SAN FRANCISCO, March 16, 2014 — The California Republican Party (CRP) is finally on the comeback trail.
After hitting rock bottom in 2012, the CRP conventions resembled a morgue except with less excitement. Those pointless weekend gatherings might as well be a lifetime ago. The Spring 2014 California GOP Convention had enthusiastic attendees brimming with optimism. This time the optimism was based on reality, rather than wishful thinking.
The Hyatt Regency Hotel in Burlingame right near the San Francisco airport saw the best of what the Republican Party could be if trends continue.
Former CRP chairman Tom Del Beccaro began the process of getting the party out of debt. That process has now been completed by current chairman Jim Brulte and vice chairwoman Harmeet Dhillon. Santa Clara GOP chairman Charles Munger has also been instrumental in getting the CRP back in the black.
The CRP has embraced the diversity without compromising the substance of what it means to be a Republican. Vice chairwoman Dhillon is a Sikh. Consultant Rachel Martin brought a strong integration message to the convention, and her words were heeded. A panel dedicated to the Latino community featured many enthusiastic budding politicians, including congressional candidate Joanna Garcia-Botelho. The state party in the past focused mainly on winning the governorship. Now the party is in position to be competitive in down ballot races.
Talk is cheap, and California Republicans finally have the victories to back up the optimism. Andy Vidak recently won the 16th Senate District that stretches all the way from the San Joaquin Valley to Fresno and Bakersfield.
Even Southern California has seen a GOP revival. A jubilant crowd came to the convention welcome reception to greet newly elected San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer. Faulconer replaced the disgraced Democrat Bob Filner. Faulconer was hailed as a conquering hero, as was San Diego GOP chairman Tony Krvaric. Even liberal strongholds Los Angeles and San Francisco have Republicans running for offices that previously had Democrats facing zero opposition.
Heavy hitters on the national scene have finally returned to California for something other than fundraising. The Friday night dinner speaker was Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus. Saturday at lunch featured Dr. Condoleeza Rice. They were both very well-received, with standing ovations being the rule and not the exception.
Of all the breakout sessions, the biggest success came from the recently formed Tea Party California Caucus. Activists from San Diego, Fresno and Sacramento brought tea party attendees from all over the state to the convention. In California, the Tea Party and the Republican Party have significant overlap. The civil war is a liberal media myth. Republicans and Tea Party attendees want low taxes and fiscal sanity. There is no feud.
One reason the convention was so unified was the relative absence of the Ron Paul movement. One theory is that the movement has flamed out, although the absence of a presidential race or an appearance by Rand Paul could explain the lack of turnout by the Libertarians compared to conventions past. The Tea Party worked within the Republican Party to bring it back to its conservative roots. The Ron Paul movement in many California counties took a keg of dynamite to the GOP. For this reason the California GOP was far more receptive to the Tea Party message. The Lberty booth was tucked deep in a corner of the convention hall far away from where most of the action was taking place, which brought welcome relief to those not embracing the Libertarian movement.
The Liberty hospitality suite in the evening was well attended, but every hospitality suite saw people bouncing back and forth. The Log Cabin Republicans had another successful convention luau. One teenager hopped around dressed as a green bean, which made sense only to him.
The candidates had their hospitality suites, and Republicans are ready to take on California Governor Jerry Brown and Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsome. Tim Donnelly has the gubernatorial support of the Tea Party and the Libertarians, not an easy coalition to unite. Neel Kashkari, the son of Indian immigrants who became a successful banker, had plenty of young voters paying attention to him at the convention. George Yang is one of several candidates for the number two post. When asked about his primary opponents, Yang smartly replied that his opponent was Gavin Newsome.
Those looking for GOP infighting would have a much tougher time finding it than in past years. The 2010 elections were a bonanza for the GOP everywhere except California. If the 2014 California GOP Spring Convention is any indication, the Golden State will be part of any upcoming national conservative wave. The 2014 CRP Fall Convention in Los Angeles will provide a clearer picture.