Sunday, March 1, 2015

California's US Senate Race: Update

Only one month has passed, and already the dynamics of CA's US Senate race are getting bolder, brighter, more disparate and desperate, depending on who is hoping for what.

My first choice was  (and still is):

Condoleezza Rice
Condoleezza Rice

A black conservative movement is petitioning for Condoleezza Rice to reconsider and run for US Senate.

She is not running. I hate admitting it, but I have learned to treat serious statesmen (and women) with utmost respect, and take their statements seriously. She does not want to run. No matter how many armchair political consultants plot and map out the ideal candidates and how well they would do in a contest, there are too many factors beyond our own ideas, and the evidence in front of us, to determine whether the candidate we think that would work out, does not even want to work for it.

Case in point: I was gung-ho for Gardena Mayor Paul Tanaka running for the 66th State Assembly seat in 2014. Local activists and state consultants wanted Torrance mayor Frank Scotto to run, and the local Democratic machine feared Scotto the most.

Both turned down the opportunity. They both would have been great candidates, but they did not want the job. Two consultants came down from Sacramento to plead with Scotto to change his mind. He made it clear to 66th Central Committee Chairman David Hadley: this will be the last time you see me to discuss this.

Scotto said no, and Tanaka ran for LA County Sheriff. Other local city officials also turned down the race. I personally called Patrick "Kit" Bobko to run, but he had his law firm to consider, as well as a testy city council race and oil settlement in Hermosa Beach to deal with.

Hadley became the candidate for the seat. Many were skeptical, including his closest friends and political allies. I was not turned on to his running at all. I still wanted Tanaka to run. I even admitted this to the Gardena mayor that five months into Election 2014. Dreams die hard.

Still, Hadley came, ran, and won. Done. Dreams die hard, but living realities are worthy enjoying. The Democratic supermajority has been stopped. Republicans are slowly gaining ground. I did not get my wish, but what has transpired exceeded my dreams nonetheless

So, the first point I would make to Condi enthusiasts: let it go. Someone worthwhile will come around for the US Senate seat.

David Dreier
David Dreier

Other names are floating around, including retired Congressman David Dreier of San Dimas.

No way? Way!

 A conservative's conservative from Claremont-McKenna, he ran for office straight out of college and never looked back as he become part of the Washington D.C. institution. He worked behind the scenes to get Democratic governor Gray Davis recalled, and Schwarzenegger elected. He was the face of the House GOP conference for years, and as the Chairman of the Rules Committee he commanded clear influence in Washington.

Would Dreier, the small "l" libertarian be willing to step out of retirement and help the California Republican Party cause one more time with a run for US Senate? A Public Policy Poll put him within striking distance of Democratic frontrunner Kamala Harris (who is not well-know in the California voting public, anyway).

David Dreier for US Senate?

Well, unlike Condi, David has not said yes or no. I reached out to him by email through his website, but no responses. I may find a well-connected intermediary to help me out and discover whether Dreier is even remotely interested.

Now, no one should throw up their hands and declare: It's hopeless.

Three, no four people have sounded their interest.

Tom Del Beccaro
Tom Del Beccaro

Beccaro is a dynamic writer and radio/TV personality. He was also the prior California Republican Party Chairman before Jim Brulte. Local leaders have criticized his lack of fundraising as well as the relative break-down and malaise of the CA GOP during his tenure. On the other hand, he is boldly throwing his hat toward the ring with an exploratory committee. David Hadley, my local committee chairman, ran for office and won, so it is hardly unheard of for the political organizers to step up and out for office, when no one else does. Besides, his articles are routinely read and well-received on Forbes Magazine. I have learned a lot from this man.

Duf Sundheim
Duf Sundheim

Before Del Becarro, and then Ron Nehring before him, there was Duf.

I know more about Tom, but that does not mean anything by itself.

The San Francisco Chronicle put together a strong profile of this moderate Northern California Republican. The year of his election as Republican Party Chairman, voters revolted against massive deficits, rolling energy blackouts, and general political dysfunction in Sacramento, all tied to recently-reelected Democratic Governor Gray Davis.

