Last night the OCGOP Central Committee held it’s monthly meeting and on the agenda were some requests for early endorsements in upcoming partisan races. There has been some confusion over recent changes in the bylaws and how the timing, request and filing requirements of endorsements will be affected, but that is not the topic here. (Frankly, I’m a pretty smart person, and I am still struggling to understand the amendments and why we made them) Here, I want to discuss the future future of the party in California in a post Prop 14 world.
The only endorsement that garnered any discussion is the one sought by Diane Harkey for the California State Board of Equalization. There were unanimous endorsements for Shari Freidenrich and Tony Rackaukas. I don’t believe that Shari is challenged and given the circumstances surrounding prior challenges, it’s not likely that TRack will see any challengers until he is blind and walking with a cane and willing to step down, none of which seem to be in his future.
Diane Harkey has announced her candidacy for the State Board of Equalization. In that race also, are Republicans Van Tran and Mark Wyland. As a matter of procedure (which was not at any time clear what exactly the procedure should have been) the candidates were allowed to speak. It was fairly impromptu, and did become something of a debate, although the Chairman continued to remind us that this was not a debate. The end of the story is that the Committee voted by a narrow, (3 votes) to endorse Diane Harkey at this early stage, per her request. She was immensely grateful, and indicated it was going to make it so much easier for her to raise money and obtain support.
Although I am not well acquainted with any of these candidates, I did receive a phone call quite some time ago from Diane requesting my support. I have also had contact from her campaign requesting the same, so kudos to her for hitting the ground running. I have seen her at every Central Committee meeting in recent months, pressing the flesh, making her presence and ambitions known. She certainly has gotten out early and often, doing the work. However, I am not certain that an “A” for effort necessarily entitles a candidate to essentially eviscerate opportunities for the other Republicans before the campaign has even started.
To clarify, since Prop 14 we have ‘open’ primaries in California. Any number of candidates from any party may enter a race. In this race, we will have at least 3 Republicans and 1 Democrat in what has been described to as a ‘safe’ Republican seat. In the last election we saw the first glimpse of what is to come of this in the form of Republican on Republican fundraising and rhetorical violence. How we will deal with it continues to be of concern and debate amongst our ranks.
The best idea of the evening was in the form of a motion made by Deborah Pauly to “table” this discussion until the filing had closed for this office, i.e. postpone this discussion and endorsement until after the ‘official’ filing deadline with the Registrar of Voters has passed, because in theory, someone could walk in there today and decide to be a candidate for this office. In the morass of procedural clarifications throughout the meeting, that motion somehow got lost, which was disappointing. The vote on the endorsement and the debate from the members proceeded nevertheless, the endorsement was granted, without any significant consideration of the implications and seriousness of the problems this new post Prop 14 lay of the land provides for the party.
The lack of strategy and agenda for addressing this problem having been noted, here is what has and is developing from this new early endorsement approach. A veritable game of “gotcha” seems to be arising, in that if a candidate gets there early, and another worthy candidate is in the wings, unaware of the procedure for an endorsement, if and when the political insider, the one who knows the ropes, the one who has been in an office and aware of these procedures, gets there first, he or she will be the one who will get the endorsement. Will this stop the blood bath of Republican on Republican campaigning in the early races? That remains to be seen, but it seems it could really exacerbate it.
Now with the OC giving the nod to Harkey, it is likely that San Diego will give the nod to it’s hometown hero, Wyland. A comment was made last night that VanTran has “no chance” and should bow out now, which of all the incredible and offensive things I heard last night, that was certainly one of them. It was only a few years ago that Van Tran was the great party hope to unseat Loretta Sanchez. Now he is disregarded like road kill, ‘nothing to see here folks, move along’. Wow.
The veritable stepping over Van Tran, is magnified though when viewed in light of the discussion that occurred. Strangely, in the lengthy questioning of the candidates, not only were there no questions related to the actual duties of the position, there was no discussion of the agenda that either candidate would bring to the office. What there was, were a number of questions that could be easily rephrased as “How Republican are you?” We heard quite a lot from Harkey about how involved she has been in the party, how she is highly rated in her State Assembly performance by conservative groups, and all the conservative principles she has fought for in the State Assembly. Nothing other than she really wants “this” (new) job, to explain to us what exactly she will do at the Board of Equalization.
It should be noted that Wyland, even though he was invited to engage in the discussion, did NOT seek the party endorsement.
In addition to being light on substance related to the actual office, (again, these candidates were not noticed that they would be speaking) Harkey was over all, shrill in her presentation. She was a tad histrionic, condescending and rude at times. I did not care for the eye rolling at some of the comments from Wyland, and her body language, including but not limited to the manner in which she snatched the microphone from Mr. Wyland.
I have said before, this is a tough room. Politicos of every ilk, well versed in the issues and public figures who in their own varied roles, must verbally address the public on a regular basis. If you are coming here, you should be prepared to bring your A-game. Ms. Harkey, as she pointed out, has a long career of public service and has run many a successful campaign. She as much as anyone, should not take any of this for granted. The impression she gave last night is that she does. She was indignant that Wyland was there, or in the race or really toward almost anything he had to say. He is also an elected official, coincidentally, higher ranking than Ms. Harkey. Regardless, her disrespect was uncalled for. Her anticipation of the automatic nature of the endorsement of this important body, also uncalled for. I would have been far more impressed had she been dignified, respectful and acquiescing to the right of her opponent to be heard.
I am disappointed that the Committee took this action when there were other options, to simply not endorse, or table it for a short, or even indefinite time. I am disappointed at the narrow margin by which this important endorsement was gained. I would have voted for the motion to table this to the next meeting or anytime AFTER the filing deadline had passed so that we could be certain exactly WHO will be in this race, but that’s not the way it went. I fear now, that this will be a fundraising and propaganda blood bath, in what could have and should have been a quiet race for a “safe” seat. Ms. Harkey indicated that this early endorsement will avoid exactly that which I and others fear, in that SHE will have an easier time raising money and obtaining important support. I’m not the campaigning pro that she is, and I seriously hope she is right, it just doesn’t make any logical sense to me.
A letter I received from Mark Wyland dated February 13, 2014, stated, “My view has always been that the best role for the party is to stay out of Republican on Republican races, and to help unify everyone after the June vote. ……With that in mind, I would ask the Orange County Republican Party not pick favorites between three Republicans. Speaking for myself, I can’t think of anything I have done over the years to deserve having my party endorse against me. …. I do not request my party’s endorsement and would deeply appreciate it if my party would not endorse against me.”
In this post Prop 14 world, I keep having this recurring thought, it is a good thing we Republicans are so pro-gun because we need to keep re-loading to shoot ourselves repeatedly in the foot.