Calif. US. Senate candidates blast GOP endorsement

by CalWatchdog Staff | May 16, 2012 9:07 am

[1]May 16, 2012

By Dave Roberts

In California, there are three certainties: death, taxes and the re-election of Sen. Dianne Feinstein[2]. In 2006, she shellacked Dick Mountjoy[3] by 24 points. In 2000, she trounced Tom Campbell[4] by 19 points.

The grande doyenne of California Democrats has been in the Senate for 20 years and will turn 79 next month. She’s up for re-election and, short of serious illness or death, it’s likely she’ll still be in the Senate when she’s 85 and 91 if she wants.

So it’s not exactly a shock that prominent Republican congressmen like Darrell Issa[5], David Dreier[6] and Dan Lungren[7] have chosen to sit this one out. That has left the field of challengers to 14 Republicans, five Democrats and four minor party candidates — all of whom have zero to little electoral experience or name recognition. In a crowded field of nobodies, getting their party’s endorsement provides an advantage in winning the second spot in the new top-two primary system [8]and its ticket to the general election in November.

The top two system was instituted by Proposition 14[9] in 2010.  Under it, the top two winners of June 5 primary will face off in November. No other candidates for U.S. Senate will be on the ballot. Assuming Feinstein is the top vote getter, that means just one other person will face her on the ballot, likely a Republican. Third party candidates will be shut out.

The function of the political parties has been reduced to official endorsements.

In March, the California Republican Party[10] endorsed more than 100 candidates for a variety of offices, including for the U.S. Senate. “As the party prepares to be a vigorous contender in California’s first top two primary, we seek to promote the most competitive candidates in the field this primary season,” said Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro[11] in the press release announcing the endorsed candidates.

Elizabeth Emken[12] won the GOP nod as the most competitive candidate to face Feinstein. However, the Danville autism advocate’s only electoral experience is finishing fourth out of four candidates[13] in the 2010 Republican primary in Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney’s[14] district. Emken received 16.7 percent of the vote. In a district that winds through four counties, Emken didn’t even win her own Contra Costa County, finishing second, just 270 votes ahead of the third-place finisher.

Such a poor showing might be understandable if a candidate were running a token campaign, placing her name in contention for publicity’s sake but doing little campaigning. But Emken ran full out in 2010, spending $456,40[15]4 — more than $200,000 of it from her own pocket. That equates to $40 per vote. At that rate Emken would need to raise more than $200 million to best the more than 5 million votes Feinstein gathered in 2006. As of March 31, Emken had raised just more than $300,000. Feinstein’s campaign treasury had more than $7 million on hand.

[16]‘Most competitive candidate’?

So what makes Emken the “most competitive candidate” in the eyes of state GOP officials? One factor is that her senior communications advisor is Mark Standriff[17], who in January left his position after two years as communications director for the California Republican Party. “Mark has been a tireless member of our senior staff and dedicated himself to improving the CRP’s communications efforts by helping me reach more voters in more corners of our state,” California GOP Chairman Tom Del Beccaro said in a statement upon Standriff’s departure.

In an email interview, I asked Jennifer Kerns[18], who replaced Standriff as the California GOP communications director, whether it was helpful for Emken in getting the endorsement to have Standriff on her staff. Kerns did not address the question, saying simply, “He was free to consult with any campaign once he departed the CRP.”

Said Standriff in a phone interview, “The only thing it helped is that I am a professional communications director and somebody who has worked on campaigns for years and was able to put together a comprehensive package. I contacted no board members. Frankly, I wish I had that kind of power.”

Standriff said Emken’s experience two years ago in one district’s partisan Republican primary is not relevant to today’s statewide, top-two primary.

“You have to take everything that happened pre-Prop. 14 and throw it out the window,” he said. “All of these other candidates seem to think this is still a partisan primary, and it’s not. It’s open to everybody. That’s why you will see 24 different names on the ballot. So the Republican Party said, ‘Who do we think is the most electable, who has the best chance to get through June 5th and take on Dianne Feinstein?’ Everybody had the chance to present their financial package and show how much money they will be able to raise and present their positions. She’s the only one who has ever gone to Washington D.C. and stood up and said, ‘Enough is enough.’ And that’s a big thing.”

Kerns said Emken’s experience as an autism lobbyist was a major factor in her endorsement.

That was echoed by Jeff Corless, Emken’s campaign manager. He said, “She, unlike the rest of the candidates, not only has business experience and experience helping those truly in need, but also understands the legislative process from day one when she goes back to the Senate, because of her experience in advocacy for autism.”

