CA GOP ‘Idiots’ Lose State Senate

FEB. 6, 2012


Back to the campaign drawing board for California Republicans.

The California Supreme Court recently upheld the maps drawn by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission.

The immediate fallout: State Sen. Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, told his hometown paper that he wouldn’t seek reelection, due to the unfavorable maps approved by the court. In another swing seat, Republicans have yet even to field a candidate. State Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Moorpark, announced that he wouldn’t seek reelection in order to run for a new seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

If Republicans lose both state Senate seats, their Senate caucus will be reduced to fewer than 14 members, the all-important two-thirds threshold that gives Republicans the ability to block tax increases. At 13 Republican and 27 Democratic state senators, Democrats in the Senate could vote to impose infinite tax increases.

“It’s going to be seriously difficult for Republicans to stay above one-third in the Senate because of this,” California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro complained to the Mercury News. “It puts the two-party system in the Senate in jeopardy.”

$2.1 Million Dollars for Useless Referendum

Republicans can now put a cost on their defeat: $2.1 million.

According to its fourth quarter campaign finance report, the Republican group Fairness & Accountability in Redistricting spent a whopping $2.1 million on its effort to put the new state Senate maps to a vote in November. The committee collected $1.7 million, or 80 percent, of its funding from the California Republican Party. That’s money that a cash-depleted party could have invested into voter registration programs for the three competitive state Senate districts.

“The CRP already spent a few million dollars on the referendum and varied lawsuit, all this while one of their best senate candidates, Jeff Miller, has no million-dollar voter registration program and can’t even afford a new URL,” observed the January 30th Redistricting Partners newsletter.

But it didn’t have to end this way for Golden State Republicans. Not if they’d followed the old maxim: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Lesson One: Research redistricting commissioners and use legislative strikes wisely.

Propositions 11 and 20 gave legislative leaders of both parties the power to strike up to two names from the final applicant subpool of redistricting commissioners. Republican leaders could have spent a few thousand dollars on opposition research reports on the backgrounds of redistricting commissioners. Or they could have spent just a few hours cross-checking applicants against the state’s campaign finance database. Had anyone at the California Republican Party done a few hours of research, they’d have discovered several campaign contributions by two commissioners.

Back in July 2011, first reported on two redistricting commissioners’ partisan histories and campaign contributions. Commissioner Jeanne Raya failed to disclose four contributions totaling $1,000 made on behalf of her business to a state political action committee.  State law requires commissioners to disclose any civic, political or charitable donations of $250 or more.

Commissioner Gabino Aguirre made three campaign donations to Democratic candidates for state office. In November 2008, Aguirre contributed $100 to Ferial Masry, the Democratic nominee for the 37th State Assembly District. A year later, he made a $200 contribution to Gloria Romero, a former Democratic state senator. Aguirre also has extensive ties to a redistricting special interest group, the Central Coast Alliance United for A Sustainable Economy (CAUSE). The progressive social justice organization submitted its own redistricting maps for the Central Coast. It’s no coincidence that Blakeslee and Strickland’s seats, which are now likely to flip to the Democrats, are both on the Central Coast.

With just a little bit of research, Republicans could have made an educated decision to strike Raya and Aguirre. But Republican legislative leaders didn’t want to spend the money. One high-level staffer described Republican legislative leaders’ approach to the redistricting process as “an inexcusable reluctance to spend the resources to research the background of the commissioners.” Another senior staff member for a Republican legislator put it simply, “The truth is we’re idiots.”

While neither staffer wanted to be identified by name, one Republican political consultant openly defied party leadership in an attempt to save the GOP from itself.

“When you start the process telling people not to be involved and then end the process complaining that others were too involved, you have created your own emergency,” wrote Matt Rexroad, a partner with Meridian Pacific, in his rant for Capitol Weekly. “The issue that really galls me is that Republicans can cry foul all they want, but legislative leadership made it very clear that they did not want any Republican consultants to engage on redistricting.”

Lesson Two: Focus on the flawed process, not self-interested outcomes.

If they had been consistent in their objections, Republicans could have convinced the public that the redistricting process was flawed.