Sundheim sent him, Arnold, to run in the recall, and he won.

What was the legacy of the Terminator for California? Jerry Brown, and a diminished Republican presence in California. Gray needed to go, but so did the entitlement mentality of the political class, the lobbyists, the public sector unions, and every interest group based on and defined by grievance.

Schwarzenegger had some bold ideas, but when it came to the political realities of dealing with a  hostile, liberal Democratic legislature, he got terminated in turn. The 2005 litany of initiatives, including paycheck protection and extensions of teacher tenure, failed miserably. Was that all the Austrian-born Republican Governor's fault? I am not so inclined, but it did demonstrate that the political sclerosis of pay-for-play dominating Sacramento would need more than Hollywood Charisma and kitschy-catchy media hype. In  local Republican clubs, Arnold gets booed more than praise to this day.

Is the legacy of a liberal Republican governor the lasting impression which Duf would like to present to the electorate? With little else granting him the spotlight, is there anything else that would make Duf more of a Duff.

Rocky Chavez
Rocky Chavez

The San Diego Assemblyman is a team player. He helped David Hadley get elected to the state assembly. He is a fiscal conservative. He is a current, elected official connected with a strong Republican machine in one of the most active and thriving GOP regions in the state.

He is also pro-amnesty and pro-gay marriage. For social conservatives, he is a non-starter. At least he is talking about running, and he is not afraid to attack Kamala Harris (even though most people in California have no idea who she is). He also has 28 years of experience in the Marine Corps. He also sounds a lot like Neel Kashkari: "Californians care about job and education. That's it."

We all know how Kashkari turned out.

Then again, he is an elected official. He has politicked and won offices. He has a record of political and thus legislative accomplishment. No one else above has these credentials. He cares about fiscal discipline, school choice, and has strong and active ties to CA GOP leaders throughout the state.

There is another Republican candidate running, who has already filed papers, but has achieved little traction. . .

John Estrada

John Estrada

A Fresno farmer who worked to recall Governor Davis and help cherry farmer Andy Vidak get elected, Estrada was not even on the radar until I learned about his campaign. I contacted him within a day. He and I discussed key issues at length, including his long history in the state helping Republicans get elected

He even spoke on my radio show two weeks ago: "The State of the Union".

He is solidly conservative, supporting life and marriage. The Fresno Bee featured him in their paper, but no one else has been writing much of anything about him. He focuses on the water issues plaguing the Central Valley. He supports a secure border, ending public benefits to illegal aliens, but he also supports a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens already here. I respect the differences people have on this issue, and I also realize the impracticality of removing eleven million illegal residents. Border security, E-verify, and welfare reform are a must.

Estrada touts his strong connections with the Latino community, and he supports marriage between one man and one woman.

And very likely, you have not heard of him until. . .now.

Concluding Remarks

I am concerned about the direction of the California Republican Party. There is too much talk focused on changing ideological stances, instead of broadening outrage to key constituencies, like Asians and African-Americans. And Hispanics. I am more inclined to Estrada's candidacy because he and I share the majority of conservative views and values.

But does this guy really have more than a dustbowl's chance of miracle springs flowing?

I would enjoy seeing retired Congressman Dreier run. Would he?

Chavez? Not thrilled about it. Del Beccaro is at least the most serious as far as name and connections. He plays the media game much better than the others. One Nor Cal GOP told me that Del Beccaro will not be able to raise money, in part because of the negative legacy of his chairmanship.

Things are heating up, even though the June 2016 primary is a year away. Krazy Kammy is a relative unknown, the Liberal Latino caucus is furious with the routine neglect they endure from the Sacramento Democratic political class. Even though former two-term Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has declined to run, the Latino Democratic machines are working overtime to find someone else. Former Assembly speaker John Perez, perhaps?

And Republicans still have time to watch as a strong Presidential contender brings up the national ticket, and helps CA GOP US Senate chances in 2016.

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