Endorsement process

Perhaps it’s a case of sour grapes, but several Republican candidates who did not get the endorsement or chose not to participate in the endorsement process, with its $500 buy-in for consideration, have harsh words for the way things went down.

“I believe the Republican Party has committed fraud in its endorsement of Elizabeth Emken by doing so without providing an opportunity for all candidates to be heard,” said Dennis Jackson[19], an aerospace general manager from Rancho Cucamonga. “Due to the open primary, there were no party debates or any type of debate that was televised.

“I have been a voting Republican since 1968 and would destroy Elizabeth Emken in a debate or in a comparison of backgrounds that would best serve this nation. However, I was never contacted by the Republican Party about any meeting to review my candidacy, policies or background. In making the endorsement in such a manner, the party is playing king-maker and insulting the intelligence of the voters as well as attempting to silence the voice of the candidates that they never even took the time to meet. The party politics seem more in line with the Bolsheviks [20]than the Founding Fathers.”


Also ticked off in Rancho Cucamonga is MBA student Dirk Allen Konopik[21], who said, “The California Republican Party’s leadership, to include Chairman Tom Del Beccaro, has been a constant disappointment; from their continuous failure to support viable candidates, to the unethical decision to charge U.S. Senate candidates $500 just to consider them for the CRP endorsement. I chose not to pay. It is now very clear to me, after ramping up our U.S. Senate campaign since January 2011, why the Democratic Party controls California. It’s because the CRP is inefficient, ineffective and corrupt. In my opinion, I would rather have the California Federation of Republican Women lead the CRP.”

Also critical is Orly Taitz[22], the Laguna Niguel attorney who has become known for challenging President Obama’s citizenship.

“The nomination process was a complete fraud, and a number of the candidates are considering suing the corrupt 24 board members,” said Taitz. “Two candidates … talked to the Chair of the Board Tom Del Beccarro and another board member, who told them that the meeting and discussion was just a formality, the decision was already made. So, the Board has collected several thousand dollars from candidates under false pretenses. They used this money to have a nice weekend at a nice hotel and announced the predetermined decision. They defrauded the candidates and the voters.”

Another unhappy candidate is Rick Williams[23], a Los Angeles attorney.

“I believe the California Republican Party acted improperly by engaging in a process to endorse one candidate in the United States Senate race from a field of 14 good Republicans running for the seat,” he said. “I declined to participate in their disgraceful process. I realized it was a sham and wanted nothing to do with it. The decision as to which candidate should represent the Republican Party against Dianne Feinstein is for voters to make — not a tiny group of insider political operatives at the state party who were trying to tilt the playing field.”

Nachum Shifren, a Santa Monica rabbi, believes the state party snub of his campaign may be an asset: “My chances are helped, since the GOP mafia and good ol’ boys club will never nominate or support a true conservative that threatens the status quo,” he said. “I am having success in precisely distinguishing myself from the other RINO candidates and those that simply won’t take on the difficult issues.”

Kerns dismissed the criticism of the endorsement process, saying, “We provided every candidate the opportunity to be heard, in writing, by phone, and in person. This was to ensure the fairest process.”

If party officials had decided to base their endorsement on the candidate with the best electoral experience, they would have chosen Greg Conlon[24], a Burlingame CPA.

“I probably have the best chance because I ran statewide in 2002 for state treasurer and received over one million votes in the primary and three million votes in the general election against Phil Angelides[25], an incumbent,” said Conlon. “Therefore, even though it was 10 years ago, some will remember the name and vote for me now.”

The GOP endorsement may ultimately be irrelevant to the outcome of this year’s election. It’s likely that whoever wins the primary from among the 14 largely unknown and inexperienced Republican candidates will become a sacrificial lamb led to the Feinstein slaughter in November.

  1. [Image]:
  2. Sen. Dianne Feinstein:
  3. Dick Mountjoy:
  4. Tom Campbell:
  5. Darrell Issa:
  6. David Dreier:
  7. Dan Lungren:
  8. new top-two primary system :
  9. Proposition 14:
  10. California Republican Party:
  11. Tom Del Beccaro:
  12. Elizabeth Emken:
  13. finishing fourth out of four candidates:
  14. Rep. Jerry McNerney’s:
  15. spending $456,40:
  16. [Image]:
  17. Mark Standriff:
  18. Jennifer Kerns:
  19. Dennis Jackson:
  20. Bolsheviks :
  21. Dirk Allen Konopik:
  22. Orly Taitz:
  23. Rick Williams:
  24. Greg Conlon:
  25. Phil Angelides:

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