Republicans were right: the redistricting process was corrupted by special interest groups. Background research could have helped expose Aguirre, but the full extent of his partisan activities couldn’t have been fully brought to light in time for the legislative strikes.  That’s because Aguirre’s last and most egregious contribution, a $100 check to Democratic Assemblyman Das Williams, posted to the Secretary of State’s website nine days after the Bureau of State Audits completed its background check.

Williams had a vested interest in redistricting. Yet the commission took no action to disclose this potential conflict of interest or sequester Aguirre from Williams’ region. They did the opposite. Aguirre was put in charge of overseeing the Central Coast mapmaking.  He promptly adopted the maps suggested by his friends at CAUSE.

Jerry Roberts and Phil Trounstine, who have been highly-critical of the Republicans’ redistricting referendum, questioned the cause of Willliams’ redistricting good fortune. “When you look at Williams’ new 37th Assembly district, which is about as safe for him as can be, along with the new 19th SD, the future of the hyper-ambitious young pol looks bright indeed, whether he sits still for two more, two-year terms in the Assembly, or jumps into a 2012 race that could bring two four-year terms in the senate. Coincidence? You be judge,” the CalBuzz team wrote back in August.

Republicans didn’t concentrate on this message, in part, because they liked the configuration of the State Assembly maps. They also ignored the Voting Rights Act violations with the congressional maps because those were favorable to high-ranking House Republicans. Instead, Republicans voluntarily swapped a message about the flawed process for a pity-party about losing one-third control of the State Senate.

Lesson Three: Don’t look a gift commissioner in the mouth.

Redistricting Commissioner Mike Ward, an Orange County chiropractor with no prior involvement in state politics, demonstrated a more coherent message than Republican political pros.

“The Citizens Redistricting Commission has certified maps that are fundamentally flawed as a result of a tainted political process,” Ward said at the commission’s August 15 press conference. “This commission simply traded the partisan, backroom gerrymandering by the Legislature, for partisan, backroom gerrymandering by average citizens.”

Then Ward did what you’re supposed to do when you object to a corrupted process: he voted against all of the proposed maps. He didn’t cherry-pick maps based on those that would help his political party. The Senate referendum quashed Ward’s message about the flawed process. If the process was corrupted, why only challenge one set of four maps? Republicans’ inconsistent message impressed upon the press, public and ultimately the State Supreme Court that the referendum was motivated by partisan interests.

Lesson Four: Courts are influenced by public opinion.

Republicans’ last error with its redistricting message came with the referendum lawsuit. Republicans turned the lawsuit into a legal argument about the rule of law, the right to referendum and the will of the voters.

“In the law, the word ‘stay’ has a clear meaning. To ‘stay’ an action means to stop that action. The most authoritative legal dictionary of American law defines ‘stay’ as, ‘To stop, arrest, forbear.’ To ‘stay’ an order or decree means to hold it in abeyance, or refrain from enforcing it.” Black’s Law Dictionary, at 1267 (5th ed. 1979).

Assemblyman Don Wagner wrote in the Flash Report, “Thus, because the petition is ‘likely to qualify,’ the Supreme Court was directed by the Constitution to ‘refrain from enforcing’ the Commission’s Senate maps. In short, the California Constitution, with a simple, four letter word of indisputable meaning, stays or stops the use of the Commission lines until the people have their say on those lines at the ballot box.”

Legally, Wagner may be right. But, who cares? Not even the Supreme Court cared about legal precedents or Black’s Law Dictionary when public opinion stood on the other side.

Said the court’s unanimous opinion, “The Commission-certified Senate districts also are a product of what generally appears to have been an open, transparent and nonpartisan redistricting process as called for by the current provisions of article XXI.” In other words, the Court was influenced by press accounts and public opinion when deciding what to do with the redistricting mess.

In their stories about the court decision, neither the Los Angeles Times nor Sacramento Bee included a word about the corrupted process. Mike Ward was left out completely.

By the end of the redistricting scandal, Republicans had so badly muddled their message that there was no longer any reference to a corrupted process.

(Related: 10 Ways to improve the Citizens Redistricting Commission.)



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  1. Bob
    Bob 6 February, 2012, 12:14

    I’ve been warning anyone who would listen about the DemoNcrats getting a two-thirds majority in the legislature for the last couple of years.

    My main point was that this is the biggest issue we face, much bigger than the tax increase ballot measures.

    Most Repos didn’t seem concerned and now look what’s happened.

