I had the honor of attending the California Republican Party state convention in Sacramento last weekend as a delegate representing Santa Barbara county. As I’ve been getting more involved in politics, I’ve been learning more about the inner workings of the GOP thanks to my involvement in our county central committee. When our county chairman offered the chance to be a state delegate, I took the initiative to volunteer for it so I could experience something new and hopefully represent the libertarian Republicans.
The convention was a three day event and hosted over 1500 delegates, state legislators, board of directors, and the occasional celebrity speaker (if Michael Bolton and Frank Luntz count). Besides voting on new board members for the state GOP and bylaw proposals, delegates had the opportunity to take training classes as well as visit many interesting booths stationed around the hotel. To be honest, a lot of the stuff that went on there was pretty boring, but thankfully I was able to fill in some of my time voids by visiting the Republican Liberty Caucus booth. I had just joined the RLC a few weeks prior after talking with the state treasurer, Matt Heath, and I was really looking forward to meeting many like minded people.
Friday ended up being the most exciting day for me since I was able to attend a hospitality party put on by the Sacramento GOP central committee at Ghallagher’s Irish Pub. When I walked in I was presented with a ticket for a free beer and then got to partake in some gourmet appetizers. Not a bad start to my weekend! I was able to locate a couple of fellow SB friends such as Tom Watson (congressional candidate who ran against Lois Capps last year) and get reacquainted with them. Once it was dinner time, I had to bid my associates farewell as I had an annual RLC state convention to attend several blocks down the street at the Old Spaghetti Factory. This was one of the best events during the weekend and I finally got to meet Matt Heath in person after having a good chat with him over the phone. I also got to meet John Dennis, a former congressional candidate who ran against Pelosi, whose campaign I passionately supported. That night we elected new board members to the state RLC and John Dennis was elected unanimously as the chairman. It was quite exciting to break bread with him and other liberty activists.
The rest of the weekend went by in a flash. On Saturday we were split into regional groups, in my case the Central Coast region, and elected vice-chairman. Our SB county’s chairman Greg Gandrud was unanimously elected as the Central Coast Regional vice-chairman and will have leadership responsibilities over 6 counties (Santa Cruz, San Benito, Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura).
The rest of the day was filled with specifically focused sessions and a nominating convention for the CPR board of directors. I opted to do the new delegate training and the rules committee where I got to see people argue back and forth until they were blue in the face. In between sessions I spent some time visiting the various booths, with the Republican Liberty Caucus table taking up most of my time. Not only did I participate in their presidential straw poll and world’s smallest political quiz, but I also engaged in some good banter with other RLC members. The next day the RLC published the straw poll results, and Ron Paul ended up taking first place with 17.8% of the votes, while Mitt Romney got second with 10.9%, and Sarah Palin in third with 7.9%.
On Sunday came the meat of the conference when all delegates came together in a giant hall to beat seated by our respective counties (much like the RNC with all the states). It was quite the site seeing all 1500+ delegates seated at one time. We then voted on the new board of directors, and Tom Del Beccaro ended up being elected unanimously as the new CRP chairman. All the other offices were unanimously elected as well, with the exception of the treasurer which was contested. Current Ventura county GOP chairman Mike Osborn ended up winning the position with 65% of the vote. In addition, we voted on new bylaw proposals such as the merging of the Young Republican Federation of California (YRFC) and the California Young Republicans, Inc. (CYR). This was a hotly contested subject because some groups within the CYR vehemently opposed the merger with the YRFC and didn’t want the CRP to recognize it as such until their pending court litigation is resolved. However, by a 2/3 majority the delegates recognized the merger, much to the chagrin of the CYR. Other bylaws that were proposed were possibly eliminating the use of proxy votes at the convention and the much debated Nehring / Spence Plans. After some poignant arguments, the use of proxies will be maintained after being approved by a 2/3 vote majority, and the controversial Spence Plan compromise was passed unanimously.
Before I end, let me explain the significance of the Spence Plan compromise on elections in the future. This new bylaw was a response by the CRP to the passing of Prop 14 which eliminated closed primaries in California. Now there’s just going to be a general election where everyone gets the same ballot and votes on the same candidates, and then the top two candidates will move on to the November election (for more information, check out this site; please note that this change doesn’t affect Presidential elections which will still be under a closed primary system). In addition, candidates won’t even need to disclose the party they are associated with on the ballot, or they can say they “prefer Republicans” or “prefer Party x.” During the closed primary system, the central committee was not allowed to endorse a candidate if there were multiple Republicans in the race, and instead would let the Republican voters decide. Now things are slightly different. The Spence Plan allows the central committee to endorse candidates if 2/3 of the committee members agree to do so. Then based on who the central committee endorses, the CRP board of directors will have to approve the candidate by a 2/3 vote as well. In essence, this gives more power to central committees and the board of directors. However, what the Spence Plan also does is allow for Republican voters to also get involved with the nomination process is a number of ways. In the future there are some discussions about mailing all Republican voters a ballot asking them which candidates they prefer and to have the central committee pick an endorsement accordingly. But for now what we might do is hold a number of candidate forums, debates, and/or caucuses where we invites all Republicans to come and participate in a straw poll. Then the central committee can make endorsements based on voter approval and a number of other factors such as electability, fund raising potential, campaign strategy, ect. This plan was enacted because now there is the potential for no Republicans to make the top 2 election in November. Also there has been some talks about the Democrats intentionally endorsing weaker or more liberal Republican candidates in the general election so that they will ensure a Democrat wins the top two election. Thus, this Spence Plan makes the central committees more relevant, as well as the CRP, when electing candidates.
For those interested, the next biannual CRP convention will be down in LA on September 16th. This should be a bit more interesting because presidential candidates will be stopping by for campaign visits.