“A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others.” —Ayn Rand
“Politics is largely a matter of heart.” —R.A. Butler
You might have read that a well-regarded Silicon Valley taxpayer advocate collapsed and died on the dance floor during last weekend's tumultuous state Republican convention in Sacramento. turns out the gentleman, Doug McNea, was a San Diego native and Hoover High grad.
Another passing garnered much less press, that of the final extinguishing of the insulated reign of California GOP Chairman Ron Nehring, another San Diegan, whose termed-out departure as the face of state Republican politics was less pomp, more circumstances.
A blurry picture floats in the blogosphere featuring Nehring handing over the keys to the tattered kingdom to his successor, the youthful-looking state vice chair Tom Del Bacarro from the upscale Contra Costa town of Lafayette. Well, not really keys. Nehring is seen passing along an “Olympic-regulation” javelin.
As the outgoing chairman later tweeted, “Chairman = chief javelin catcher.”
In a subsequent reflection he posted for the world to see, Nehring tried to spin his four years as state party chairman—when campaign money continued to shrivel, along with the defection of voters who preferred independence—in nautical terms.
“This weekend,” he wrote, “our ship has come home to port to be refitted, to take on provisions, and to take on a new captain who will lead us forward.”
In his opening comments, though, Del Bacarro was quick to distance himself from past state GOP leadership.
“We have trapped ourselves into talking to the already-converted instead of inspiring a new set of voters,” he said. “We have become more comfortable with an e-mail list than with independent voters, or minority voters, or with the next generation. In other words, we have become the party of limited communication.”
If the three-day cavalcade of conservative bumper cars demonstrated anything, it's that the future of the California Republican Party is far from certain.
Blame it on Proposition 14, the state ballot measure approved last June that, beginning in 2012, will permit voters to cross party lines in primaries for statewide and legislative offices and for Congress (not presidential primaries, however).
Prior to last week's GOP convention, Nehring had floated a proposed amendment to party rules that critics said would have relied too heavily on party insiders to endorse candidates rather than actual voters, many of whom—I know this is shocking—are considerably more moderate than their stick-to-the-message leaders.
Another resolution bandied about but later withdrawn would have required branding as “traitors” any Republican who, best Spin Cycle can read, so much as looked in Gov. Jerry Brown's direction for a state budget answer. The author, according to an Associated Press reporter, later acknowledged that the word may have been too strong and that “misinformed” might have been a better choice.
Sigh. In San Diego, such political pocket pool triggers at best a shrug from long-time political mosh-pitters. Talk to Tom Shepard, the king of local GOP political strategists, about the histrionics in Sacramento, and you can almost hear the life force flowing out of him.
“Well, I was just about to go for a run,” Shepard told Spin Cycle last weekend, “but I will say that it's a false choice being debated at the Republican convention—that if you open up the process to voters, it will somehow compromise the party's principles. Quite the contrary, I believe.
“We've done a miserable job of winning of late in California, and it's not healthy.”
A long-time believer in open primaries, Shepard believes that they, coupled with “fair, nonpartisan redistricting” will eventually “produce more appealing candidates on the Republican side”—although, he added skeptically, “it might not happen in my lifetime.”
Instead, the state GOP this weekend agreed to consider for 2014 what can be best described as a pre-primary mail-in ballot process to determine political endorsements, apparently paid for by the party.
Robert stern, who heads the Los Angelesbased Center for governmental Studies, predicted that the state GOP will likely “revisit” that decision in future conventions—a nice way of saying that the plan won't get off the ground.
“That sounds like a very, very expensive way to reach out to all Republican voters,” stern noted. There are an estimated 5.3 million Republican voters statewide. If you know postal rates, do the math.
To which local Democratic Party Chairman Jess Durfee could only add with a laugh, “I look forward to the Republican Party spending all that money on a mailer so they won't have all that money to spend on candidates. It's bullshit.”
This leads to an obvious question: If Prop.
14, which will pit the top two contenders in a primary—despite party affiliation—in the general election, has all but done away with partisan primaries, what's the point of party-centric county central committees, those dens of insider largesse and power?
Ask San Diego County Registrar Deborah Seiler, and she'll tell you: not much—at least not enough to justify taxpayers footing the bill for future central-committee elections.
Seiler said she's close to finding state legislative sponsorship for language that would eliminate political parties from primary ballots, thereby saving California taxpayers millions of dollars. Just how many millions, she said, is hard to say. But here in San Diego County, for the last primary alone, the cost totaled $400,000—with nowhere to go to seek reimbursement, unlike elections held in cities or special districts that must pay their election tab.
“Central committees are not public organizations, yet our office spends an inordinate amount of time dealing with central-committee candidates, verifying their petitions, determining their ballot designations and the like,” Seiler said.
And yet, voters seem quite ambivalent about even wading through the thicket of candidates when they appear on the ballot.
Seiler said her office studied the past four primaries and found that, on average, 47 percent of voters didn't choose even one central-committee candidate. One year, that figure rose to 76 percent. That's three voters out of every four completely passing on central-committee voting.
“Unbelievable,” Seiler lamented. “I was shocked at those numbers.”
Yes, javelin catching is not for the faint of heart.
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