    So the Senate is pretty much lost. What about the Assembly? It looks to me that there is a very good chance the DemoNcrats will prevail there too.

    If that happens look for HUGE tax increases in 2013 and 2014. Even if the public votes enough DemoNcrats out in Nov 2014 so they lose the two-thirds majority how will the tax increases get undone? The Repos won’t have the votes and even if they did it won’t matter if there is a DemoNcrat governor.

    We are so SOL!

    Reply this comment
  2. Beelzebub
    Beelzebub 6 February, 2012, 15:27

    And I suspect the big republican leaders secretly condoned and agreed with this redistricting. As I mentioned before, the republicans conspired with the dems to increase our taxes in Feb 2009. This is not speculation. Former Republican Assemblyman explained how it worked on a public radio station. He said the republicans selected 6 sacrificial lambs to vote ‘yes’ on the tax hikes. And after they left office the Republicans rewarded the traitors with high offices (Lt. General) and high paying commission jobs. I mean this really isn’t hard to figure out. All the pieces fall right into place.

    As a result of the Republicans cooperating with the dems in 2009 to raise your taxes their party lost a lot of constituents and a lot of contributions. They don’t want to repeat that experience. It’s easier for repubs to give up 2 seats thus allowing the dems to get the 2/3rd’s majority. That way the Republicans can vote unanimously against the taxes and wash their hands of any increase and retaining your loyalty.

    I am convinced that we really live under one-party rule – where both parties conspire together to build a bigger government and maximize your tax contributions. The bickering you see is all public theater for your buy-in. The Feb 2009 conspiracy changed my attitude completely. None of them are trustworthy.

    Reply this comment
  3. Rex The Wonder Dog!
    Rex The Wonder Dog! 6 February, 2012, 17:14

    Who really cares-this state is toast. We’re going down, bigtime.

    Reply this comment
  4. SkippingDog
    SkippingDog 6 February, 2012, 20:37

    Funny, but the Citizen’s Redistricting Commission was a Republican created creature in the first place – its purpose nothing more than providing what the Republicans hoped would be political cover for their attempt to tilt the redistricting table slightly in their own direction. Without the CRC, the Democratic majority in our legislature would have voted in reapportioned districts most advantageous to themselves and the Democratic majority in our state. That’s how politics has always worked and it’s funny to see the Republican’s own creation bite them in the behind.

    The anti-tax, anti-labor, Republican minority contingent finally looks like it will be effectively neutered for at least a few years. That’s what Reagan really meant when he was pimping his “Morning in America.”

    Reply this comment
  5. Bill-San Jose
    Bill-San Jose 7 February, 2012, 08:58

    Finally! At last, the Republicans are out of the way of nirvana.

    No false idolhood either. Remember, worship in California is against the law …. or will be soon enough.

    The Soviet Socialist Republic of California is almost a reality.

    Reply this comment
  6. Anthony Ragan
    Anthony Ragan 7 February, 2012, 09:05

    “Party of Stupid” really is a well-earned moniker. What was is Strother Martin said in “Butch Cassidy?”

    “Morons. I’ve got morons on my team!”


    Reply this comment
  7. Randall May
    Randall May 7 February, 2012, 10:36

    Can the leadership at the CRP do anything other than blindly support the Chiefs of Police and California Prison Guards and other law enforcement who insist that medical marijuana is evil and that our war on drugs is a moral necessity? Yes, they can collect and squander campaign contributions from such groups as the CRP and the GOP is California becomes less and less relevant. To call these buffoons “stupid” would be a compliment. We need to get non-morons on our County Central Committees starting here in Orange County.

    Reply this comment
  8. Lee Lowrey
    Lee Lowrey 7 February, 2012, 12:39

    First off, you wrote a great article John. You hit it right on. If the CRP had a person on staff with 10% of your talent we could make some progress.

    The party of “idiots” is a perfect description. Most of the men and women on staff and elected to the CRP are nice people as individuals, but for some reason as a collective they have a combined IQ of 10. It is evident in the lack of a proactive message that engages voters, petty internal politics that should be left to deal with outside of the Party, and a state registration percentage that is a complete embarrassment. Just look at our “conventions” where we now attract a small fraction of what it used to be. While the CRP “leaders” are playing games and under the illusion that they are somehow intelligent political operatives (where 99% of them probably couldn’t make it in the private sector), we have lost the ground game in CA. $1.8 million being thrown away, but NOBODY is putting together a ground game to register voters. We should be in every neighborhood within the state. African-American, Hispanic, Asian, Caucasian, we should be in all of those neighborhoods stressing the party of individual achievement and the party that encompasses the American dream. Numbers matter! And our numbers are dismal.

