Tom Del Beccaro
In a political move with an East Bay twist, former Assemblyman Guy Houston, of San Ramon, will run for chairman of the California Republican Party against state vice chairman Tom Del Beccaro, of Lafayette, according to Jon Fleischman at the Flash Report.
Fleischman dismisses Houston as a viable candidate, in part, because the former assemblyman supported the voter approved open primary initiative. (Both major political parties are fighting the measure in court, which passed in June.)
And Fleischman accurately notes that Del Beccaro has been running for this seat for three years (running for the top job is the primary job of the second in command) and has a significant advantage among 1,400 or so party activists who vote in GOP leadership elections.
I know, I know, normal people don’t know or care about the internal workings of political parties.
But this could be very interesting.
Del Beccaro is a controversial figure in the party. People love him or hate him but few are ambivalent. Rumors and tongue-wagging follow wherever Del Beccaro goes. His unabashed, self-promotional style irritates people. But his fans are exceptionally loyal and they regard Del Beccaro’s gregarious personality and flair for public speaking as an asset to the party.
The vice chairman’s critics have apparently been searching for some months for a viable challenger with a more moderate outlook. Houston reportedly began quietly seeking support of party leaders in recent weeks.
But Houston has plenty of baggage, too.
He was targeted in a nasty civil lawsuit in which investors in his family’s mortgage and investment business alleged they were bilked out of their money. Houston denied any wrongdoing and the case was eventually settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.
Termed out in 2008 and with no prospects of success as a Republican nominee in his heavily Democratic Senate district, Houston did what many termed-out legislators do — he turned to a local option.
No open seat awaited him, though, and he generated considerable ill will when he opted to run against incumbent Republican Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho. Not only had Piepho worked for Houston, but he had encouraged her to run for her first term in 2004.
To add salt to the wound, Houston later accepted the endorsement of Piepho’s brother, John T. Nejedly, who was suing his siblings in a bitter family dispute related to the estate of the late Sen. John A. Nejedly.
Piepho handed Houston his first electoral defeat and he moved into private life, where founded a consulting firm, the Dublin-based California Gold Advocacy Group.
It’s no secret that Houston and Del Beccaro are not buddies although the origins of their discord are unclear. The two reportedly clashed during past campaigns, when Del Beccaro was chairman of the Contra Costa Republican Party.
But none of that will matter much in the days ahead. For Houston to prevail, he will need to persuade party leaders to abandon their support of Del Beccaro, who had been the presumptive winner.
That’s a tall order for a former legislator who has largely absent from the political party scene.
On the other hand, internal party politics can be a volatile scene. The campaigns are run mostly behind the scenes and without the financial disclosure required of public campaigns.