LOS ANGELES, September 21, 2014 — From the Marriott at Los Angeles International Airport, the California Republican Party held its 2014 Fall Convention. The theme for the convention was “Reclaiming California.”
A Republican Jewish gathering on Friday afternoon offered pre-sabbath rituals including the blessings over wine and bread.
The theme for the Friday night dinner was “Celebrating the women of the GOP.” CRP Vice Chairwoman Harmeet Dhillon, Vice Chairwoman of the Board of Equalization Michelle Steel, and CRP Northwest Vice Chair Elissa Wadleigh were among many women honored for their substantive contributions to California and Republican politics. In the Democratic Party, the only standard for womanhood is being pro-choice on abortion. Pro-life women are part of the mythical war on women. The Republican Party is where women of all stripes can have their views represented without strict litmus tests on social issues. The female faces of the GOP are not token faces for the party. They are the heart and soul of the party.
Ashley Swearengin is the GOP candidate for Controller. She offered some brief bonhomie about her Southern upbringing before getting down to serious nuts and bolts fiscal policy. Her remarks may have been to dry for those wanting red meat, but she struck the right level of wonkiness for those worried about California’s impending fiscal time bomb.
The hospitality suites provided fun for delegates and guests into the late hours. California National Committeeman had his bi-annual cigar bar, and this was his most successful one yet. The Bay Area GOP held a hospitality suite, and gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari did as well. The other hospitality suite was dedicated for the Republican women of California.
The Saturday lunch speaker was Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. Expected to give his boilerplate speech, Paul gave out swinging.
He remarked that privacy violations would be especially bad for former Congressman Anthony Weiner, who likes to Tweet selfies. He mentioned that if you want to hide information from the government, store it with former IRS leader Lois Lerner’s emails.
On Constitution Day, “The President celebrated the constitution by violating it.”
Paul spent a significant time talking about how the government shutdown was good for Americans. 90% of IRS employees and 95% of EPA staff were considered “non-essential.” There are over 100,000 federal employees making over $100,000 per year.
Paul was not afraid to tell the Republican crowd that we cannot continue to “give the military a blank check.”
On Benghazi, Paul offered a valid point. The real scandal, just like with the Clinton-era Mogadishu BlackHawk Down scandal, was that for six months before Benghazi requests for more aid were ignored. Paul made it clear the Hillary Clinton is unfit for the White House. He noted that while the White House blamed Republicans for a lack of funds, State Department profligate spending by Hillary Clinton was an issue.
“She had a 3:00 A.M. moment, she didn’t answer the phone,” and that should “preclude her” from the White House.
Paul astutely pointed out that college students do not focus on taxes and regulations because they do not have jobs or money. They do care about privacy, which is why he is one of the only Republicans cheered on the Berkeley campus.
“What you say or do on your cellphone is none of the government damn business.”
Paul also offered messages that are not typically offered by Republicans. He insisted that drug laws disproportionately affect minorities and that non-violent felons should have their voting rights restored.
He pointed out that in areas where the GOP wins 3% of the black vote, even 20% support would flip blue states red again. The GOP has to appeal to people with tattoos and earrings.
After a standing ovation, Paul entered the way he came in, to ACDC’s “TNT.”
There were plenty of workshops, with the Tea Party California Caucus being the main attraction. Their focus for this convention was on border security and efforts to get out conservative voters for the November elections. As usual, the TPCC event was standing room only by the time the meeting started. Assemblywoman Shannon Grove had the crowd fired up from the start.
Later on the TPCC held a celebration with guest speakers Bill Whittle and Arizona Sheriff Richard Mack.
The Saturday night dinner speaker was House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, the first Californian to hold that position. McCarthy drew parallels between the Obama administration in 2014 and the helplessness of Jimmy Carter in 1979. McCarthy then connected the history and spirit of the GOP in waxing poetic about Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan. He also spoke glowingly about former Israeli Prime Minister of Israel Shimon Peres, and admirer of America.
More hospitality suites meant more Saturday night revelry, while Sunday morning meant a prayer service and more committee meetings.
While there was nothing about this convention that was problematic, there was little to distinguish it. Turnout was much lighter than in past conventions. California has two conventions per year, and the same issue keeps reoccurring. Southern Californians will travel to Northern California, but many Northern California delegates will simply not come to the GOP conventions in Southern California. As for Central California, it remains completely ignored as a convention destination despite being the most solidly Republican part of the state. It has no major international airports, and many delegates will not make the drive.
With less than two months until the election, this convention presented a dichotomy. Delegates insisted that convention turnout is not reflective of party enthusiasm. Many people skipped the convention specifically because they were out knocking on doors, making phone calls, and stumping for candidates in other ways. The downside is that it is tougher to sell a message of improved party standing when the main event meant to unify the party saw a lower turnout than in past years.
The CAGOP is on the upswing, but much more work needs to be done if Republicans are ever going to break the stranglehold that Democrats have in California.