    Until a leader emerges within the GOP ranks that will actually do what the CRP is supposed to and register voters across the state, the GOP will remain irrelevant. I will be one of the first to donate money and time if a leader emerges with registering voters as a priority. I have donated time and money in the past, but am always disappointed in the lack of effective leadership, the lack of setting priorities, and the complete lack of accountability within the leadership. We need someone who can care less about title, from the private sector where results matter, who will roll up his or her sleeves and raises money for VOTER REGISTRATION. Not play petty internal political fights. Until then, we can forget about the GOP in this state.

    For us, we are focusing our dollars on races outside of CA that will actually help our cause. No need to give money to state races or the CA GOP. Until the “idiots” are gone (which is not looking good at this point), I can’t fathom a bigger waste of money.

    Lee M. Lowrey
    [email protected]

    Reply this comment
  9. EastBayLarry
    EastBayLarry 7 February, 2012, 13:43

    We’re hosed.
    It’s silly to talk about 2014 and beyond. Haven’t you noticed how many people are leaving California? Do you think they’re Democrats or Republicans?

    Reply this comment
  10. Shame on Me
    Shame on Me 7 February, 2012, 23:20

    Well done. So many embarrassing “strategies”. Did not know the CRP had 1.7M to waste. Certainly the decision only to challenge the Senate maps was too clever by half. The widely reported (and unseemly) scramble by some politicians to nail down their next gig was kinda comical. Whining about the ruling on the referendum was pathetic. Look forward to reading more of your work.

    Reply this comment
  11. Satis Faction
    Satis Faction 12 February, 2012, 17:51

    I feel so bad for the Republicans who will now have to actually compete to be elected.

    Reply this comment
  12. Fubar
    Fubar 25 February, 2012, 14:37

    The old “conservative” republican establishment in california was premised on vast, and wasteful defense spending. Now that Imperial USA is in decline, the money tap is being turned off. CRP is an anachronism, and needs to die (but won’t), like the rest of the imperialist-corporate-state apparatus and military-industrial-complex

    At this point, CRP is fascism in waiting.

    Reply this comment
  13. Green Energy
    Green Energy 3 March, 2012, 17:50

    We have a green related website and are looking for partners, both for content and for backlinking. Our site is: (Greener-GY, not Green Energy for link reference) Please check us out, we are always looking for green content and will post and promote any relevant content mailed to us to our many daily visitors. You will get a backlink from all published content. We also submit all content to numerous social media and social bookmarking sites, helping you to see more traffic. Please link to us if you are able.Feel free to contact me anytime via my site or email as I’m on the computer often. Thanks again

    Reply this comment
  14. Muhamet
    Muhamet 13 March, 2012, 10:00

    While the math may be convenient, the facts are not. SEIU cmails there are 87,000 SEIU members registered Republican in California, which according to their logic “makes it the single largest political organization within the state GOP.”The fact is that SEUI/GOP members are not a political organization. In fact, I’d be shocked if the SEIU allowed the California Republican Party to come in to organize them into a legitimate charter of the CRP. They’re only a convenient demographic tool.There are 5.3 million registered Republicans in California, with over 100,000 of them small business owners. That doesn’t mean the National Federation of Independent Businesses is the largest organization in the state GOP. It just means that a lot of entrepreneurs are registered Republicans.I understand why you tried to connect the dots to try paint Tony Krvaric as a union stooge. But your attempt was much like a Monet—beautiful from a distance, but close up, it’s a mess.

    Reply this comment
  15. Zachary
    Zachary 19 March, 2012, 10:49

    California is screwed. I wonder after the elections when the state goes further into bankruptcy, who will the democrats blame? Can’t blame the GOP because they won’t have the votes to block anything and can’t blame the people because they elected the Democrats. So if there is a silver lining, it’s that the Democrats getting absolute power will lead to their downfall.

    Reply this comment

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