News

Republican Party taps conservative activists to turn “blue” into “red”

California has long been known as a liberal outpost in a fairly conservative
country. But Republicans say looks are deceiving, and the GOP game plan for
the Nov. 8 special election is to import strategies and personnel that have
proven successful elsewhere.

“To look at a map, California is an incredibly red state,” said Gary Marx, a
political consultant known for his religious, anti-abortion views. “There’s
just a few coastal areas that are blue.”

Marx is part of a plan to bring out voters from the vast expanse of red
counties that spread across much of California. Both he and another
controversial figure– Simi-Valley conservative activist Steve Frank–have
been on the state Republican Party payroll since summer, working as liaisons
to conservative groups.

Mike Spence, president of the conservative California Republican Assembly
and a longtime acquaintance of Frank, said that the governor needs people
like Frank if he is to have any chance of bringing out conservative voters
in large numbers of Nov. 8.

“He [Schwarzenegger] isn’t one of us,” said “But these public policy
initiatives are the right thing,” says Spence. “At this point in the
election, Steve Frank is more valuable than all of the governor’s
consultants.”

On paper, Marx and Frank are very different political animals.
Marx is more of a hired gun. His resume includes posts at the Virginia
Christian Coalition and Ralph Reed’s Century Strategies consulting firm. The
party hired him in August via his Virginia-based firm, Principian
Consulting, he said, to be the “unofficial grassroots coordinator” for the
Yes on 73 campaign. (The proposition would force a pregnant minor’s doctor
to notify the parents at least 48 hours before performing an abortion.) Marx
said this election marks the first time he has done work in California.

Frank is more of a creature of his own creation. The outspoken political
activist is known for his CA Political News and Views Web site and his
willingness travel to speak to audiences anywhere in the state. He said that
he has been retained since July to work as a liaison to conservative groups
in support of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s full slate of initiatives.

With turnout in doubt, both sides are following the Karl Rove strategy of
rallying the base instead of obsessing over undecided voters. The
bring-out-the-base strategy became even more urgent for Republicans in light
of this week’s Field Poll, which showed none of Schwarzenegger’s four
‘reform’ initiatives–Propositions 74 through 77–had more than 19 percent
support among Democrats.

Proposition 73–which Schwarzenegger says he supports, although it is not
part of his reform package–is seen as particularly important, given the
likelihood it will bring out religious voters who will then support other
Republican initiatives. A recent Public Policy Institute of California poll
showed Proposition 73 trailing 48 to 44.

But the Republican side may be taking a risk by employing two controversial
figures in order to bring out conservative voters. Marx is known for his
outspoken anti-abortion views and working with evangelicals on behalf of
George W. Bush’s re-election campaign. He is directing a staff of 10
part-time regional coordinators focusing on friendly audiences such as
churches, Christian concerts and Latino community fairs.

Frank, meanwhile, was the Ventura County Coordinator for Proposition 187,
which would have limited social services to undocumented immigrants, and
Ward Connerly’s anti-affirmative action efforts. In the 1990s, Frank led
efforts to establish the National Federation of Republican Assemblies, a
coalition of conservative groups that bills itself as “the Republican Wing
of the Republican Party” and targets RINOs–Republicans in Name Only, a
charge that has been leveled at Schwarzenegger on occasion.

“If there any doubt as to how far to the right the [Schwarzenegger’s
California] Recovery Team is, look no further than employees like Steve
Frank and Gary Marx,” said Democratic consultant Roger Salazar. “If the
governor was serious about governing from the center, he wouldn’t have these
right-wing nut-jobs on the payroll.”

On the contrary, counters Republican political consultant Dan Schnur,
Republicans aren’t doing anything different from their Democratic
counterparts.

“Grassroots efforts in both parties tend to focus on the most ideological
members of those parties,” Schnur said. “There’s no such thing as a raging
moderate.”

Schnur pointed to the raucous rally held in Los Angeles last week by two
high profile Latino Democrats, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Assembly
Speaker Fabian Nu

Want to see more stories like this? Sign up for The Roundup, the free daily newsletter about California politics from the editors of Capitol Weekly. Stay up to date on the news you need to know.

Sign up below, then look for a confirmation email in your inbox.

 

Support for Capitol Weekly is Provided by: