This weekend, as the California Republican Party brings its bi-annual convention party shoes to Sacramento, it will be more obvious than ever that these are not fun times to be a member of the Grand Old Party in the Golden State.
The Reeps limp into their convention in about as sorry a state as they’ve been since they were swept out of all the constitutional offices in 2002. That year, they were unraveled ticket-wide by the disastrous campaign of their standard bearer, Bill Simon.
Today, despite holding onto the governor’s office, they are embroiled in turmoil over the state party’s massive debt, calls for audits into campaign spending, irrelevance in the state Legislature, disrespect and abandonment by their own governor and corruption scandals in their congressional delegation. To add insult to injury, they lost their majorities in Congress and are stuck with a lame-duck president who’s under fire because of his Iraq mess.
In contrast, Democrats in California are strong. Just last month over 6,000 Democratic Party activists turned out across the state at local Assembly delegate elections to the California Democratic Party’s STATE Convention. In
addition the CDP is engaged in a 58-county strategy designed to strengthen our majorities in the Assembly and Senate, excite Democrats for the 2008 presidential election, win back the White House and pick up seats from ethically-challenged Representatives like John Doolittle, Gary Miller and Jerry Lewis.
The CRP, meanwhile, is in the middle of an internal audit investigation into how they blew $20 million on a get-out-the-vote effort that resulted in depressed Republican turnout, no pick-ups in the Legislature and the loss of two incumbents: Rep. Richard Pombo and Secretary of State Bruce McPherson.
Party activists have been blasting the GOTV effort and demanding an accounting of what went wrong, but party leaders have said they would keep any audit results a secret. The fact that campaign-finance reports released last week show the CRP $4.6 million in debt, coupled with news reports that the party was paying workers $13 an hour to register voters, will only fuel the controversy this weekend.
It will also be interesting to see how much GOP love is shown for Schwarzenegger in the halls of the non-union Hyatt.
The situation with Schwarzenegger is even more interesting. In years past, the GOP desperately needed Arnold to resuscitate their moribund party, so they gave him some latitude on some of his positions.
And every once in a while, they thought they caught whiffs of conservative aroma when he campaigned for Bush in Ohio and went on the right-wing warpath with his failed special election in 2005. But the smell went away and left only a bitter aftertaste in 2006 as the governor flip-flopped and adopted Democratic proposals to save his skin in the gubernatorial election and didn’t lift a finger to help party darlings like Tom McClintock or Tony Strickland. In fact, McClintock has formed a committee called “Citizens for the California Republic” to offer an alternative voice to Schwarzenegger.
Recently, Republicans got another reminder of how little respect this governor has for them and other Republican leaders in the Legislature. Assembly Republicans, who have publicly complained about their lack of relevance over the past year, have had to endure even more humiliation at the hands of their leader as recent tapes released to media outlets show the governor and his staff calling Assemblyman Guy Houston “childish,” calling former Assembly GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy “Bakersfield Boy,” and generally saying “GOP lawmakers are small-minded, obstructionist and prone to nitpicking.”
That kind of talk can’t go over well among the party faithful this weekend.