have a debate about this issue,” Nehring said. “If Gavin Newsom is not willing to debate me, perhaps he’d be willing to debate Gov. Brown, and they could also debate high-speed rail while they’re at it.”

Nehring acknowledged this will be a tough campaign.

“We completely understand that we are the underdog in this race,” Nehring said, given Democratic incumbents in all statewide offices, a big Democratic voter registration advantage, and robust Democratic fundraising. “Every financial report that comes out will show that Gavin Newsom has raised more money than Ron Nehring.”

As a down-ticket race, “this campaign needs to be about big ideas,” he said – a good prescription for all GOP candidates.

“Republicans need to be the party of bold reform” in order to inspire voters, Nehring said, not just “the party of tweaks and cuts.”

Meanwhile, he said, “Gavin Newsom is treating the office like a taxpayer funded gubernatorial exploratory committee for 2018.”

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CAGOP14: ‘A significant rebuilding operation’

California Republicans “have a significant rebuilding operation on our hands,” state GOP Chairman Jim Brulte told reporters at the party’s convention Friday.

BrulteBrulte said he has met with more than 200 Republican groups across the state since his election as chairman one year ago, and tells them all the same thing.

“We have frank talks. This is a party that, whether we like it or not, has been in decline for two decades in this state,” he said. “We have to get back to basics, we have to concentrate on the nuts and bolts of winning elections.”

So the state party has three goals this year: Help the national GOP maintain control of the House; eliminate the Democratic supermajorities in the state legislature; and helping with local elections where and how it can.

“A lot of people, like moths, like to go to the light, and the light is those big races” at the top of the ticket, Brulte said, but rebuilding the party means “grinding it out on the ground” in local races – a strategy that will take several election cycles to bear larger fruit.

Local races are won by candidates who look and sound most like – and most share the values and experiences of – the local voters, he said. And winning requires not only the right candidate, but also the right message, enough money, and a strong campaign field organization, he added.

That’s not to say every legislative and local Republican candidate will receive money or direct support from the state party, he said – with 100 legislative races and uncounted local contests, that’s impossible.

“We don’t bake cakes,” he said – but if the National Republican Congressional Committee, county GOP committees and candidates can do so, the state party might be able to add some icing to help put them over the top.

Read more from Brulte, after the jump…
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