CA GOP: Leadership Backs Top 2 Election Format & Consolidates Power At Top

From the Anaheim Convention of the California Republican Party:

The California Republican Party held its bi-annual convention in Anaheim last weekend.  Here is my assessment of the weekend.  Please note I was the former Chairman of the California Party.  I served as the Chairman between 2011 and 2013.

The outcome of the convention changed the nature of how the party operates and further consolidated power among a very few while continuing support of the terrible Top 2 voting system.

How it works.  The rules of the party are generally crafted by those at the top and run through the Party Rules Committee.  That Rules Committee is handpicked by the Party Chairman and generally only approves rules that the Chairman wants. When I was Chairman, the Committee approved no significant rules changes because I wanted the party to be about reaching voters not internal power changes.

What Rules they changed:

  1. Paid Chairman.

The Party, for the first time, will now have a paid Chairman.  In the past, the Party had a volunteer Chairman. Paying the Chairman represents a further move away from the Party being the Party of Volunteerism. A Volunteer Chair historically emphasized the party’s dedication to grass roots efforts and eschewed a “professional chair” that could to be too closely tied to donors. The Democrats, by the way, pay their Chairman. I have always opposed such a move and was against it once again.

*Note that last election cycle the Party did not have a major volunteer recruitment program for the first time in its history. Normally, parties recruit volunteers to assist in party operations and to help elect its candidates.

  1. Prop 14/Top 2 Voting Format.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Abel Maldonado and then Party Chairman Duf Sundheim championed a change to CA election law that changed the primary system to a single primary for all candidates in June.

For each race, all candidates now appear on the same long ballot in June (now moving to March) – dozens at a time.

The Top 2 finishers in that primary, regardless of party, then face off in November.

They pushed that change because they said it would result in more moderate/center candidates winning because any Top 2 candidates would have to appeal to all voters to get elected.

I vehemently opposed that change at the time because I said:

(a) it would eliminate third parties from getting to the November ballot because they cannot compete, thereby limiting our democratic process (it has done that – no 3rd party candidates have reached the Fall ballot for Assembly, Senate or Statewide office, thereby disenfranchising over one million CA voters in the Fall);

(b) it would create numerous races limiting voter choices to Democrat v. Democrat candidates (many) and a few Republican v. Republican candidates (about 30% of the Assembly and Senate races and all statewide races feature only candidates from one party);

(c) It would result in less voter participation because of less choices (it has – voting rates are down especially in party on party races); and

(d) It would hurt the Republican Party in the long run because it would result less Republicans being elected (it has – especially at the local level because Republican voter participation in Democrat v. Democrat districts has plummeted).

Despite those results, the leadership of the CA Republican Party continues to back the system.

Why would they do that?  Because they continue to think it will produce moderates from both parties.  That is what they want.

But ask yourself, why should the system be rigged at all? I don’t think the system should be designed to pick any one style of candidate.

Also ask: Has it produced moderates in Sacramento?  No – the CA legislature has moved even farther to the Left and there are even less Republicans in the CA legislature.  Also, there is a dearth of real candidates running for statewide office.

None of that is a coincidence.

In the SF Chronicle yesterday, I was quotes as saying:

“It’s a sad day when anyone in the party would support a system that all but guarantees that a Republican won’t be on the November ballot for a statewide office.”


  1. Party Endorsements of Candidates.

Prior to Prop 14, there were party primaries that produced party nominees. Prop 14 eliminated that. When I was Chairman, recognizing that party members wanted to know which Republican running was best from the point of view of the Party, we had a process of endorsing candidates prior to the June primary. Each of the Assembly, Senate and Congressional candidates came before the Party Board of Directors (27 members representing regions throughout the state) and then the Board would vote to endorse or not.  It was an imperfect system meant to deal with a bad voting system foisted upon us.

Now things will be worse in my view.

Now the Party will endorse at a convention.  Those conventions generally have around a thousand delegates that participate.   Sounds better, right?

The key is the word participate.  Normally, around 40% of the delegates participate by giving their proxy for someone else to vote.  In recent history, that has meant giving their proxy to be people allied with Charles Munger, Jr. – a very rich donor that pays for the “proxy drill” and who opposes all conservative candidates. All of them.

As a result, there is almost no likelihood that a conservative Republican could get the Party Endorsement.  That is by design.

While I support Party endorsements in the Prop 14 era, I don’t support the use of proxies.  People should have to come to the convention to vote.  Keep in mind that Charles Munger, Jr. already purchases the majority alliance of legislators and county party members throughout the state who then pick the delegates to the State Party convention.

In Conclusion.

1) The Party consolidated power among a select few.

2)  The Party continues to move away from volunteerism.

Does that sound good to you?

The only solution to the above is the repeal of Prop 14.

One last note – The Party had Steven Bannon come to speak.  His event attracted more attendees and press coverage than any in recent memory.  His message was quite clear: It is incumbent on the grass roots to get involved in the system and to hold Party leaders and those in Congress accountable.  Bannon firmly believes that politicians should keep the promises they make as candidates.  As for those in Congress, that means standing by their Obamacare, tax reform and immigration stances they took to get elected.  Sound radical to you?  In this day and age, apparently it is.

Photo Credit: LA Times

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